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No value to the community = no value to you

Today a post from UK-based Reach Students blog tells of the organization's woes in using advertising on Facebook to reach their target audience. In their four total campaigns they tried both banners and Facebook's Flyers and were disappointed each time. Their last ran 1.4 million impressions and delivered a 0.04% click-through rate. Yikes! Valleywag reports similar numbers with Facebook and equally low MySpace data.

Some people are shocked that the numbers are this low. But why I ask?!! These social networks are all about value. If an element or a feature is not adding value it is removed and replaced (at no cost) by something that does add value. Ads just don't add anything to the experience. Let's take a look at my profile page on Facebook to visualize why this is true.

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Notice the ad spot on this page is the narrow skyscraper in the lower left. If you're using the page however, your complete focus is on the content column. Even using the traditional Z-pattern to read the page, your eye doesn't make it to the ad. When I am in this environment I don't want to be disturbed which is why this type of interruption marketing falls on its face.

If you are a marketer and you're thinking to yourself, "Yeah, but MY product is different, my target audience will find HUGE value if they just try it", then you need a reality check. Unless you're giving away cold hard cash to every single person (and even then I would argue there is little value in running ads here) then find another way to get in the mix.

Now, there are branded elements on my profile page that I interact with everyday. These elements add value to me, but they are replaceable. Companies there include:

  • Flickr
  • Pownce
  • Moleskine
  • Skype
  • ICQ
  • AIM
  • Google

If you're trying to use a social network to market to your audience you absolutely MUST add value to the users.

So what's the lesson? If you're trying to use a social network to market to your audience (every network falls into this rule) you absolutely must add value to the users. If you do, they will reciprocate by spreading your message far and wide and you'll be the best thing since broadband. If you don't well, you may just get 0.04% click-through rates.

[Note: I will be doing an Inside//Out post on Facebook for marketers on Monday so check back then for a more in depth look.]

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