The Biggest Advertising Opportunity Facebook Is Missing

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Jan 7, 2011
More Articles by Janet

I was working from home today waiting for a furniture delivery. And, as usually happens when I work from home, I obsess about the dirt in my house. I pulled out my vacuum cleaner only to find it just has no suction left. Time for a new vacuum, so I turned to Facebook.

Vacuum cleaners, like many significant investments, are the types of products where people turn to friends for recommendations. So I posted a message to my Facebook friends:

Within minutes I had a flurry of responses (and it’s still going strong!). The most popular recommendation was for the Dyson vacuum. Fantastic! I have my answer.

But, wait a minute… where’s the ad on the right to tell me I can get a Dyson for only $X today at Target? Oh yeah, Facebook doesn’t scan my status or their comments to serve ads. Instead, the ads served to me are based solely on my demographic targeting and interests, so the ad showing was about running gear, even though the word “Dyson” appears on my page over 12 times (and counting…).  In other words, unlike Google’s content network advertisements, which scan the page for keywords then serve appropriate, related ads, Facebook isn’t look at what’s going on with me RIGHT NOW, but rather what I’ve indicated as my settings some time ago.

Why is that a problem for Facebook? It’s a huge missed opportunity for advertisers. Because Facebook could scan the content of my conversations with my friends, it easily can know what my interests are in the moment. “What should I make for dinner tonight? Spaghetti?” as a status might serve me an ad for a coupon for Ragu spaghetti sauce.

Would I be swayed by a display ad on Facebook to choose a Hoover vacuum over a Dyson? Not likely. That’s what my friends are for — the recommendation. BUT, I could be swayed on where to purchase that vacuum by the display ad, just as I could be persuaded to choose Ragu spaghetti sauce over another brand if I were offered a coupon with the ad.

While Facebook advertising can be powerful by targeting demographics, it still needs to tap into the incredible opportunity of relationships and how to appropriately target ads to conversations. That’s true advertising power — and a power that Google AdWords and Bing may never have.

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