How much stuff do you own? The answer for most people ranges from a few changes of clothing to a large house full of possessions – your material self. It turns out that most of us also have a digital self – the information and items we create or that others collect about us. It is your footprint, your impact on the digital world. Without a digital self, you don’t exist in the world of computers and the Internet.
The era of Internet has spawned riotous new forms of business disruption as cheap tools and services combined with Internet reach and social media have empowered anyone on the planet to compete with the largest, most established businesses. James McQuivey’s reports and book on digital disruption highlight the fast rise of new hardware devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect and Apple’s iPad, and the fast mainstreaming of new Internet services such as Dropbox, Twitter, and Facebook. Companies in the business of retail, books, movies, and music have been toppled or transformed, with more to come.
Our recent report on why Facebook is failing marketers has caused quite a bit of conversation — with some supporting our findings and others disputing them — and we think that’s healthy. We fully stand behind our data and our conclusions, and we welcome the chance to further discuss what’s working and what’s not working in social media. Conversations like these can only push the industry forward and help all social marketers and sites become more successful.
In particular, we wanted to address a few common questions people are asking about our research:
Facebook’s score didn’t look that low. Are they really failing marketers? Facebook offers marketers access to the largest audience in media history and it knows a remarkable amount about each of its users and their affinities. By all rights, Facebook should be driving significantly more value for marketers than other sites and channels — but according to our survey, they’re not. Forrester’s Data Center of Excellence has looked at this data many different times, through many different lenses, and every view of the data supports this conclusion.
I know this statement sounds remarkable, perhaps even unbelievable. After all, you offer marketers access to the largest audience in media history and you know a remarkable amount about each of your users. As a result nearly every large company now markets on Facebook. Last year your company collected more than $4 billion in advertising revenues.
But while lots of marketers spend lots of money on Facebook today, relatively few find success. In August, Forrester surveyed 395 marketers and eBusiness executives at large companies across the US, Canada and the UK — and these executives told us that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.
Why are business leaders less satisfied with Facebook than with any other digital tool? We believe there are two reasons.
First, your company focuses too little on the thing marketers want most: driving genuine engagement between companies and their customers. Your sales materials tease marketers with the promise that you’ll help them create such connections. But in reality, you rarely do. Everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand’s messages — but on average, you only show each brand’s posts to 16% of its fans. And while your company upgrades its advertising tools and offerings monthly or more, you’ve done little in the past 18 months to improve your unloved branded page format or the tools that marketers use to manage and measure those pages.
Earlier this year, we introduced the Database of Affinity: a catalogue of people's tastes and preferences, collected by observing their social behaviors, that could be the Holy Grail for more-accurate brand advertising. And since then two of the companies we featured in our research -- Facebook and Google -- have been working hard to realize this vision:
In June, Google introduced Affinity Segments -- a tool that allows marketers to target audiences based on the products and categories for which they've expressed preferences. We think Google has room to add more and broader affinity data to these segments, and to do richer analysis on that data. But Affinity Segments blends multiple signals into a single targeting tool -- which makes this an important step forward from the simplistic affinity targeting most social sites now offer.
More recently, Facebook built a team to analyze its affinity data. MIT Technology Review reports that Facebook has assigned eight people to its 'AI' team. Their goal? To address one of the key shortcomings we'd identified in Facebook's business: its inability to bring meaning to its data. It's always been clear that Facebook has one of the largest collections of affinity data online; we hope this move will help the company better leverage that data on behalf of marketers.
Facebook now has 819 million mobile monthly active users. That’s a huge audience. That’s actually 71% of total active users.
Yesterday, Facebook reported they generated 41% of total ad revenues via mobile. That’s pretty impressive considering they generated nearly 0% end 2011 when they had already 432 million mobile monthly users. Since the launch of mobile ads in 2012, Facebook steadily increased the share of mobile in total ad revenues: it was 23% end 2012 and 30% in Q1 2013.
There is still a monetization gap in comparison to the share of their mobile audience, but that’s definitely impressive for a new product.
There are a couple of reasons for this sharp increase. Time spent on Facebook is meaningful. Facebook’s mobile ads integrate well in the natural flow of Facebook’s news feeds. They are quite visible and are increasingly successful at driving mobile app installs. According to our European Technographics Consumer Technology Online Survey, Q4 2012, 16% of online adult smartphone owners (ages 16-plus) who use apps report that they first learned about an app via social networking websites such as Facebook. No wonder why the likes of Fiksu and other app boosters spent a lot of money on Facebook mobile ads. Cost per click increased despite a lot more clicks and ads shown.
