The face of Facebook - a comprehensive eBook for marketers

Picture 12.pngAs a marketer and blogger, there is no shortage of noise about Facebook as a marketing platform. One of my struggles has been to decipher what is accurate and what is mis-guided hyperbole.

I took it upon myself to get some answers using Facebook's own ad targeting system and I created this abridged eBook for marketers to give you a snapshot of what the real face of Facebook looks like on a Global and US level.

Click either of the links below to download this 25 page eBook for free:

High-resolution eBook (3.1 Mb) | Low-resolution eBook (944 Kb)

Picture 15.pngThe eBook answers the following questions:

  • What does the global population look like on Facebook?
  • What percentage of the 90 million users are outside the US?
  • Which countries have the highest percentage of their total citizens on Facebook?
  • What is the age/gender breakdown of the US Facebook population?
  • How many members are over the age of 25/30/40?
  • What options can I use to reach my audience?
  • How targeted can I get in order to avoid waste?
  • How much is it going to cost to reach them?

A couple of interesting points that struck me:

  • 25.33% of Canadians are on Facebook compared with 9.47% of Americans and 0.01% of people in China
  • The US has the highest number of users on Facebook at nearly one third of the total user base
  • There are more women than men in every US age category
  • 84.07% of US Facebook users are under 30 years of age
  • There is a distinct "long-tail" pattern when you look at the adoption levels of countries


This is a report that I will be updating on a monthly basis to show how the population is changing and how marketers can respond. Is there anything else that you want to see?

UPDATE: Jeremiah Owyang has a great post today on new "engagement ads" from Facebook. Will definitely keep you posted as these roll out into beta.

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Facebook's DIY ad targeting explained

facebook_logo.jpgEver time that I show somebody what is possible with Facebook's advertising system, they immediately see the future of advertising. Facebook allows marketers to create ads that are extremely targeted to a unique, specific audience. The ads are pay-per-click so you only pay when somebody is interested enough to engage with you through a click.

In the example I go through in the video (which you can see in the image below) I show you the full range of targeting capabilities within Facebook. While it is very robust, there are some missing elements including ethnicity. Though you may not be able to target the exact individual you are looking for, you can use interests and keywords to achieve the same result.

Here is an Inside//Out look at Facebook's advertising system:

[Feed readers please click through if you cannot see the video.]

Here is the screen capture from the video.

Picture 23.png

Picture 22.pngSo what does this look like when done right? Here is a good example that I saw today when I logged in to Facebook. The ad to the right is promoting a Chris Brogan "Twebinar" that is hosted by Radian 6. The ad is targeted to my interests, the headline caught my eye and I recognized Chris' headshot immediately. I clicked through to the Twebinar in short order.

Key Takeaways:

  • Micro-targeting your audience using these services is easier than ever
  • Determine how you can target people directly with ads as well as using meta data to reach them indirectly (for example reaching people who watch Monday Night Football to target football fans)
  • Ads that speak to the audience with the right message at the right time are highly effective
  • The prevalence of broad, un-targeted advertising inside social networks is nearing an end
  • Invasive ads like Facebook's social ads should be used sparingly if at all (there is too much risk at this point)

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03 is the new 30

Time_frustrationSo, here's a premise I've been working on this for a while now. The 3 second ad is the new 30. Don't laugh, I did say three seconds. This is a micro-messaging world and 5, 15, 30 and (god forbid) 60 second spots are too long when paired with nearly instant-on content. Three seconds is about as much advertising as I will take and not have an adverse reaction to the message.

Yesterday on my blog I wrote about marketers who know the price for interruption and pay it anyway. Another problem that dovetails with interruption based advertising (and is equally frustrating to web users) is ads that get moved over from TV to the web. You've all seen this happen. You go to a site, click to the content you're interested in and viola! A 30 second spot stands between you and your content.

Read the rest of the post at the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

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Knowing (and paying) the price for interruption

Istock_000002892305xsmallInterruptive advertising is one of the building blocks of most traditional marketer's communications plan. TV ads break up 20 minutes of actual programming (unless you Tivo your content). Radio ads moan on and on while you trudge through traffic. Pre-roll ads on web video make you wait patiently for 15 to 60 seconds. Everywhere you turn, you are accosted by advertising.

There are consequences to doing this, especially in the digital space. I enjoyed reading this article on the New York Times site points to a Burst Media survey of 2,600 online video viewers. In the survey responses, 53.6% of people recalled seeing some type of interruption-based advertising (pre-, mid- and post-roll). 78.4% of those people said that in-stream ads are intrusive with 50.4% saying the ads disrupt their time. (This means the subtraction of value, not the addition of value.)

The in-stream, or mid-roll, ads (a trend that is rapidly growing and is particularly user un-friendly) had the most negative reaction by far. 50.7% of respondents said to have stopped watching the video when they saw an mid-roll ad and 15.3% were so angry they left the site all together.

While people ages 18-24 are slightly more likely to stay through a mid-roll ad, the worst finding for advertisers was around the recall of the ads. Only 21.4% of people who recalled the ad said they pay more attention to mid-roll versus other ad formats. 

