For even the casual observer, the explosion of Facebook from college prank to social media monster in seven years has been nothing short of astounding. Mark Zuckerberg and his company have zucked in about 500 million of us at last count, with no end in sight. Facebook is the primary engine of the social media world, a pioneer of numerous digital engagement concepts, the target of multiple lawsuits, and probably the fastest growing brand of all time.
And I’m here to tell you that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Facebook is poised to become the biggest single advertising juggernaut in the history of marketing. There’s a reason that venture capitalists have been pouring billions into the company with zero return so far and it’s the ocean of personal data sloshing around each of our profile pages-everything from basic demographics, to relationship status, to frequently mentioned keywords in our posts. It’s all being collected, cataloged and packaged into the most targetable media platform ever. Google can’t begin to touch this.
The ability for marketers to reach their exact target market with little waste and maximum ability for interaction will make current social media marketing efforts look about as effective as catching snowflakes on your tongue to get a drink of water. Advertisers will pay dearly for the opportunity to deliver not just flimsy banner ads, but rich media, long-form video commercials, and interactive click-to-chat-right-now sessions.
Maybe you’re thinking, “This is a travesty, an invasion of privacy, I won’t let some marketer into my private space.” But I’m betting Facebook and their clients are going to make it worth your while. Suppose you could get special offers not available to the general public? Maybe points for watching ads or clicking through? Think that might change your mind? It might change mine, that’s for sure.
Where Facebook is going is a kind of reverse yellow pages. Back in the analog era, the consumer looked up the product or company. Now the company will be looking you up. And fortunately for them, you have provided a treasure trove of information about yourself to help them find you. It ironic; advertising has always been tied to providing content-it still is, except now we’re the content.
How much would an advertiser pay to know its ads are hitting the target market every time? I’m guessing a lot more per person. I’m also guessing that people will say, “Hey, if we have to look at ads, why not look at ones we want to see?” And it’s easy to imagine a rewards system for actively watching ads in ways that are verifiable. So Facebook users who watch ads could conceivably be paid in the form of gift card points, airline miles and other goodies that go far beyond discount offers and traditional marketing. Why? Because some of the money that advertisers were wasting on the wrong audience can be used to reward the right audience for their precious attention.
Since it will be so targetable, imagine what it could do for a brand and targeting-twenty somethings see this hip, high-energy ad; fifty somethings see ads with a sophisticated feel or maybe they could even opt in to see ads they liked in the past. (I would love to teach the world to sing in perfect har-mon-y again.)
And the targeting opportunities are tremendous as well. Small local clientele businesses could geo-target with a demographic filter. Niche e-tailers could target all over the globe by demographics and psychographics, like, say, biodegradable diapers for new parents who are into green initiatives. Mega-brands like Coke or McDonalds could combine muscle and finesse to push their main products and build sales on fringe brands as well.
I wouldn’t be surprised if plans are in the works for Facebook TV, which could move the PC and smart phone-based experience to the level of HD TV, where viewers enter their Facebook user ID and are served the content they want with the ads they want and numerous “Click OK to see more” options. Lookout, Comcast! Who needs cable when we’ve got free ZuckerVision?
See, in my mind (and also in many a venture capitalists’) the real gold in the social media gold rush has always been the advertising potential. Facebook has spent the last few years setting the hook and is about to start reeling us in. And so what if only half of us agree to open up the secret facts of our lives, that’s still 250 million people. I have just one small request: Please make a mental note that you read it here first, since I may need some witnesses when I file my own lawsuit in a few years.