Tag - advertising

Search on Facebook sucks, and so does ad targeting (on searches)

OK, so let’s just be honest.

In all this talk of Facebook being a huge competitive threat to Google … there’s a big missing piece. And that’s search.

Social is great, big, wonderful, exciting, profitable, and growing wildly. Social commerce is going to be big. Social discovery is already huge.

But when you really need to get something done NOW, or find something in real-time … there’s nothing like searching. And the Facebook experience is nothing like the Google experience.

The Google experience is obvious – we all use it. Need something, type something, find something (usually). The Facebook experience is odd … at least when you’re trying to do an actual informational search in a built-for-social world.

By default, Facebook says it’s searching ALL results, out of these options:

  • All results
  • People
  • Pages
  • Groups
  • Apps
  • Events
  • Web results (from Bing)
  • Posts by friends
  • Posts by everyone

This cannot actually be true. In fact, it’s completely false.

We’re currently listing ads for sales consultants in BC, Ontario, and Alberta. Wanting to see the ads in context, I searched for “sales jobs bc” … which ONLY brings up group and business pages, none of which are relevant.

Filtering by people or places brings up zero results. Filtering by groups brings up IDENTICAL results to All Results. Filting by Apps or Events brings up zilch again. Filtering by web brings up Bing results for the search query, which bears no relationship with the results in All Results or Groups. Posts by Friends brings up nothing (for me), and Posts by Everyone brings up a couple of personal status updates.

And then, on top of it all … the ads Facebook showed me while search barely changed from the standard FB ads I always see: local deals, products, groups or people wanting my attention. Few were relevant, and it took many refreshes to see my own ad for sales jobs in BC.

So …

  1. Searching by social doesn’t work well (for this kind of query, and for a lot of the standard Google types of queries)
  2. Facebook search results are not blended results; they are silo’d results … which, particularly in the case of Bing, is a problem in terms of utility (i.e., there’s less than there should be!)
  3. Search query terms do not carry enough weight in Facebook in terms of prioritizing ads to display
  4. Bing ads that are shown in Facebook are severely limited compared to the standard web Bing ads … Facebook’s Bing results show only 2 ads, while Bing.com shows 5.

The upshot?
Social and search may still meet. In fact, will still meet.

Just not today.

Twitter: how to fix the Quick Bar

The Twitter Quick Bar, as seen in Marco Arment's post.

Like any other company, Twitter wants to make money. Like most other companies that live off user-generated content, advertising is one of the methods they’re working on.

The Twitter Quick Bar is an attempt to insert an ad stream into users’ tweet streams. Unfortunately, it’s a massive fail – check out Marco Arment’s blog for an excellent overview and explanation.

It’s all about context
The problem is not that users are angry about advertising (or, at least, that isn’t the main problem). The problem is the complete lack of context. And that’s a problem due to the inherent nature of Twitter.

Twitter is the ultimate in contextual media. You follow people with interests you care about. When they tweet – presumably about things you care about – you get messages that you want and expect to see.

Disastrously decontextualized
The Quick Bar is decontextualized. It’s about something that someone else cares about … someone who has paid a stack of dollars to Twitter to shove under your nose. As such, it’s the opposite of permission marketing. To use Seth Godin’s language, it’s interruption marketing.

The Twitter Quick Bar is the Charlie Sheen of UI design. A catastrophic meltdown no one saw coming.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

(This is clueless and tone-deaf for Twitter … a company that should get this stuff. One can only assume that co-founder Jack Dorsey’s departure from an active, day-to-day role in the company has had a negative effect.)

But easy to fix
The simple solution for Twitter: segment your users by interest and attention. Then, instead of selling advertisers a shotgun of promoted tweets or hashtags, sell a sniper rifle of specific interests.

Now, your promoted tweets and hashtags are more relevant to your users.

And now, your users are less upset.

Simple, no?

(But maybe not quite as easy.)

Connecting buyers and sellers: beyond Google, Facebook, Groupon etc. (part 2)

Note: this post is part of a series … Part one | Part two | Part threepost last week on the future of connectors (companies that connect buyers and sellers), I looked at what connectors are, what they do, and the key ones online.

But the question remains: what’s the future of commerce online?

I ended last post with 3 givens:

  • Location awareness is only going to grow
  • Social connectivity is not going to decrease
  • Mobile devices are going to get smarter/better/faster

It’s all linked in some way
One way of looking at the new web, next web, web2.0, or even web 1.0 is via links. Not just web links (Google) but also people links (Facebook) … and people to thing links (Facebook likes/recommends), and interest links (Twitter). A nouveau chic term for this is graph

  • Google owns the intentional graph (what do people want)
  • Facebook owns the social graph (who do people know/like)
  • Twitter owns the interest graph (what are people interested in)

Let’s get a little more speculative and even more out on a limb with our reckless use of the word “own” and say that Groupon owns the deal graph (or wants to, or will, or part of it).

