I’m at Internet week in NYC. Listening to the presenters, the panels, and the exhibitors I’m getting this uncomfortable feeling. You see I work with companies to humbly participate in the conversations they are lucky enough to find and graciously gain access to. Brands aren’t entitled to be a part of our social lives because they pay for it.
What I’m hearing here, is a massive push toward and unabashed embrace of social advertisements. One panelist claimed that over the next several years Facebook will dominate “display advertisements” in the way that Google dominates search advertisements.
The claim was that Facebook will receive nearly 90% of all display ad spending in just a few years.
There seems to be a prevailing sentiment that this is a good thing.
Social and search are fundamentally different experiences and mindsets…I’ve said this many times before. When searching, we are actively looking for something; we are more prone to click on an advertisement that meets what we are actively looking for.
When socializing, our mindset is focused on connecting with other people. Human beings don’t tend to enjoy being interrupted in the physical world while conversing with friends and family to receive offers and ad copy, and it stands to reason that they wouldn’t like that online either. So in terms of ad spend, social ads seem relatively silly unless you are driving traffic to a social account where the focus then shifts to engagement.
The bigger issue I take with this, is that social ads give brands the ability to pay their way into the social space, thereby eliminating the necessity to actually work their way into the conversations organically. We’re making Social Media another place to push to.
How does that make you feel?
The question isn’t how much money will this make Facebook? It isn’t about whether or not Facebook is capable of creating ads that people click on. They’ve already found ways of being creative with their ads so that “stories” can invade our personal, hand-selected newsfeeds, or make ads appear to be posts from our friends. Facebook is plenty capable of selling ads to the ignorant and wise among us.
The real question is, do you want to see ads when you are socializing? Furthermore, do the ads you see while socializing influence your purchasing decisions in any way?
The Beauty of Social Media
The beauty of Social Media is that it is OURS, at least it WAS. Our information is what drives these sites and allows them to generate revenue, albeit in a lazy, predictable way…ads. Social Media was supposed to represent a shift in power away from brands and towards the user. It is conceptually My Space. It was where we became free to express ourselves and tell our own story in a space uninhabited by brands.
With the massive ad push, it becomes more and more THEIRS. Every creative advertisement idea allows Facebook to sell our voice for us, and we don’t see a penny…but we DO get to see more ads.
Who is standing up for the bigger vision?
I’m all for monetizing Social Media but ads are lazy and unoriginal. I expected Social Media to move us closer to a more connected and personal marketplace. I’d rather see Facebook charge marketers for access to data that the users volunteer, then put the onus on marketers to be creative in forming a relationship. Similar to the way that third party tools have monetized Twitter, Facebook, etc, there are numerous opportunities to make money that don’t require selling users or bringing ads to our social interactions.