Brands Need More Than Targeting to Win With Facebook

Jeff Rosenblum is a founding partner at Questus, a digital agency. Follow him on Twitter @jrquestus.

Facebook recently launched new advertising targeting capabilities that enable brands to select from 500 different audience categories. On one hand, it’s a great step forward because it puts ads in front of the right customers by targeting based on behavior, not simply on demographics. On the other hand, the buzz about this new tool reveals that brands are still clueless about the implications of social media.

The primary marketing implication of Facebook, and all of social media, is that brands
are now completely transparent. Unethical behavior and crappy products are punished because ratings and reviews are fundamentally more trusted than paid advertising.

Great brands are built based on behavior, not great advertising. So, new targeting
technologies are largely irrelevant for most brands. In fact, new targeting technologies
distract most brands from realizing their true potential, which requires significant
introspection, not significant advertising technology.

The second marketing implication is that brands that do, in fact, create great products
can move beyond interruptive advertising. They can create immersive platforms that
shift prospects to customers and customers to evangelists. Simply relying on Facebook targeting to send a brand message or generate direct-response results is taking antiquated, incomplete strategies and applying them to cutting-edge technologies. Great brands don’t simply take yesteryear’s concepts of 30-second videos and static images and bring them online. Great brands create content-rich experiences.

ComScore is preaching that you have a better chance of surviving a plane crash than
getting your banner ad clicked. Facebook targeting won’t fundamentally solve the digital display problem. The creative canvas is simply too small – there’s too much on the screen for the tiny ads to make an emotional connection. Facebook is testing larger, more disruptive units, but these units will trample the user experience and, as such, won’t work at scale.

To create a successful Facebook experience, brands need to first understand their
raison d’etre. A few brands are currently reaping huge financial rewards by doing so.
For example, Patagonia invests in sustainable supply chains; Under Armour relentlessly pursues innovation to help athletes perform better; Chipotle builds relationships with small family farms; Virgin America believes in creating a fun, comfortable flight experience. Such company DNA engenders brand evangelism. Facebook can supercharge that evangelism, but not simply through paid advertising.

The key is to pair this new targeting technology with modern strategies. An ad should no longer be a marketing vehicle by itself. An ad should no longer simply say, “Our product is cool.” It should say, “Come learn why our product makes your life better” and then provide a gateway to an immersive experience.

Facebook’s announcement is exciting and scary. Exciting because the world’s most
powerful social network is finally releasing the power of its data in a way that benefits
both consumers and brands. But it’s also scary because most brands will continue to
use the same old thinking for how to use the tools. My recommendation is to take the
creative lens and turn it inward to improve your brand’s behavior. Then, use Facebook to create a content-rich experience. With that in place — then and only then — Facebook’s new targeting tools can be used most effectively.

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