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For Now, Facebook Remains an Imperfect Advertiser's Dream

  |  October 25, 2011   |  Comments

A look at two issues the social site must address.

I had just completed the three-step engagement process. Step one, as is tradition, was getting the blessing of my future parents-in-law. Step two was popping the question. And step three? Switching my Facebook status to "Engaged." I barely had time to stare at how weird that looked when advertisers descended upon their new mark. Wedding rings, wedding locations, wedding photographers, honeymoon discounts - it was clear my friends and family weren't the only ones who cared I was getting hitched.

Seeing targeted Facebook ads, of course, wasn't a new experience for me, as I'm sure it's not for you. But, in this moment of post-proposal bliss, I really took stock in just how unique Facebook's ability is to micro-target ads to your interests, personality, and demographics. Many of us have a mixed relationship with the site - loving its social sharing abilities while remaining wary of what privacies we have to give up along the way. Still, the amount of time and information we feed it make it an advertiser's dream. And as an advertiser, I know paid promotion on Facebook can be hugely successful.

Facebook, however, has a few advertising issues that must be resolved as it grows.

Today, I highlight two issues among companies wanting to advertise on Facebook. As always, whether or not an online advertising campaign is right for you depends on your specific conversion need (or lack thereof) and the budget you have to allocate to the campaign. That being said:

Issue 1: Analytics Need to Improve

Any online advertiser or agency worth their salt knows that having clear analytics is critical to knowing how well your dollars are being spent. I've talked about it before, but many companies are currently throwing money at online advertising campaigns that aren't working - they just don't know it because they don't have a handle on their analytics tracking. With Google AdWords, there are no excuses for this because tracking and reporting mechanisms are second to none. Facebook's analytics have improved, but still have a way to go. (And I bet that anyone who is also familiar with AdWords would agree that there is a big discrepancy.)

As stated, targeting options on Facebook are fantastic. The next step needs to be building out a best-in-class analytics interface. They're certainly on the right track, however, as the analytics tools continue to improve and should take a big step forward with an upcoming release.

Issue 2: Personal Targeting Can Get Too Personal

Some advertisers remain wary of Facebook's advertising model because of the potential harm it can do from a public relations perspective. Suppose an engagement was cancelled and someone updated his or her status to read, "The engagement is off." Because of targeting, that person could still get all kinds of wedding ads - ads that are now an unwanted reminder. Advertisers like to be in control, and there is really no way to discern between positive and negative life events. This is a challenge for Facebook (without getting even more intrusive: imagine ads for re-entering the single life now targeting that person).

But even with positive or neutral life events (or demographics), some advertisers fear that their ads will be perceived as, well, creepy. As helpful as ads are intended to be, the perception of privacy remains a huge hurdle for Facebook, and super-targeted ads are often cited as example number one.

A Quick Word on Facebook Timeline

And what about Timeline? While it'll be interesting to see how Facebook's advertising platform changes alongside its most significant site modification in years, Timeline will follow the Facebook goal of getting users to spend even more time on the site and offer up even more information. And if my scanning of childhood pictures to complete my life's history is any indication, it'll work well.

Have you used Facebook advertising? Are you against it because of one of the issues I mentioned, or because of something else?


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Jeff Lerner

Jeff Lerner, vice president, digital media, joined full service digital marketing firm Prime Visibility in 2011 after spending seven years at Google working across all digital media platforms. At Google, Jeff managed the digital advertising spend of the top TV networks and sports leagues, including NBC, ABC, ESPN, the NFL, and Major League Baseball and was responsible for the launch of the advertising sales team in the newly-created Google Brazil office. During his tenure at Google, Jeff has been the 
recipient of numerous awards, including the Sales Excellence Award, Industry Expertise Award, and the Google Impact Award. Jeff holds a BA in sports marketing from George Washington University.

Prime Visibility is owned by blinkx (BLNX), the world's largest and most advanced video search engine, with headquarters in San Francisco and the U.K.

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