Facebook to Simplify Ad Units, Soon

Facebook briefed analysts and reporters last week about an effort to simplify both the number of ad choices and the flow by which advertisers reach customers. Most of the rollout will occur between now and the end of the 3rd quarter of this year, though some products will disappear within the next few weeks.

Facebook product managers explained that advertisers currently have 27 choices when deciding how to reach their market on Facebook, from Page Posts to Promoted Posts to Offers. They are looking to reduce the total number by roughly half. The crux of the move is meant to help marketers to reach their objectives more easily, without having to choose different ad units, according to Facebook Product Marketing Director Brian Boland. “Advertisers want to drive business outcomes and measure effectiveness of their campaigns. If we make it easier for an advertiser to pick the right audience, and the right format, it also improves user experience by putting more relevant information in front of user.” This means that the right ad, to the right customer, at the right time, should get better response and be more relevant.

While Facebook didn’t show reporters the actual workflow, the idea is that marketers will be able to decide on an objective, such as increasing Page Likes or driving app installs, and Facebook will recommend the correct type of ad unit and the type of targeting.  As an example, if you created a Page photo post this week, you would also want to create a sponsored story so that a user “liking” it would cause the ad to show for their friends. The new workflow will just “provide the ad with social context on top.” No extra steps to purchase different units.

According to Fidji Simo, Product Manager for Ads, they’ll be removing the Questions product for Pages in July because marketers can simply ask a question in a post and get answers in comments. They’ll also be removing the online Offers product in favor of Post Adslinking to an online site, but the in-store promotion Offers product will remain. This element was confusing, because companies that have both online and in-person presences will now have to run 2 different kinds of ad units – an offer for those coming to the store, and a Page Post ad linking to the online offer. This seems to go against the simplification trend. When I asked this question during Q&A, there was not a clear response.

Facebook will be also be making the creative unit sizes more consistent, to allow companies to provide fewer sizes of art and copy to create ads. The ads themselves will be more consistent on the desktop and in mobile. There’s also a implication that, since mobile is now where over 30% of Facebook’s revenue is derived, and on Mobile there is no right hand column, having ad unit sizes be more consistent helps solve some interface challenges.

This briefing was clearly the start of a discussion about how Facebook advertising will change over the next few months, and a way to prepare reporters and businesses for a group of small announcements and changes that will happen over time. You can read Facebook’s official release and see their graphic examples at their newsroom site.

Why you should pay attention to Google+

Over on LinkedIn, Des Walsh asks about the value of Google+ for small businesses. A few people there note LinkedIn’s great business value. I find I’m using it less and less. LinkedIn has turned into a networking free-for-all with people connecting to anyone at all. I keep only people I know, for real, in person, in my network. It also helps me be sure that if someone I value asks for an introduction, I actually know both sides and can make a true introduction, not just a pass-along.
Then there’s Facebook. People question the value of a ‘friend network’ for business. But, Who better to recommend you business than real friends – which is where Facebook excels. I saw this post from Anthony Kirlew today on “How Small Business Owners Miss the Mark with Facebook” and it resonates for me in the direction of Google+. Both of these networks need to bring in the concept of closeness, reputation and trust before they’re going to truly see their value.

So, what is Google+, and why should you pay attention? It is  a social network, with circles of your contacts at the center. You can make a circle of work folks and “huddle” with them in a shared mobile text messaging type environment. You can “hang out” with your friends via a video and audio chat room. You can see news you care about via sparks (which needs a lot of work to get to the value of Google Reader). And there’s photo sharing, integrated from Picasssa. So, a lot of the same stuff as Facebook and Twitter.
Google+ can take a giant leap ahead if they take the circles concept and add some trust and reputation characteristics. For those not yet using Google+, the concept of circles is simple – you put people into circles like “Friends” and “Family” and you can filter what you see based on the circles. You can also filter what you share, so your friends see the fun night out pictures, while your family is unaware of them.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter already have Friend lists and Lists, respectively, but neither is very good. Twitter gives no tools to help manage the contacts you already have to put them into lists, and Facebook has tried to hide the lists I spent time making to make their interface “cleaner.” What they’ve done is make it harder for me to keep up with specific groups of people. I’m hoping Google+’s circles will force Facebook’s friend lists back to the front page where they can be effectively used.
Google may be “late to the party” with G+ but they are clearly working to learn from LinkedIn and Facebook and innovate on their own mistakes with Buzz.
Finally, there’s the “take over the world” strategy for Google+. I thought a lot about this when
I wrote about Google Wave in Mashable last year, but Mashable never published a chart I created. The chart was about Wave, so I’ll re-do it below.

