Facebook Sees Success with Marketplace

Facebook Sees Success with Marketplace

Social media

Facebook has taken some lumps during a tumultuous year. After weeks of being dragged through the mud with scandals involving data privacy, the company suffered its worst day in its history as a publicly traded firm after announcing quarterly earnings that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

But the news is not all bad.

Amid the turmoil, Facebook is actually growing in some ways that are less visible to Wall Street. For example, Facebook Marketplace, which Facebook relaunched in 2016, is experiencing strong growth. Already, 550 million people across 51 countries use Marketplace each month to buy products from other people and business. By contrast,  55 million people visit Craigslist monthly.

And Marketplace is attracting more and more large businesses from sectors such as automotive. Based on the traction Marketplace is getting, Facebook recently announced that it is making it possible for businesses to advertise in Facebook Marketplace to reach people where they are actively shopping.

At True Interactive, we are helping businesses take advantage of Marketplace advertising. We just tested a conversion campaign for a client and achieved favorable results. In a new column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I discuss our experiences with Facebook Marketplace and provide more insight into the growth of this feature.

For more insight into how to succeed on Marketplace and other online destinations, contact True Interactive. We are here to help.

Amazon’s Advertising Business Explodes

Amazon’s Advertising Business Explodes

Marketing

 

Is there anything Amazon cannot do?

In its second quarter earnings announcement, Amazon reported another stellar performance, with earnings that far exceeded analysts’ projections. Its growth was uniformly strong across its businesses, ranging from its cloud computing operation, Amazon Web Services, to its core retail store.

The most intriguing aspect of Amazon’s growth is the way its advertising arm is faring.  As Reuters reported, “Highly profitable ad sales were a bright spot last quarter. The company said revenue from the category and some other items grew 132 percent to $2.2 billion. Analysts were expecting $2.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.”

The company has now been profitable for three straight years. And although online advertising is not the biggest reason for that profitability, it’s becoming crucial to the company’s future, as Amazon continues to look for ways to counterbalance eroding margins from retail. What’s more, advertising growth means Amazon threatens Google and Facebook, with Facebook’s stock being battered in recent days as its advertising business faces a downturn. The Wall Street Journal sums up Amazon’s advertising growth as follows:

Amazon’s advantage is that it can tell advertisers when a consumer bought a product, showing an ad’s effectiveness. Amazon also is attracting spending that would have traditionally taken place in brick-and-mortar stores to ensure good shelf placement.

“Stepping back, it’s now a multibillion-dollar business for us,” Mr. Olsavsky said.

The hundreds of thousands of customers buying up ads include merchants and brands selling on the site, as well as authors and other advertisers who want to reach Amazon customers. The company is going to keep working on automating more of the process and inventing new products, too.

As we have noted on our blog, Amazon is growing its advertising services the way Google has always done: by offering tools that make it easier to rely on Amazon as an advertiser. For instance, Amazon’s Marketing Services and Advertising Platform products offer options ranging from Sponsored Products (a keyword-based campaign promoting a single product) to Amazon Managed Service (Amazon manages display ads on an advertiser’s behalf). These products make it possible to capitalize on Amazon’s increasing popularity as a search platform.

Amazon is building a strong advertising ecosystem that is now extending beyond its core website. As Amazon develops more advertising products, the company will continue to threaten Facebook and Google. Our advice to clients: pay attention to Amazon’s growth and begin to experiment with Amazon advertising if you have not done so already. Get smart on the platform. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Facebook Seeks Transparency with View Ads

Facebook Seeks Transparency with View Ads

Social media

You might have heard that Facebook is testing an advertising format that makes it possible for businesses to see other businesses’ Facebook ads. And you might be freaking out. If so, relax. Facebook is becoming more transparent, but not at the expense of advertisers.

Here’s the context: Facebook recently discussed the testing of a new feature known as View Ads. With View Ads, anyone visiting a brand’s Facebook page can see all of the ads connected to that page regardless of who the brand is targeting with the ads. In other words, if you are a brand, your competitors can see all your ads and vice versa.

Facebook is reportedly rolling out the feature more broadly this summer. Regardless of the timing, brands should expect Facebook to implement more measures such as View Ads. Facebook has to become more transparent as a response to myriad controversies surrounding manipulation of the platform during the 2016 presidential election and mounting concerns about the platform’s trustworthiness.

Being able to view your competitors’ ads should not change your ad strategy, nor should the fact that competitors can see yours. The only reason to view competitors’ ads is to fine-tune your own approach so that your brand stands apart. But if you keep the focus of your attention on your customers and take care of your people, your competitors’ Facebook ads won’t matter. In addition, measures to make Facebook more transparent will ultimately help businesses that advertise on Facebook. Transparency is needed to build trust. And Facebook has a trust problem, to say the least.

