Until yesterday, the only obviously targeted ads I ever saw on Facebook were biologically irrelevant. And no matter how quickly I swatted them, they kept coming back, like little stingy things that bite your ankles at barbeques. (In case you are curious: it doesn’t help if you shout ‘no’ at the same time at the same time as clicking ‘no’.) My bad Facebook ads aren’t as biologically irrelevant as the ads in my spam. But they waste my time, Facebook’s inventory, and advertiser’s money.
But yesterday, ah, yesterday. Yesterday was different. Right there in my news-stream, there it was: an ad inviting me to see a film about Leonard Cohen, at a cinema that is at least sort of close to me – at least by south London standards. Whew. Well done, Curzon Wimbledon. Well done, Facebook. Finally.
Did they know I spent many immersively enjoyable dark hours with Leonard Cohen when I was a teenager? Probably not. Did they know that I recently saw Leonard Cohen at Place des Arts, in the company of the very same friend I used to listen to him with when I was 14? Again, probably not.
But they did know that I Facebook-liked Leonard Cohen. And they’ve made use of this fact in a sensible way. As it happened, I didn’t drop everything to go see the movie. But I might’ve. And that’s a lot closer to my wallet than any other Facebook ad I’ve seen.
This is incredibly powerful stuff. It’s the reason why Facebook might actually be worth as much as its most flattering estimates. Or even more. Ok, so far I haven’t personally seen so much evidence of execution. But the potential is there. Leonard Cohen proves it.
Of course even when preaching to the converted there are ways for a message to fail to hit home. In my Facebook news stream, I’ve also got a heads up about a Manu Chao concert in Seattle, and one in Japan. I do like Manu Chao. I also F-like him. But… Japan? Seattle? I live in London. Well, near-ish. No go.
Even when it’s done right, preaching to the converted has a limited upside. It’s in reaching the unconverted – but susceptible – where the true potential of social media lies. Facebook’s future value relies on its ability to make inferences from my F-likes, and other social graph connectivity, that help it to serve me a lot better. If it can do this, it can create value for everyone else involved. If it can’t, someone else will do it for them. There are plenty who are ready to try.
I heard at Facebook Developer Garage London last week that viral marketing on Facebook just ain’t what it used to be. I keep on hearing this – mostly at #FDGL. It’s probably true.
But, sometimes, as one door shuts another opens. Social graph marketing is a whole new universe of possibility just waiting to be explored.