Like most of the other free to use internet-based ‘content providers’ Facebook allows business to buy advertising. Unlike Google, however, whose AdWords system has set the standards for paid search advertising, Facebook ads often prove far more annoying, and can be confusing for many people.
Despite the frustrations, Facebook advertising could potentially be very lucrative. Facebook advertising began, much like Google AdWords, as a service through which affiliates and partner services gained referrals. Unfortunately it has now changed into a service in which big brands pay ‘silly money’ to advertise and it is hard to understand why they do it.
For example, when I visited my Facebook profile earlier in the week, the sponsored advertisement that was showing was for “Special Offer Sushi”. Now call me old fashioned but I prefer my food cooked thank you, so I clicked the X in the top-right corner of this advertisement, and was promptly asked why I had removed it. From the available options I selected “Uninteresting.” Visiting my profile page again today Facebook showed me the same Sushi ad, which I did not bother to click to remove this time, but I was disappointed to see it as Facebook already knew that I had no interest in it from my earlier visit.
This experience is far from being unique to me, for instance Facebook targets ads for online dating agencies to users who specify on their profile that they are married (OK these may be interested, but are significantly less likely to be in the market for online dating than single people I would have thought). Facebook appears to advertise quite indiscriminately – pet grooming services to people without pets, caravan insurance to non caravan owners etc.
Whilst the Facebook advertising system does gather some information via users’ IP addresses which enables ads to be geographically targeted, it often shoots at random and misfires completely, which does not shout ‘targeted traffic’ to me.
The most frequent advert I see on Facebook by far however ,is the one that advertises Facebook itself! I see headlines about taking advertising with Facebook, growing my business and reaching prospective customers via Facebook. Ironically, this makes me question even more whether Facebook advertising actually works for businesses. I am concerned by fact that Facebook is even asking me to advertise my business with them – surely this would indicate that they are not being exactly overrun managing their existing advertisers? Even though my business is a Digital Marketing Consultancy, dealing with all aspects of Internet Marketing, including social media channels like Facebook, as a medium, I can’t help but wonder what good an advertisement on Facebook could possibly do for my business.
There is also the issue of ‘direct messages’, which can be sent to almost any other Facebook member from virtually any page or user. While the messages do reach users, and often prompt notifications for the recipient, they’re essentially Facebook’s equivalent of spam emails. I do not doubt the Facebook messaging system can be extremely useful for sending messages to large groups of people, advertising new products or upcoming events – especially events advertised to all those in your friend group, regardless of geographic region – I find it one of the easiest ways to frustrate and anger users. Overdoing Facebook messages can easily lead to you being reported for abuse of the medium, or worst of all, being ‘de-friended’ or losing Fans of your product or service.
My view is that whilst Facebook has proven hugely valuable as an ‘engagement channel’ and will at some point undoubtedly lead to innovations in the world of online advertising, it still has a way to go.
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