For more insight into Facebook View Ads, check out my recently published column in Adweek Social Pro Daily. And contact us to understand how to build your digital brand.

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Social media

The 2018 Facebook F8 Developer Conference created an opportunity for Facebook to change the narrative about the embattled company. At the annual event, Facebook usually unveils new products and a glimpse at the company’s future. This year’s event just happened to occur only weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill defending the company’s approach to data privacy. So you can be sure Facebook was eager to inspire coverage about something besides Mark Zuckerberg going head to head with angry legislators and trying to assure investors that Facebook is improving its approach to protecting user data.

And Facebook delivered with a slew of announcements and demonstrations that reminded Facebook watchers of its commitment to connecting people through an ever-evolving social platform. Highlights included:

  • FaceDate, a dating feature in which Facebook members can make their profiles to non-friends who opt in to look for someone to date. With FaceDate, Facebook is reinforcing its core mission of connecting people, a mission that Facebook periodically updates as it did last year with the rollout of the “bring the world closer together” mantra. It looks as though Facebook wants to bring the world closer together one person at a time and in relationships that go beyond friending. It’s a reasonable move that doesn’t stray too far from Facebook on its best day: connecting people.
  • Augmented and virtual reality: Facebook has been marching down a path of creating augmented and virtual reality experiences for some time, as manifested by the purchase of VR firm Oculus in 2014. In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg placed AR/VR at the far end of a 10-year roadmap. Facebook F8 showed that Facebook appears to be right on schedule. The company released Oculus Go, a lightweight, relatively affordable VR headset that liberates VR from the confines of a stationary computer. Oculus Go is important because it’s supposed to make VR more affordable while delivering a reasonably high-quality VR experience. Meanwhile, on the AR front, Facebook showed off progress with its AR camera for interacting with AR content in the real world. Among other announcements, Facebook disclosed that AR is coming to its Messenger platform.

Facebook also embedded AR into the actual F8 experience, such as with an AR scavenger hunt in which participants looked for objects using their devices. Through the hunt, Facebook tested with the camera (accessible from inside Facebook) by, in effect, relying on F8 attendees as the test group. Although there is nothing inherently new about an AR scavenger hunt, the hunt gave Facebook a chance to test target-recognition technology, which unlocks AR effects without requiring you to tap on your camera app. The feature is not yet available and so F8 amounted to a beta test.

For two days, Facebook succeeded in repositioning itself as a media company shaping the future of social experiences. Some of the news coverage reflects the kind of narrative Facebook wanted to tell at F8:

Never mind that Facebook’s AR and VR experiences still come down to providing developing tools disconnected from consistently good content. What matters is that Facebook changed the narrative. For a larger rundown of everything Facebook announced at F8, go here. And contact us to discuss how to build your brand on Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Social media

I have heard Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional appearances this week described as the moment when social media began to grow up. And there’s no doubt that the world’s largest social network has started to sound more committed to acting more responsibly with the data of its two billion members, judging by Zuckerberg’s remarks and his prepared testimony. Assigning a $40,000 bounty for the reporting of data abuse certainly makes Facebook look determined to get more serious about addressing data indiscretions.

But despite Facebook’s stated commitment to get better at protecting its users, a simple fact remains: social media is a messy place for brands to live even as social media platforms grow up.

Amid the publication of determined testimonies and bounties, I know these things to be certain:

  • Facebook will not be immune from data abuse. Mistakes are going to happen. Determined and unethical parties are going to look for cracks in the seams. What we can expect to be different is Facebook’s reaction to problems when they happen. There remains an important distinction between a platform having airtight security and a platform that acts rapidly to address problems when they occur. Will advertisers and users appreciate the difference?
  • Facebook won’t be the only platform that experiences abuses of its terms and conditions. As I noted on our blog, YouTube has been hiring more people to train computers to police abuses on its site in order to prevent the kinds of embarrassing incidents that rocked the network in recent months, such as brand advertising appearing alongside inappropriate videos. But YouTube continues to experience lapses, such as a report about ads for adult content appearing on the site, hackers targeting popular music videos, and advocacy groups charging YouTube with illegally collecting personal information from children.
  • Facebook users will complain about data abuses and some will even #DeleteFacebook. But how many will stay off the network permanently after they realize that there’s nowhere else to go?

