MySpace started „MyAd“ for long tail advertising

All social networks are heavily working on finding ways to earn money through some kind of advertising or marketing.

MySpace, one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) social network is already earning close to billion dollars in revenue.

Now they launched a new self serving ad platform. Ads are served on a CPC basis and you have to design them yourself. However, they’re not text ads, they’re display ads, which you can design yourself on the myspace website

The most interesting feature, however, is the targeting options you have. As Techcrunch writes:

The key to MySpace’s ad platform is their hypertargeting technology. Facebook allows targeting as well, although it’s based on interest areas put in by users directly. So if someone says they like books, you can target ads to them based on that. What MySpace does is much different – they build out a profile of each user based on what they do on MySpace over time, with 1,200 different ways to categorize each user. So if you only want to target women who live in California between the ages of 25-30 who like motorcycles, i can. There are 2,842 of them on MySpace.

If that works properly – and if it is accepted by the community to be targeted in that way, it could well be a huge opportunity for myspace to increase advertising revenues!

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Do social networks need advertising?

Mitch Joel pointed me to a business week article about advertising in social networks. In the same post he also links to a blogpost claiming social media sites need advertising.

In short: time spent on social networks is declining, for whatever reason – one could of course be increased advertising on these platforms. So this could be a problem for advertisers in the near future. Secondly: social networks need advertising, the same way media has always been ad supported.

But it’s not only the fact that user numbers are going down, ads on social networks are also less effective than on regular websites:

Many of the people who hang out on MySpace, Facebook, and other sites pay little to no attention to the ads because they’re more interested in kibitzing with their friends. Social networks have some of the lowest response rates on the Web, advertisers and ad placement firms say. Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them, compared with 20 in 10,000 across the Web.

The solution to this is new targeting mechanisms, to serve users more relevant messages.

Last fall, both rolled out programs allowing marketers to pitch products to people in hundreds of categories of interest, such as fashion and sports. News Corp. President Peter Chernin said on Feb. 4 that response rates on MySpace improved as much as 300%.

Could be a solution. But at the end of the day, this whole approach still tries to use old answers to new problems. How about taking an approach that looks beyond plain advertising? How about introducing branded widgets, services, or exclusive whatevers to these platforms, so that brands can provide an added value to the interaction between users?

I am thinking of such things as the Red Bull Rosham Bull Challenge in facebook, which is a game that two users can play against each other. Or even just plain and simple things like the fact that you can sponsor digital gifts in facebook. There still is lots of potential for these kind of approaches.

Oh, and from a business model perspective: I don’t think social networks need advertising support. At least not to the extent that their business models are in danger if there is no proper ad solution in place.

Think about the German platform Xing.com. There you have a choice of paying a monthly premium for additional services – one of which is the fact that you don’t get to see any ads.

There could also be other models, like changing the business model slightly and starting e-commerce around certain product groups (i.e. certain information-based, digital products or even real products).

These problems are not really new. But what this whole discussion shows, is simply the fact that social networks have, all of a sudden, exposed the need for new marketing approaches much clearer than any of the previous developments on the web.

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Mark living in Ikea

so there is this guy, living in ikea as a promo, and I ask myself: why?

This is the official reason why:

New York City apartment had to be fumigated. All of his friends have tiny studio apartments. Hotels in New York are insanely expensive. Left with few living options, Mark thought it would be fun and make an interesting video to move into an IKEA store where he’d live and sleep for a week. Never in a million years did he think IKEA would go for it, but miraculously they have a agreed.

You can see a video each day, showing whatever he did during the day and night.

ikea.jpg

Anyway, in a good manner these days, you can of course join the facebook group (1,260 members) and you can be Marks friend on myspace (930 friends).

Mark seems to start a series of this kind of promo. He had also done the 171 Starbucks (visiting 171 Starbucks in a day, I guess they were all located on the same block – and did he have a coffee in each?)

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Facebook starting targeted ads.

We expected it, didn’t we. Facebook offering advertising targeted to peoples interests and likes. Now they offer this kind of advertising via their facebook flyers, reports TechCrunch.