Function In Google+ Now? Google Related Property
Picture Upload and editing Upload Picassa
Advanced Editing Limited Google Docs, Blogger
Collaborative Editing No Google Docs, Google Shared Spaces
Voice Chat Hangout Google Voice, Gtalk
Scheduling Collaboration No Google Calendar
Contacts Yes Related to your Google Address Book
Friend/Colleague Discovery Currently Difficult but they are working on it Gtalk, Gmail Contacts
NewsFeed Discovery Difficult to search, but easier to filter via circles Google search, new Google Social Search,
Video Sharing Embeds via YouTube YouTube
Content Sharing No, but just needs a simple bookmarklet or browser extension Predict this will happen very shortly, plus APIs to integrate with ShareThis/AddThis will happen quickly too
Mobile Access Android App, Apple App coming, HTML 5 interface available now Google Mobile Ads
MobileCheckins/Deals Checkins Show in Google+ Now, and the Android client shows “Nearby” activity already Google Local, Google mobile ads, Google social ads, Google Offers

The fact that they can bring in Google Offers (local deals) that connect to Google Places (location, check in and verified business listings), search and advertising (including mobile ads) and a “Nearby” function is in their network from the start, and you have a very powerful potential.

We’re telling them who we’re closest to, and according to some folks using Google+, they’re calculating interactions to see our actual nearness and interactions with each other. If they can figure out a way to keep user’s trust (which they lost with Buzz) better than Facebook (up there with used car salesman in the trust category) and let us discover and work with reputational information about each other (something LinkedIn could have done long ago), again, I see a lot of power.

I hope Google can realize the potential.

Bonus reading:

The Google Plus 50 by Chris Brogan

This is Just the Beginning by Paul Adams

Google’s Six Front War

Sex Problems at Google Plus (he means gender problems but sex sells, right?)


Facebook’s Sponsored Stories

Back in June (wow, was it that long ago?) I was a guest on TummelVision.tv with hosts Deb Schultz and Heather Gold. On that show, I argued with Heather that “on Facebook, Advertisers are the client, and we (the users) are the product.” It’s not quite as bad as Soylent Green (where we’re the product and the consumer in an endless cycle) but it does have similarities.

I think this latest ad unit proves it. Our actions are being sold back to us as advertising content. See coverage on AdAge, HuffPo. As AdAge reports, “…if Starbucks buys a “sponsored story” ad, the status of a user’s friends who check into or “like” Starbucks will run twice: once in the user’s news feed, and again as a paid ad for Starbucks.”

What’s the value of this additional unit? Advertisers are looking for “social proof.” In other words, if you “Like” a movie, or Starbucks, or a brand, your endorsement may be more effective than an ad just done by the company. As commenters noted in the AdAge piece, many people ignore the banners, so this may give them even more reason to do so.

I think this takes away from the authentic preferences that people have by making us and our actions into content in an even more explicit way than Facebook already does as a platform.

I’m interested to see how this grows, and if it is more effective than other methods of sharing people’s preferences on Facebook. What do you think?

What makes things go Viral?

Earlier in the year, I was a panelist, along with Steve Rubel, senior VP of Insights for Edelman Digital, Peter Himler, founder of Flatiron Communications, Les Blatt, former editor/producer for ABC News, and Ken Zamkow of http://www.liveu.tv/, for the panel “Going Viral in a Social Marketing World.”

CUNY released the panel as a podcast, and you can listen to it on the page referenced above.

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Changes coming to Facebook Fan Pages

Seems that Facebook is making some Changes to Fan Pages. This is going to affect Small companies and Small Non-Profits alike.
Here’s a great article summarizing some of the changes:

ATTN Nonprofits: Major Changes Coming Soon to Facebook Fan Pages « Nonprofit Tech 2.0

Scheduled to occur sometime between late 2009 and early 2010, some major changes are coming to Facebook Fan Pages.

One big change is that Status Updates won’t show in the news feeds of all your fans. Fans will have to “like” the update and comment on it to increase its popularity.

Another one is that the “Boxes” tab is going away. Hat tip to Kendra Kellogg in the comments of the previous article for pointing to an article that explains how to move your custom Boxes to Static FBML tabs

At least there’s a little notice for this change but I believe it is going to affect a lot of people’s Facebook design.

Facebook Pages vs Groups – on Mashable

My Latest article appears on Mashable – and it is on the subject of Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups.
Mashable – The Social Media Guide

“Should I create a group or launch a Page?” It’s the eternal question that gets asked as often as, “What is Twitter?” at introductory social media training classes. Ever since Facebook launched their Pages product as part of their larger advertising strategy (along with the ill-fated Beacon) in November 2007, there has been confusion over which to use.

You can read the rest at Facebook Pages vs Facebook Groups: What’s the Difference?