Yahoo ran Facebook.com ads for "Yahoo! News" on Monday and Tuesday, marking what appears to be the first time an Internet giant has paid to reach the company's huge audience. Indeed, brands of all strata are beginning to leverage Palo Alto, CA-based Facebook's global user base.
ClickZ first spotted a Yahoo ad on Monday night, featuring an image of pop singer Katy Perry along with the copy, "Hot in search: Katy Perry too sexy for Sesame Street. Click 'Like' for more trending news and videos for Yahoo!" The landing page said: "Click the 'Like' button to become a Fan. Come in to discover something new every day."
On Tuesday, using a "Yahoo! News" headline, the Sunnyvale, CA-based firm ran at least two different ads featuring its political coverage, with images of President Obama and former Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin. In one example, the copy read: "Ask America: Do you tune in to Obama's speeches? Click 'Like' for political coverage and more on Yahoo! News."
Clicking on one of these ads takes a user to Yahoo's "Ask America" Facebook page. The 15-year-old Internet firm declined to comment for this story, but it appears Yahoo wants to build its Facebook audience and use it as a traffic driver while competing with CNN.com, Google, AOL, Huffington Post, and others for politically-minded readers during the Congressional election season.
According to comScore's latest statistics (not including mobile), Facebook.com had 148 million unique U.S. visitors in August compared to 59 million for MySpace and Twitter's 23 million. And Facebook.com users averaged a whopping 277.5 minutes in the month, which dwarfed MySpace (108.2 minutes) and Twitter (31.7).
Sean Corcoran, an online advertising/social media analyst with Forrester Research, said Yahoo's ads were the first he had heard of from an Internet player of such magnitude. But he wasn't surprised.
"It's pretty simple, I think. Facebook has a half-billion users globally," Corcoran explained. "If you look at Yahoo, it's been a giant for a long time now... I think it's recognition that Facebook is a dominant force at this point. The other Internet giants are going to have to leverage Facebook just like everyone else."
The development also comes on the heels of attempts by geo-social brands like Foursquare, Gowalla, and SCVGR to tweak their strategies to leverage Facebook Places, even though that platform is only six weeks old.
Indeed, Facebook's reach has led some brands to consolidate their social media efforts there. On Wednesday, Dunkin Donuts launched a Facebook-only video contest on the site, a departure from its historical approach of running campaigns on various social platforms and tying them to a dedicated site.
Dunkin has doubled its Facebook audience in the last nine months and now totals 2 million "likers" or fans, said Ben Smith, interactive marketing manager for the Canton, MA-based brand.
"Anytime you have a base community of more than 2 million fans, it's a really great place to start if you are trying to harness the passion of the fans," he said. "And we see a ton of passion from our fans on a daily basis... I wouldn't say we are never going to build a microsite again or never going to have another promotion on DunkinDonuts.com. It's just that with every promotion you have to evaluate what the best fit is. For this campaign, Facebook is the best fit."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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