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Targeted Online Advert

I wanted to experiment with Facebook advertising, so over the weekend I made a simple ad directing people to one of my blog entries and ran it for three days in to college students in Germany and Poland . It took less than five minutes to make and submit the ad. I just wanted to see what would happen.

West Falls Church Metro station on March 7, 2009

The complaint about advertising is that it mostly falls on those who don't notice the ad or don't care about what you are selling. (Many people treat commercial breaks as bathroom opportunities.) So, you don't know who saw your ad. You don't know if those who saw it paid attention. You don't know if people who paid attention cared about it. And you don't know if those who cared were committed enough to do anything. For Facebook ads, you pay only if someone clicks through to your site. The completed transaction indicates that the person is interested in your content because they took a required action to get to you. The ad may have appeared in thousands of places, but you pay only for the ones who saw it, paid attention, cared about it and took action to get more information. Google, Yahoo etc, offer similar deals.

Coca-Cola pavillion at Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida in March 2002

You get the advantage of precise targeting, the Holy Grail of marketers through the generations. You can be reasonably certain that your advert for Denture Cream is not reaching an audience of mostly teenage girls. It is a fascinating new world for marketers and public affairs professionals, but it seems like nobody has figured it out how to thrive sustainably in this embarrassment of riches. Maybe those who know are not saying, but those who say clearly don't know. Anyway that is why I did my experiment.

It cost me $16.93 to reach thousands of people over a three day period and get 180 new visitors to my blog entry on forestry. That doesn't sound like many, but when you consider that on an average day I get only around 500 visitors to all the pages put together, it starts to add up. Mine is not a commercial site and I don't sell or promote anything, but for someone who is in business a prospective, interested customer in the shop (so to speak) is probably worth the nine-and-a- half cents it costs.

Advertising Age has an article about this. They say that Facebook is now sending more traffic to some sites than Google. I believe it. In addition to targeting, Facebook has the community aspect going for it. It is a pseudo-personal relationship, but it can seem real, elevating a targeted online ad to almost a word-of-mouth recommendation.

Interesting implications. Will Facebook steal market share from Google? Will Google create its own verson of Facebook? Will both be displaced by an idea not yet formed and events that haven't yet happened? The world of new technologies changes so quickly and it is possible to identify the winners only after they have come and gone. Sic transit gloria mundi - much faster than ever.


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