This post is from my co-founder Dave Gentzel and is in regard to our recently released “Social Banners”. I will be sharing some additional thoughts in coming days on how to innovate in social advertising while keeping users in control.
Change. We hear the word frequently. It’s utilized by politicians, elite business people, and millions of others around the world. Because with change comes the promise of something better. Something revolutionary. Something that will change the world! Or, at least something that sucks substantially less than it did before.
Since the beginning of time (currently known as May 24th, 2007), it has been SocialMedia’s passion to understand the dynamics of social applications, and specifically, how to help developers make money from them. In doing so, we’ve explored many different angles of monetization, ranging from virtual currency incentives back in June of last year, to AdSense-like ads currently, and everything in between. So, now that it’s been over a year, what have we learned?
Simply put, traditional advertising and social media environments don’t really mix.
Now, we mean no disrespect to the dancing ladies of many mortgage ads, whose killer moves have lured millions into saving money. Nor do we wish to offend Mr. Monkey of punch the monkey, as he’s undoubtedly accumulated enough angst to unleash a world of clicking furry on the internet. And Google, the king of kings. If developers were creating tech blogs or web hosting review sites, AdSense would be in heaven. But, unfortunately, “fun wall” and “hug me” keywords aren’t in huge demand.
And thus, we at SocialMedia realized something had to change.
For the past many months, we’ve been tidying up our ad serving, washing and drying our metaphorical dishes, and working away to bring you revolutionary things! So, on this day, can we proudly proclaim we’ve solved social media monetization and changed the advertising world? Not to the extent that Google has solved search monetization. But, we have made great progress. And with little doubt, we can stand up, raise our arm in jovial assertion, and confidently proclaim, “In social media, everything must be social — even the ads — and we’re going to help make it happen!”
Uh oh. Now we’ve done it. We just used “ads” and “social” in the same sentence. Sound the alarms! Unleash the privacy brigade! All ur data are belong 2 us!
Below is a concrete example of a social banner. It’s an ad, presumably sponsorable by a company seeking to spread the word about its new-found greenness. So, without further ado, here’s a our user violating, privacy busting, all your data in a social banner, banner!
Blog Reader: “Umm…wait. Is this a trick? My data has to be in here somewhere. I know! It’s hiding under the alien! Oh, no. That’s silly. Wait! You pulled my facebook interests to stereotype me as a certain type of user, thereby populating the buttons with choices that would appeal to me, thus increasing ad CTR!”
As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Oh bother.”
Your data isn’t in there. Not at all. But, let’s say you do opt to share why you’re green with your friends by clicking on a button. This is what your friends would see, except replace this dude’s picture with yours.
Blog Reader: “OMG I’M IN THE AD! You mean when I choose to share why I’m green with my friends, my friends will actually see it?”
It’s rather difficult to share something with your friends when we can’t tell your friends the thing you wanted to share. So, yes, that’s precisely what we did.
Blog Reader: “Wait, did you just spam all my friends too?”
No, we didn’t.
We did not post a news feed item to your friends on your behalf.
We did not invite your friends to an application.
We did not email your friends.
We did not send your friends a notification.
We did not IM your friends.
We did not post a message to your friends walls.
We did not send your friends a facebook message.
We did not post anything to your profile.
Nor will we be sending your daily email reminders about your green status, and that you should update it.
In short, we did not do anything other than wait for your friend to show up in an application that uses SocialMedia’s advertising services, and then display the message you explicitly chose to share to your friends. And, we did not access your data from Facebook, other than making a call to get your 50×50 pixel picture, which you can control via facebook’s privacy controls. We also have our own opt-out mechanism.
Blog Reader: “You know, this thing seems very familiar to a lot of applications on facebook I have installed before.”
You mean the ones that did spam you and your friends in every which way and had access to every little bit of your data, and every little bit of all your friends data? Yes, I’m familiar with those.
Blog Reader: “I seem to have forgotten why I was so angry. Oh yes. BUT I’M IN AN AD!”
The fundamental reason people dislike advertising is because they think it takes advantage of them. This is especially true when individuals are inside ads. But, our goal is not to put people inside of ads as a gimmick, as gimmicks die and provide little value to anyone. Instead, we want to facilitate real conversation and interaction around certain products and brands.
We don’t get paid to put you in ads. We’re getting paid to present you with the opportunity to interact with a product socially. And, if you choose to do so and we can display this interaction to your friends, then we’ve done half our job. The other half is ensuring that the social experience was well received by you and your friends. It’s a different type of adverting that pulls from the core of the social graph in a distributed manner that is neither invasive nor annoying. Essentially, we’re building mini-apps inside your apps, available when you want them, empowering you to share and communicate with your friends wherever you go (inside of facebook, of course!).
That’s SocialMedia’s mission, and that’s how we plan to bring change to the advertising industry.