The targeting offered covers the following sofar:

the Flyers let you target by country, city, gender, age range, political views, relationship status, education level, workplace affiliation, or any keyword in a person’s stated interests. It’s that last option that could be really powerful. For instance, simply putting in different keywords into the Facebook Flyers ad-targeting page reveals that of the 19,951,900 Facebook members in the U.S., 101,000 are into rock climbing, 411,000 are into cooking, and 706,160 people are into traveling.

Regarding Facebook: there are already many rumours spreading. And depending on who is seen with whom in photos (which are so blurry you can’t see anything), the valuations for Facebook are going up and up. Currently at $15 billion.

According to the this article, MySpace is going into the same direction offering targeted advertising.

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Social media sites and the impact on email marketing

At DMNews, there is a column about the impact of social media on email marketing, which is quite interesting:

Today’s younger generation is the single best predictor of future behaviors. And right now they are leveraging multiple social Web sites: MySpace and Facebook to chat with friends, Evite to send party invitations and LinkedIn to stay front and center for new business relationships. E-mail for these users has become a tool used strictly for the purpose of collecting business information — special offers, promotions and business information.

As we increase our usage of social networks, our use of e-mail will inevitably decline, reducing the success of e-mail marketing campaigns. Marketers need to take the time to understand what sites their users are comfortable in and then evaluate marketing opportunities in those spaces.

I don’t think it’s only that. (But it will be a large factor.) The other email killer is things like skype and other chat tools, mobile phone messaging, and RSS.

For any communication with your contacts, ther is a better way than email. Or at least there will be. With spam still filling most people’s inbox, they will undoubtedly move to other, uninterrupted channels and only open their email accounts to separate the „bacn“ from the spam.

So email marketing is not dead, as people will continue to use it. But in the next 5 years or so, we’ll probably see a shift in usage patterns, decreasing the target audiences attention to email. It is now, that we need to test the alternatives, so that we have working tactics in the future.

Try out producing widgets for facebook, offering RSS feeds (this should already be a no brainer!), sponsor chats and communities (or offer them yourself), and may be start advertising on the long tail of the web…

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More on advertising on social networks via widgets

Some more ramblings on advertising on social networks, as I have written about it lately already: Sean Carton also thinks that advertising on social networks won’t work properly using regular ads. His point of why widgets might be the better solution (and I agree):

This is why widgets have been getting so much play lately: they don’t intrude on the user experience. Yeah, they’re branded. Yeah, they’re obviously a product of crass commercialism, but when done well they enhance rather than detract from the experience. They can become part of the conversation you’re having with friends and acquaintances, not an interruption of that conversation. Are widgets the answer to how advertising can work in social networking?

Not at all, but they’re a beginning. The answer will become apparent when we think outside of the ol‘ display advertising box and start to imagine ways we can work with the essential nature of social networking, rather than against it.

How can we join communities of interest in an authentically helpful way? How can we give consumers the tools to facilitate their conversations about our products or services (conversations they’re going to have anyway, with our without our help)? How can we help connect them to get help, advice, or suggestions from others (Dave Evans has a few good ideas)? How can we make it easier for true believers and brand fans to do the selling for us (or help recruit new fans)? How can we work with what’s going on rather than against it?

The question is, whether this is really a solution for all advertisers. Also, these considerations, same as the debate about the effectiveness of contextual ads only focus on the click rate as the only measure of success. I know, I know, we’re in the interactive space, so why go back to the old ad measurement models?

But then again, an eyeball is an eyeball and nobody can deny the value of attention of these eyeballs. Even if the click rate suggests failure, the message might have stuck. Don’t you think? Otherwise you would reduce the awareness and brand building capabilities of the online space to a story of how many people clicked, not how many people saw and remembered the message. That can’t be right, can it?*

But, going back to Seans point: yes, let’s rather entice the consumers with something of value. Something that provides this value at a point in time and (web-)space, where the consumer will most likely associate the best positive times with your brand because of your contribution to their needs and preferences. If it can be done best on social networks providing widgets (at least for now), then think of a good idea and go do it!

(*I am not oblivious at all to the fact, that interaction with the ads (i.e. clicking and interacting with the subsequent pages) will reinforce the message, make the whole awareness campaign x-times more successful!)

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