If you're a content creator, does it really make sense to run mid-roll ads if people are abandoning your content? You have to ask yourself where you place your value, ad dollars or content distribution. Moreover, if 1/3 of people leave your site altogether, you're hurting revenue from sponsors and other advertisers not to mention your reputation.

From an advertiser's view point of view, why would you do this? The negative impression of the ad's placement is weighing on your brand. If your goal is to have people take action or remember your product/service, this is definitely going to work.

There are, however, better options. Create a "skin" for the video where your branding surrounds the content, but doesn't encroach on it. Align your ads with content that makes sense and is in your audience's focus. The worst thing you can do is take a 30 and plop it in the path of web users who are trying to get the content they value. You're not adding anything to that situation. The 30 second spot is dead online as well (just in case you were wondering). 

What other advice would you give to advertisers lining up for these placements? What ads have you appreciated or received value from and how have they been placed?

This all leads up to a post I have been working on for a while that will premiere tomorrow. "3 is the new 30".

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Targeting based on mindset helps ads break through

Picture 22.pngI was poking around LinkedIn today adding some new friends and reconnecting with some old ones. Generally on LinkedIn I don't notice any of the advertising. Most of the ads are very general and the messages don't reach me in the moment and mindset that I have when I am on the site.

Today, however, I noticed a new set of ads in LinkedIn's rotation and they grabbed my attention. As you may know, Starbucks has recently started advertising online and in mainstream media for the first time. Their online ads are in the same style as the TV spots. It's all very harmonious.

These ads on LinkedIn expand on that campaign, but use a very relevant, timely message, geared right at the target audience. The holidays are on everyones mind and gift giving is a big part of that. You can tell these are from Starbucks, it's in the theme of their new campaign, but the message is completely unique.

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This is something that is very easy to do, but few companies do it. How many times have you seen the same ad on a sports news site and on a hobby site or a crafting site? It happens all too often. This is such an easy thing to do if planned correctly. Sites can be grouped to create the messages more efficiently, but sending out one ad for all sites is not going to get you the results you could achieve.

Your audience may or may not change from one site to another, but the context changes as does their mindset. Do you look at how that thinking shifts from site to site? Just having a simple spreadsheet showing the ad's creative, audience and customer mindset will help you plan it out. Think like the customer and you'll see more returns come your way.

Have you seen other examples of relevant messages in display ads that made you take notice?

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Metrics shape our perceived value; why the formula matters

iStock_000003339307XSmall.jpgOkay marketers. Let's say you are prepping to run an ad campaign for a mass, commodity good and you have to rank your ad buys over the top content networks. How would you rank the following and what metrics would you use? Go ahead and try it.

  • AOL
  • Ebay
  • Fox Interactive Media
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • MSN/Windows Live
  • Yahoo

Would you have ranked them by total audience knowing that you could reach a more robust and accurate subset with targeted ads? Or, would you have opted for total page views thinking that the more pages served the more eyeballs will take a look? Better yet, did you opt for the new Nielsen-suggested standard of time on site knowing that time leads to engagement and better eyeballs? You may be surprised at how different these results are.

Source: Nielsen/NetRatings,
U.S., home and work, May 2007
Take a look at the chart to the left. The first chart shows each network based on total unique audience with Google in the lead. It is followed by Yahoo, MSN/Live, Microsoft and AOL. Remember AOL's last-place position in this chart for later. There is a gap of roughly 20 million people between first and last place.

But you may not have wanted to go with total audience, instead you want to use page views as your metric. Well, in that case Yahoo is your network of choice. Yahoo is followed by Fox (including MySpace), Google, MSN/Live and EBay. In this case there is a roughly 20 billion page view difference.

However, you may be detered by page views and total audience and find yourself looking at total time on the site. In that case AOL comes out of nowhere to take a firm lead (remember they were last in total audience). They're followed by Yahoo, MSN/Live, Fox and Google who drops like a stone. There is a difference of roughly 17.5 billion minutes between AOL and Google.

So what the heck does this mean to you? Let's look at each network to see what the metrics tell us.

aol_logo.jpgAOL - The AOL network is where to go if you want people who spend a lot of time there, but they are not generating a lot of page views in that time. There are an estimated 90 million people in the audience.

ebay_logo.jpgEbay - EBay pops up only in the page views metric as you would expect. Each listing is a page and visitors crank through them quickly. Total audience is lower as is the time on the site.

logo_fox.gifFox Interactive Media - The Fox network, while not large, generates quite a few page views and stays engaged with that content longer when you consider its size. I think MySpace has a large part to do with that summary. as people stay engaged, but constantly churn through pages of friends as well as adding content.

logo-Google.gifGoogle - Google is still the king of search so if you're looking for SEM and you want the volume, this is your stop (according to 2007 April figures from Nielsen//NetRatings, Google has the largest share of U.S. based web searches at 55.2% (Google Acquisitions), Yahoo is second at 21.9%, MSN is third at 9.0%, AOL is fourth at 5.4%, and Ask is fifth at 1.8%). The downside of Google is that people are coming for a specific task and jumping off hence the low engagement times and high audience.

microsoft logo_qjpreviewth.jpgMicrosoft - The Microsoft audience is large as you would expect, but that's where the company's advantage ends. They don't show up on the total time on site or the page views metrics.