For this approach to be successful in the longer term, there are a couple of key questions to be answered:
You can no longer segment your business customers into those who use social media for business purposes and those who do not. Why not? Because according to Forrester’s newest B2B Social Technographics® numbers, fully 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Other stunningly high numbers: 98% of business decision-makers are Spectators (they read blogs, watch videos, or listen to podcasts), 79% are Joiners (they maintain a profile on social networking sites), and 75% are Critics (they comment on blogs and post ratings and reviews), all in the context of their business activities.
Therefore, it’s no longer a question of whether you should use social, but how. B2B marketing executives no longer need convincing to invest in social. However, social marketing efforts are maturing beyond experimentation — where measuring results is secondary — to science. At this more advanced stage of maturity, marketers need to understand exactly how and when their customers are using social and target them differently in each stage of the customer life cycle.
Your customers don’t make blanket use of “social media,” “social networks,” or “communities” in general. Instead, they use specific social networks and communities for specific goals, both personal and business-related. The communities your customers visit for personal reasons are not always the ones they use for business purposes.
For business purposes, the No. 1 and No. 2 communities aren’t specific public social networks but “niche” communities focused on specific objectives. For example, business technology buyers might visit IT Central Station or Spiceworks to learn more about multiple competing technologies at once; alternatively, they might visit a community managed by a single brand, such as the Cisco Communities or SAP Community Network (SCN).
Today, Facebook announced a new road map for its social advertising solutions. Over the coming months, Facebook will evolve its ad offerings to:
Focus on business objectives. “Do Facebook advertising” is not a business object unto itself. Social advertising broadly, and Facebook advertising specifically, is just one piece of a broader mix of options to reach new audiences. Facebook plans to help marketers align their spending to their business objectives by offering solutions specifically for brand marketers, online retailers, and other types of advertisers.
Make social ads more social. Facebook’s data shows that ads on its site work better when they contain a social component (e.g., ‘your friend Nate likes this brand’) — so soon, all Facebook ads will contain social elements by default. This is part of a larger trend to make social advertising more personal than traditional display advertising.
Simplify its advertising options. As Fidji Simo, Facebook Ads Product Manager, said today, "it should be simpler." Today, Facebook offers a veritable Chinese menu of ad units that frankly confuse most marketers. To simplify ad buying, Facebook plans to slash its existing number of ad units in half to create a simpler ad-buying experience.
Last month I published new research on the Database of Affinity — a catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors on sites like Facebook and Twitter — and how that database will change marketing. And I'm pleased to say I've gotten a lot of great feedback on that research. So I'm excited to be presenting the idea on stage at our Marketing Leadership Forum in London later this month.
What is the database of affinity?
I hope you'll be able to join us in London on May 21 and 22.
Recently we described an idea called the database of affinity: A catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Why are we so excited about this idea? Because if Facebook or Twitter or some other company can effectively harness the data from all the likes and shares and votes and reviews they record, they could bring untold rigor, discipline, and success to brand advertising.
But exploiting the database of affinity won’t be easy. Any company hoping to turn affinity data into something marketers can use will need three things:
Lots of affinity data from lots of sources. The raw data required to build a functional database of affinity doesn’t live in just one place. Facebook controls the most "like" data, recording more than 80 billion per month at last check. But Twitter records more "talking" than anyone else (1.5 billion tweets per month); Amazon collects the most reviews (well over 6 million per month); and Google’s YouTube and Google Display Network have data on how a billion people prefer to spend their time.
The ability to bring meaning to that data. It’s easy to draw simple conclusions from affinity data: If you ‘like’ snowboarding you might like to see an ad for energy drinks. But the real value in affinity data won’t be unlocked until we can find hidden combinations of affinity that work for marketing. That’ll require technologies and teams that can do some serious data analysis — as well as a real-time feedback loop to determine whether people really are interested in the ads targeted to them based on such complex assumptions.
For years, brand marketers have guessed at people’s affinities from the barest of demographic, geographic, and contextual clues. We deduce that Midwestern men prefer pickup trucks and that people watching extreme sports like energy drinks, and then we spend billions advertising to these inferred affinities.
But today, we no longer have to guess. Every day huge numbers of people online tell us what they like. They do this by clicking a ‘like’ button, of course — but there are many other ways people express affinity: talking about things on Twitter and in blogs; reviewing things on Amazon and Yelp; spending time with content on YouTube (and telling us where they’re spending their offline time on Foursquare); and sharing things through both public and private social channels.
People’s rush to post their affinities online recalls another flood of data that began a decade ago: the explosion in online searches. John Battelle once described the data created by search as the “database of intentions,” which I’d define as “a catalogue of people’s needs and desires collected by observing their search behaviors.” In the same way, the result of all these online expressions of “liking” has created the “database of affinity,” which Forrester defines as:
A catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors.