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Privacy challenges by public interest groups and the FTC are threatening to dismantle or seriously curtail the behavioral targeting model of interactive advertising as it stands today. Fearful of damaging relationships with their readers, many publishers are removing third-party widgets and other technologies when those technologies are found to capture and sell user data without the user’s express permission.
Even Facebook itself has cracked down on unauthorized data scraping. Recent “Do Not Track” efforts are trying to move choices about data sharing from publishers to the people via browser technology. But these are merely symptoms of a larger problem with interactive advertising: a lack of transparency. It’s a problem that new social tools will play a significant role in addressing.
Rather than an endgame where consumers completely block any sort of data sharing, I see a future where marketers take the high road and both sides benefit from better quality data, advertising and content.
The concept of “Permission Marketing” isn’t new; in fact, Seth Godin’s 1999 book about “turning strangers into friends and friends into customers” seems remarkably prescient in today’s age of “Friending,” “Liking,” and “Following.” Godin told the (then e-mail-dominated) interactive industry, “By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message. It serves both customers and marketers in a symbiotic exchange.”
Today, technologies like Facebook Connect and OAuth are helping to redefine the concept of permission marketing. Using these technologies, brands, retailers, publishers and other sites are able to actively establish a permission-based relationship with their users and customers on their own websites. Now websites have the opportunity to embrace transparency, to be upfront with people during the registration process about how their data will be used, as well as how it will benefit both parties.
We have a new generation comfortable using Facebook and other mobile apps and who, according to recent survey data, are quite willing to share personal information with companies and brands in exchange for value provided. They are also relatively unconcerned about the security of data they share on social networks. The bottom line is that this type of authorization-based relationship between brand and user is likely to become the norm.
This Year’s Model
So what exactly is the data and advertising opportunity for sites? The Huffington Post is the poster child for this new social data-based permission marketing approach. Readers register on the site using their existing Facebook, Twitter or other social identity, thereby giving HuffPo access to data with which the site can personalize the user experience.
For readers, this means they can see what their friends are reading and sharing on their site, giving them a powerful social filter for relevant content. It also means The Huffington Post can sell advertising on their own site based on everything they know about the user from a social perspective.
I had a chance to meet Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau at last year’s IAB leadership summit, where publishers get together to talk about the future of interactive advertising, and he shared with me that their integration and application of Facebook Connect and similar technologies to create a social news experience has been the key driver of their phenomenal traffic growth over the past year plus. Social advertising is also a key source of their revenue growth. HuffPo considers their site to be in the category of social media, and structures their ad sales team to serve that unique buyer. For publishers and advertisers, this approach has the power of Facebook ads, yet is superior because it combines the best of both worlds –- deep context plus social data.
While Social registration, also known as Social Sign-On, is the foundation for this new relationship-based model, the layers on top of that foundation are the most promising for the future of advertising. In addition to basic demographic targeting, sites could offer advertising based on interest data, targeting movie fans or iPod fans for example. Sites could also sell against social influence and activity — factors such as the number of friends, propensity to share and history of driving referral traffic, or even the number of items “Liked” as an indicator of engagement. Reward programs driven by game mechanics are a key part of the nurturing process in this new model, where a loyal, engaged and most importantly non-anonymous audience is the new currency of advertising.
Sites and brands need to ask themselves: What am I offering people that they will truly value in exchange for permission to talk to them as a friend and not an anonymous user? Badges may not be right for every site experience, but successful apps and other web experiences like those on The Huffington Post prove that it is not an unattainable goal.
As with all new models, there are challenges to address. Sites need a critical mass of users to grant them these permissions in order to sell advertising effectively. Privacy concerns with social network data will evolve over time and regulatory pressure will certainly cause the interactive industry some headaches as we move to a new equilibrium. But it is inevitable that a permission-based model will prevail, and those that are able to rapidly embrace this model and experiment with its possibilities will win higher CPMs, new ways to differentiate against the competition, and a more loyal audience.
I was just reading John Heithaus, Chief Marketing Officer, of MRIS blog post titled; Reality Check Ahead: Data Mining and the Implication for Real Estate Professionals. He does a great job of outlining the implications of syndication has upon the real estate business.
Unfortunately it seems nobody cares.
To me, and others, it’s clear that the risks of syndication far out weigh the rewards. Yet brokers continue to sign agreements they never read with fine print they never see. Granted there are some best practices to follow, such as making sure the syndicator’s site has much less information than yours, and to make sure you understand what rights to the data you are giving away.
But, with sites like Facebook and Google people have become accustom to surrendering their personal/business data for “free” products and services.
The frustration is that many MLS professionals understand the dangers of listing syndication but are powerless to dissuade their board members to stop, look and listen. Bob Hale at the recent Inman Connect conference did an excelent job of listing off the battles that MLS/Real Estate Industry has lost in recent years, citing “agent ratings” as the latest defeat. And if Bob Hale can’t get anything done? Can anyone???
Ads on Facebook cost more but got fewer click-throughs in 2010 compared to 2009, and performed about half as well as traditional banner ads, according to a new survey.
A study conducted by Webtrends looked at more than 11,000 campaigns on Facebook to try to establish benchmarks for brands looking to advertise on the platform.
According to Webtrends, the average click-through rate (CTR) for Facebook ads in 2009 was 0.063% and 0.051% in 2010 — half as much as industry standard of .1%. The cost per click (CPC) was also $0.27 and $0.49 for those periods, respectively.
Webtrends also detailed the cost-per-thousand (CPM) and cost per fan (CPF):
According to the study, not all visitors to Facebook interact with ads the same way. “The older we get, the more we click,” the survey notes, adding that there’s a falloff, however, after age 65. Women and men click at pretty much the same rate.
Similarly, there are few geographic variations, except for Hawaii, whose residents click through at almost half the average and North Dakota and Wyoming, whose residents click at double and triple the average rate.
Not surprisingly, users are also more apt to click on an ad for a category they consider fun, like media and entertainment or blogs, categories that trounce laggards like health care and software.
As the report notes, Facebook is projected to post $4 billion in advertising this year. Part of the appeal, aside from the network’s huge base of users, is the ability to get friends of targeted consumers to give their thumbs up. That apparently combats ad burnout. According to the study, ads targeting friends of fans last three times longer than standard ads because new fans keep coming on board, adding more friends and thus more potential ad targets.
The takeaway? Facebook ads may not get a lot of click-throughs, but for the moment, friends’ recommendations make them last longer.
Oodle has had its sight set of leveraging the power of social networks to facilitate classified marketplace transactions for some time now. Here’s a short video clip from June 2010 positioning Oodle as a Social Classifieds provider for rental properties:
As the video explains, Oodle also powers Facebook Marketplace. Recently, Oodle announced that they had extended their reach on Facebook Marketplace by providing new features that further leverage the power of Facebook’s social graph, as explained in this TechCrunch article.
In addition, Oodle has recently acquired a social networking service through acquisition of Grouply with an eye towards moving the Social Graph beyond (just) friends. Facebook in turn has acquired Yardsellr – a social buying and selling platform – which TechCrunch describes as “an eBay for Facebook, except without the auctions”.
TechCrunch also had a blog post from November 2010 titled Will the Real “eBay of Social” Please Stand Up?, where they interviewed Oodle CEO Craig Donato about the emerging Social Marketplaces category. This video can be viewed below:
The Social Marketplaces space is really just a segment of the broader Social Commerce space. Look for a lot of innovation – and the consequent winners and losers – in these areas in 2011.