Part II: Facebook and Open Graph API

I’ve had a few insightful conversations over the past week on the Open Graph topic (I did a post on the changes, you can find it here.  I also recommend checking out this ReadWriteWeb article by Alex Iskold on the topic).  I’ve had a little more time to explore the subject, so the purpose of this post is to continue the conversation.

The stickiest topic has been about why Facebook would encourage an increase in off-platform activity by pushing to get  Like buttons on non-Facebook sites.  At first glance, it seems that an increase in these semantic bookmarks across the web might discourage marketers from establishing brand pages, applications and custom tabs on the Facebook Platform.  If brands can push content into Facebook users’ streams without having to develop extensive branded experiences inside Facebook, then they will be less likely to buy media from Facebook.  Yes, the value of community will still be important and Facebook Pages will still have value. But invariably brands want to be in users streams and they can easily accomplish this without a Page if Like button use is adopted.

So, there will be less need to buy Facebook media, unless Facebook starts serving ads outside of the platform, which it can easily do with the information it’s collecting:

If Facebook continues to collect user preference data from across the web, it’s ability to target you anywhere (as long as you are logged into Facebook) with relevant information on products and services that you will “Like” becomes a fairly simple process.  This presents a fairly elegant solution for Facebook, which is struggling (I believe) with the challenge of serving users advertisements when they’re ready to buy.  Right now, Facebook serves ads inside Facebook; and users typically aren’t interested in clicking out to make purchases elsewhere on the web (while click-through rates from the stream may be higher,  Facebook media historically doesn’t perform this function well).  If Facebook starts negotiating for inventory outside of its platform, the game changes significantly.

The Media Generation (M2) Means CPMs will Change

I really enjoyed checking out this writeup on Silicon Alley Insider about the media habits of 8-18 year-old American kids.  The study was released a few months ago by the Kaiser Family Foundation (you can see the full study here).

There are a few choice statistics in this report.  The most interesting piece to me is the amount of media exposure that tweens are exposed to today, and the exponential growth rate that they’ve experienced.  At 10.5 hours in 2009,  kids are essentially spending every waking moment consuming media.  What’s more, this represents an increase of 43% from media consumption levels from just ten years ago.  I’m unsure how kids can find this kind of time in their days.  It would seem to leave little time for anything else.

Studying is wasting XBox time (teen interviewee)

In most interviews taken, kids are talking about texting, listening to iPods, watching TV and playing video games, often at the same time.    Social networking takes up over 2.5 hours per day.  Other top time-consuming activities include playing video games and watching online videos:

I propose that this level of media exposure greatly lowers the value of advertising, in general.  Let’s look a t a 30 second television advertisement.  In a 10.5 hours media consumption day, that’s 1/1,260th of the media “real estate” that a kid is consuming today; is that worth the price of admission?

Additionally, it seems that kids are multitasking more than ever; which lowers the amount of attention an advertiser gets with their spot.  I believe this is why media buying will move further towards measuring interactions instead of impressions.  The value of simple impressions has dropped significantly in the past few years, and probably with good reason (CPMs can be purchased for less than $2 in some networks).  How can advertisers be certain anyone is even exposed to their ads if  they take up such a small piece of the attention pie?  The only answer seems to be inserting an interaction qualifier:  using QR codes, measuring clicks, using tracking URLS and other interaction-based measurements are going to increasingly become the standard.  The downside of this, as Chris Dixon points out, is that buying performance tends to rewards content light sites where users go often, and click through quickly (at least for any cost-per-click or affiliate marketing programs).  This creates new challenges for the media industry as a whole, as advertisers will continue to search for ways to become signal in an increasingly noisy environment.

The “Death” of Publishing

My friend Rubina Aggarwal sent me this video on social marketing and the future of publishing.  I thought is was a “cute” way to talk about what’s happening right now on social platforms.  I find it compelling that there remains a level of idealism about the power of social media with respect to brand building:

I was also reading Brian Solis and got to thinking about the idea that all brands are now to become publishers of media and content. Here’s a quote from Brian’s article.

As brands, we become media.

Through the democratization of publishing and the equalization of influence, we can create, connect, and attract a wider reach, establishing meaningful connections and building dynamic communities and interactive paths along the way.Everything starts with creation of a mission and purpose and fortified by the content we create, the processes in which we distribute it, and the activity that supports social objects and the reactions they engender.