But the deals and purchases graph is a much more fragmented reality. Amazon owns a big chunk of it. eBay and especially Paypal know a lot about what people buy. Deal sites abound, and Groupon clone-pons are a dime-a-dozen. Craigslist could potentially know a lot about what people buy and who they buy from, except that the ethos of the site is aggressively low-tech, low-friction, low-customization, and low, well, everything (cost, data, you name it).

One ring to rule them all
An obvious answer for the uber-connector to come in and sweep the stage clean of all current competition is a connector that utilizes aspects of all the graphs. A connector that brings all the links together.

Something, for instance, that:

  • knows you
  • knows what you search for (and want)
  • knows what your interests are …
  • knows your friends (and what they own, search for, and are interested in)

AND also knows if not everything at least an awful lot about the digital world:

  • which products are available where and for what prices
  • where to find and how to obtain services

AND can present them to you intelligently, in an organized way, at the right time, and fairly efficiently … OR, with your pre-determined permission make buying decisions, negotiate with service suppliers and product sellers …

… would be an unbelievable connector between buyers and sellers, and would be immensely valuable.

Special agent
As I said, that’s the obvious answer. And guess what, in the 70s and 90s a lot of energy went into thinking about and trying to create software agents, who could do all the tedious painful stuff for you that you don’t want to.

After all, who really wants to check 50 airline sites (or Expedia or Kayak) for the best price for airline tickets. All you really want to do is tell someone (or a system): I want to go from here to there at this time for about this price or cheaper … and have the someone/system go do it.

Essentially, this is AI – artificial intelligence. At least at some level. And Skynet’s got bigger things on its mind.

Agents on the move
The 00’s and 10’s version of agents, of course, is apps. This is precisely the vision behind Siri on the iPhone (check Scoble’s interview if you don’t live in the US and can’t download this app for your phone.)

Siri is a personal assistant that can do mundane (and non-so-mundane) activities for you. But Siri is also a connector that will get you what you want … and collect a small fee from the service providers.

The next web
Siri is a clue to the next web. Because let’s face it: just because we can search search search on Google doesn’t make everything perfect.

Searching Google happens to be easier than the meatspace analogue of going to a library, finding a book, reading the book, finding another, reading the other, getting your data, going home, and continuing your life.

Yeah, it’s easier. But is it easy? Double-plus-no-no-no.

Directed search for in-depth tasks where the master intent is more complex than “what is the capital of Kenya” is hard. Just one example: what TV should I buy. The answer to that question is a non-obvious goal which is better answered by some kind of expert system than a traditional search engine.

Google knows this … and that’s why Google is changing.

Google’s mission may be to organize the world’s information … but in 5 years, Google will not be a search engine.

More on that next time …

Connecting buyers and sellers: beyond Google, Facebook, Groupon, etc. (part 1)

Note: this post is part of a series … Part one | Part two | Part three

There are three ways to make money:

  1. make stuff
  2. provide services
  3. connect buyers and sellers

Apple is a maker. Microsoft is a maker (in spite of some attempts to move to subscription services). Samsung is a maker. But just about everyone else that is a big name on the web today is a connector. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Groupon, and any other ad-supported website, blog, application … they’re all connectors.

A precious few provide services, like 37signals, the WSJ, and so on, but in technology, most are makers or connectors.

The connectors connect in different ways. Google connects through search as well as discovery based on context in cloud-based apps … the intentional graph. Facebook connects based on context also, but growingly via increasingly detailed and predictive information about you and your friends … the social graph. Twitter is the interest graph. Yelp is a town hall or community centre, Groupon is the buying club.

The value of a connector is dependent primarily on two things:

  1. how … connected … the connector is to both buyer and seller
  2. how close in time and space the connector is to the actual point of purchase

That’s why Google, with intent to purchase a key basis of a segment of search activity, and Facebook, with its intimate knowledge of buyers, are incredibly valuable companies. That’s also why deal companies like Groupon have come from nowhere to potentially $3 billion valuations in nothing flat. And it’s a major factor in why the local/social/mobile solution space is white-hot right now.

So that’s today … and, partly, tomorrow. But as Gretzky said … you gotta go where the puck is headed, not where it’s been. So where’s the puck going the day after?

I think we can take as a given that …

  • Location awareness is only going to grow
  • Social connectivity is not going to decrease
  • Mobile devices are going to get smarter/better/faster

What does that mean for the connectors of the future? There’s a bunch of things to think about …

Facebook vs Google: opposite ends of the funnel

Good insight into both Facebook’s business model and especially their aspirations … how high they think they can go.