I’m not saying that brands should simply be patient. Brands and users should expect more vigilance out of all their social networks, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all the others we call home. But we need to be realistic. These networks, especially Facebook, remain free because they accept advertising. And to play ball with advertisers, they’re going to share user data – which, when done well, brings about a better user experience. But with the sharing of data comes potential for abuse. And let’s not forget these free platforms are pretty much open to anyone who meets their soft requirements, and advertisers have to accept the consequences, both good and bad.

Advertisers, buckle in. You’re in for a bumpy – but profitable – ride. Remember, these networks offer rewards to those who understand how to use them for targeted, timely advertising. Contact us. We’ll work with you to do just that.

Why 2018 Is the Year of Influencer Outreach

Why 2018 Is the Year of Influencer Outreach

Marketing

Influencer outreach took a major hit in 2017 through some dubious events such as the collapse of the Fyre Festival, which relied on influencer outreach to lure tourists to a disastrous music festival. But influencer outreach is alive and well and will continue to thrive in 2018. Why? A few reasons stand out:

  • Businesses are feeling new pressure to rely on influencers. As reported recently, Facebook announced that the world’s largest social network is devaluing content from businesses in users’ news feeds and amplifying content from people. Brands that publish content on Facebook are looking for ways to rely on people to tell their stories, which, of course, includes influencers.
  • People still tend to trust other people more than they do brands. Time and time again, consumers, especially millennials, say they place higher levels of trust in other people than they do businesses, including word-of-mouth recommendations and online peer reviews.

In 2018, I expect to see more reliance on influencers, but not necessarily more spending. Instead, businesses will get more micro-targeted with influencer outreach in 2018, segmenting audiences more carefully and building outreach around influencers who index high in popularity and credibility with those audiences even if those influencers lack national cache. Influencer outreach will become more targeted and scientific, relying on tools that make the process more precise and measurable.

In addition, brands that do partner with high-profile influencers should invest more time and energy vetting them, giving them the same level of rigorous review that they would give a new hire. We’ve seen a number of instances of high-profile YouTube celebrities embarrassing themselves with reckless behavior and remarks. All it takes is one foolish incident for an influencer to destroy their credibility. Businesses are well advised to review influencers’ social media personal track record, including their personal content on their socials.

Finally, understand how to work with influencers. Know their rules of engagement and research how they can be most effective for you. Influencers who are big on Instagram might be the best choice for supporting, say, an event, whereas bloggers who write longer-form content might be more appropriate for product announcements or news events that require more thoughtful analysis.

For more insight into influencer outreach, read this True Interactive post. And contact us for more insight into building your digital brand.

 

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Social media

Facebook has quickly changed from the brand that could do no wrong to the business that spreads fake news. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that the company is de-valuing publisher content on users’ news feeds caused a notable drop in its stock value and inspired a CNN article with a once unthinkable headline, “Mark Zuckerberg Is Fighting to Save Facebook.” Facebook isn’t going away. But with the recent admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and that it is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works, 2018 might be the year we see a significant decline in active users.

Although industry analysts have been predicting a reduction in Facebook users for the past few years, the fact that ex-Facebook executives are admitting guilt over the monster they’ve created might finally be the wakeup call that many social media users have been waiting for. If Facebook usage does suffer a significant decline, it’s fair to expect that marketers will also see diminished performance from their Facebook ads. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform as a brand awareness tactic, paying advertising fees based on the number of times an ad is shown versus the number of times someone interacts with an ad. “Reach” (the number of people who saw an ad) is a metric commonly monitored by advertisers, and when the pool of potential audience members declines, so does the effectiveness of their branding efforts.

The most obvious expected drop-off would be among younger members as parents may begin to heed the addiction warning and implement usage restrictions for their children. Currently, advertisers cannot specifically target people under the age of 13 — so there should be minimal effect on paid ad performance if Facebook sees a decline in users age 12 and under.  However, if parents or older siblings start following suit (perhaps by means of setting an example or simply choosing to spend their time elsewhere) the impact could be significant to marketers who have become accustomed to reaching millions of people.

As the Facebook audience narrows, marketers may need to adjust their strategy and opt for conversion-based campaigns versus brand awareness. Measuring the overall effectiveness of a brand awareness campaign is difficult to quantify. But as advertisers start tracking actual results from their conversion campaigns, they may find the cost far outweighs the return and may choose to pull back on their overall Facebook investment.

My advice: keep a watchful eye on Facebook as an advertising platform. Take advantage of the tools we have blogged about (such as Collection ads), but make sure you complement your advertising spend across multiple platforms where it makes sense for your business to be, ranging from Google to Instagram. Get ready for tough sledding on Facebook. For more insight into how to build your brand with digital, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.