Perhaps among the most powerful rewards we procure through dedicated publishing is the generation of good will, social capital, and influence. It comes at a price however, and the price is defined by the cost of resources, production, distribution, and support. In the end, you get out of it what you invest in it and the investment represents time, money, creativity, and passion.

While I agree with the sentiment, I tend to be a bit more realistic about what a major brand should hope to extract form social media. As a professional in the space, I’m obviously an evangelist of brands creating platforms for social relationships. However, I do not believe that all brands need to create deep content and media to be relevant in social media. In fact (sacrilege!) , I’d prefer that some brands do not spend their time creating content and instead, spend their energy creating great products, listening to consumers, and communicating only their value propositions that support their products.

Yes, all brands need to be in social media. However, content development without strategic merit is a waste of time, energy and money. I do not like to see brands wrap themselves in social platforms simply for the sake of “having to be there”, only to wonder what they got out of it when it’s complete.

Think about value. Think about outcomes. Building a social media platform should evolve naturally from there.

Facebook Leads Sharing, So Content Changes Forever

As someone who works in social media, our biggest driver for success is organic sharing of information and content. The chart below from Silicon Alley Insider shows what many of us already know on an intuitive level. Facebook is the epicenter of all things social:

I’m fascinated that sharing on Facebook is higher than email, although I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The sharing function on Facebook is so easily integrated into the experience, it’s a natural evolution that it should become a center for sharing, seeing as how everyone, even my grandma, seems to have embraced it. But what are people sharing, really? I think it’s safe to say (in a broad-stroke kind of way) that people are sharing some type of content with one another. Whether it’s a video, an interactive application, a photo or an article- it all comes down to content being shared, and becoming more (or less) valuable as a result of that sharing. Which brings me to another point: as social networks become the drivers for content consumption and sharing, communication will change forever.

In the past, content consumption and advertising communication was a one-to-one communications strategy. Advertisers structured their creative, built out the assets needed for the media channel and disseminated that message to the masses. After the message was distributed, ads had done their job. Marketers would have to wait to see the results of their communications efforts, because people would digest the message, maybe discuss the content at the water cooler, and make a purchasing decision somewhere in the chain. This meant that commercials were designed to speak to the individual. For example, if you wanted to sell beer through television, you needed to create content that would speak to a large number of individuals. Bud Light is talking to me, hoping I didn’t change the channel or go to the bathroom, and measuring their success based on whether or not I buy their beer later on.

With community consumption, the rules are entirely different. Now the messaging is one-to-many, or one-to-community, and we’re all able to consume content together and discuss it in a very public way. The success of your content can now be determined almost immediately, and purchasing decisions will most likely be made not based on the content, but on the public response to the content. This is a totally different scenario– game changing. Think about how you behave as an individual, then think about how you behave in a group. I think Tommy Lee Jones pretty much nails in this scene from Men In Black. This also gave me an excuse to put a movie clip in my blog post:

How can we continue to create the same type of experiences that worked in television, and try to apply them to a socially networked society? The short answer is that we can’t. We need to be creative about the experiences we’re creating, because people are undoubtedly going to talk about it together.

Social Traffic Referrals

by Christian Brucculeri

I was reading Fred Wilson’s awesome blog the other day and I was inspired but what he said at the #140 conference:

“social media, led by Facebook and Twitter, will surpass Google in driving traffic to many websites sometime in the next year.”

I believe this will happen as well.   I believe we’re searching a little less than we used to.  Granted, when we want specific information (on a health topic, or for shopping) nothing can stop steamroller that is Google (no, not even you, BING), but when I’m just cruising along through my day,  I want to listen to my friends.

I do believe that Twitter is fast becoming a central traffic driver, as that’s essentially all I use the technology for anymore.  While I do enjoy the occasional status update from a friend, I’m more interested in the content people want to drive me to .  Even as I write these words it scares the crap out of me.  Why do I want to be part of someone’s organic search optimization attempts?  I’m not your sponsored search keyword, PPC victim-  so why do I want to click on your links?  Simple: I asked you if I could.

Every time I see a new Bit.ly link I want to see what’s behind it.  I want to see it because you’re my friend, or I find you interesting, or your a publisher I trust.    I know we might have just met, but I’m ready to click on you to see where you’ll take me,  because I believe you thought about it before you put that link up.  I honsetly trust that you stopped before hitting “update”  and thought “Shit, am i being annoying right now?  No, this is cool…let’s roll”.  This is light-years beyond an auction for a keyword, or a brand name buried in a BS blog entitled something like “getyoursiteoptimizized.net.au”.  So please, send me links in your tweets-  I’m interested…