Over dinner at her favorite restaurant, a few blocks from her home in Atherton, California, her strategy for making money sounds simple. She takes my pen and notebook and starts drawing the classic marketing funnel, which starts broadly, with brand awareness, and grows progressively narrower, ending with point of sale. Google, she explains, does most of its business at the narrow end of the funnel, leading buyers straight to places where they can buy what they want. But Facebook, she says, operates at the wide-open end, creating positive brand affiliation and generating demand for products. Google makes money because it commands 50 percent of online advertising dollars spent on that final stage, the one that gets people to make a purchase. But that stage represents only 10 percent of all “ad spend”— here she writes “$690 billion,” then draws an arrow to her “online ad spend” column. Facebook can dominate the other 90 percent devoted to “demand generation” ($621 billion a year!). It’s not unreasonable, she thinks, that Facebook could wind up getting a substantial part of that, every year.

Of course, typically the narrow end of the funnel is easiest to measure, closest to cash, and higher value. Perhaps Facebook will help to change that.

via Vogue: What she saw at the revolution.

Nielsen: Facebook's Ads Work Pretty Well

From AdAge:

Facebook-home-page ads on average generated a 10% increase in ad recall, a 4% increase in brand awareness and a 2% increase in purchase intent among users who saw them compared with a control group with similar demographics or characteristics who didn't.

But the increase in recall jumped to 16% when ads included mentions of friends who were brand fans, and 30% when the ads coincided with a similar mention in users' news feeds. Brand awareness saw similar bumps: up 2% from just a home-page ad, 8% with a “social ad” bearing mentions of friends who were brand fans and up 13% when a home-page ad appeared along with a mention of friends who were brand fans in the users' news feeds.

via Nielsen: Facebook’s Ads Work Pretty Well – Advertising Age – Digital.

Facebook To Twitter: Back Off, We Own People’s Interests

From TechCrunch:

Whoever knows what your interests are right now and can package them up for advertisers has the chance to make a lot of money. Of course, Google does this right now every time you declare your interests in a search box and it offers up matching ads on the side of results. But Facebook and Twitter are trying to capitalize on the shift from search to sharing. Your interests are expressed by what you follow and react to “like,” “retweet,” etc., not only what you explicitly seek out through search.

via Facebook To Twitter: Back Off, We Own People’s Interests.

Techmeme pulling a Google, mixing sponsored ads with content?

Recently, Google has been spotted moving ads closer to and mixed in with their “content,” or search results. This is the first I’ve seen Techmeme doing the same …

This is where sponsored posts usually live on Techmeme:

Just tonight, when checking if anything was new in the world of technology, I saw this:

Notice the difference? The sponsored post is right in the flow of all the new content.

Now, it’s entirely possible this has been happening for some time and I just haven’t noticed it. But I’ve been a regular Techmeme visitor over the past few months, and haven’t seen it before. Nor have I seen it in the past years that I’ve browsed Techmeme’s stories.

The story is marked as “sponsored,” which is a good thing. Interesting that it’s now in the regular flow of site content, however.

This is how you shoot yourself in the foot

If you ever needed a visual explanation of how marketing can shoot itself in the foot, see this:

ad

First line: PROFESSIONAL WEB HOSTING (emphasis added)

Third line: Starting at $4.95/mo (emphasis added)

. . .
. . .

‘Nuff said.

Pop-unders: thanks but no thanks

If I ever want to kill any readership of Sparkplug 9, I know exactly how to do it. I’ve received written instructions in the mail.

Email, actually. I recently received one from Kim Tompkins, a “junior media buyer” at Red McCombs Media. It’s a proposal any self-respecting blogger would swiftly upchuck at:

Hi there,

I am a Media Buyer with Red McCombs Media. I am contacting you today because we are looking to place some 800×600 small business related pop-unders. I can give these pop-unders to you at a $2.50cpm, targeted to US visitors.

These pop-unders only contain content relating to small business and will not rotate in anything inappropriate, pornographic, etc. Please let me know if you are interested at your earliest convenience! We would love to get you set up as a publisher immediately! If you could just get back to me with how many impressions per day we can expect from your site we can move forward from there. Please let me know if you have any questions!

If you would like to learn more about our company please feel free to visit our website http://www.redmccombsmedia.com. Look forward to hearing back from you and hope we are able to get something started!

Thanks!

Nothing good starts with “hi there.” And no, I have no intention of putting pop-unders on my site. $2.50 per thousand is a very small amount for my integrity.

I’ll stick with Text Links Ads.