250px-MSN_(logo).pngMSN/Windows Live - MSN represents Microsoft's consumer facing entity and their Live search function. Live has been picking up some momentum in total search volume, but they've a long way to go to catch Google. MSN comfortably sits in the middle of the pack on almost every point. They dip below when it comes to page views. It's a large audience that spends an average amount of time on fewer pages.

yahoo-logo.jpgYahoo - Yahoo comes out the best of any network when you look at each metric. They have the second largest audience, the most number of page views and the second most time in minutes. This should be an attractive combination to marketers especially in targeted display ads. Yahoo still lags behind Google for SEM where there is still a 30%+ gap.

In the end, no matter who you are or who you are marketing to, it comes down to a few key factors:

  • Find your audience. If they're not using Google then you're wasting your money
  • Relevance is key. Making hyper-targeted ad buys will help make sure relevance is there and waste is minimal
  • Nobody likes iterruption. The last thing I want is to have my visit to a network interrupted by your ad. Give me some value and be relevant to what I am looking at. If I'm in the auto repair section, don't offer me camera equipment.
  • Think outside the banner. Look at sponsorships or creating value-add programs to hook users.
  • Think social. Engaging with the community on a social level will lead to more success. Think about shifting dollars to social/conversational media. You may get more bang for your buck.

What do you consider when you run ads? Have you started shifting dollars to digital? Are you shifting those dollars to social media? Let me know in the comments.

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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.

Picture 7.png

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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Would you purchase through a banner ad?

tailgate_logo.gifI saw a very interesting article over at TechCrunch today about a company who is purported to be reviving the online banner ad. The company, Tailgate, is allowing e-commerce to happen inside a banner ad. You can see an example of this here.

Here are my questions/issues with this. While I think this is a good idea in theory it has inherent downfalls, not the least of which is the fact that banner ads are not very effective and these particular ads could pose a security risk, or a perception thereof, for consumers. I've learned to tune ads out no matter what site I am on and a lot of other people have as well. Here's my quick take:

[Feed readers click through to the post to see the video]

The Good:

  • Capture impulse buys on complementary sites
  • Let people see your top sellers before coming to your site

The Bad:

  • Banner ads are mostly irrelevant for consumers
  • Banners are interruption based (which is hopefully on its way out)
  • People block banners out of their consciousness when surfing with a goal in mind
  • There is a lack of trust (phishing and other scams)
  • Also there is a lack of perceived security (no matter how secure it is)
  • No way to identify authenticity of the offer or the host

How much better would the same advertiser money be spent to reach out to influential brand evangelists and/or bloggers? Why not join in the conversation instead of trying to interrupt it?

Overall, I think people still have some trust issues with e-commerce in general that need to be overcome before something like this has a real chance of making an impact. I'd be interested to hear from the company behind it on how they plan on reassuring people that their information is safe.

What do you think? Would you ever submit your credit card info through a banner?

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Time to wake up marketers; move beyond banner ads

I was surfing around this morning and did a search for Omnicom's Cutwater agency (creators of the new RayBan commercials). I followed the link through to a nice story on AdWeek.

I hadn't checked out the AdWeek site for a while so I clicked through the home page and saw a surround ad campaign for Discovery Channel. The surround features three independent ads of different sizes all working together. This particular one was a clever play on the Discover Channel show Deadliest Catch where Alaskan fishermen risk their lives in the Bering Sea (yes I do watch this show, it's addictive).

What caught my eye, however, was the image the page was using as a background. I almost clicked away, then I said to myself, "Holy crap, they actually tiled the client logo as a background". This Web -2.0 tactic (yes, negative 2.0) is oh so very 1995. I know because I did it in 1995 when it was cool. Most importantly, it adds zero benefit to the campaign.

Picture 3.png

So anyway, here you have this (mostly) well thought out ad campaign in the right place for the audience and it's all thrown out the window with this ill-advised mistake. What would you say if you were Discovery and you saw this? Would you be impressed to see your logo tiled as a background or would you be upset that it looks completely amateur?

Now, I am not one to propose a problem without a solution so here are a couple options that the agency who created this could have proposed to add some real value to the campaign and still stay in the same parameters of the medium.

The series Deadliest Catch is all about the challenges of the sea. It follows a few fishing crews in Alaska and shows just how dangerous their job is. The sea (and the weather in general) is almost a character in their story. They fight storms and the sky is always ominous. So in a couple of minutes I went to iStockphoto and pulled an image of a threatening sky. Now imagine this image as the background. It sets the mood right?


Similary, I went to and visited the show's page there. A number of wallpaper files are available for download. So why not pick one of those images like you see below? They're accessible, dynamic, tied into the show and also set the mood.


If you were creating an ad for the print version of AdWeek would you tile your client's logo to take up the white space? Absolutely not! My point is, when you're creating online ad campaigns, ask yourself what you can do to make each implementation unique and help move through the clutter. How can you use the medium to convey the message and engage the audience for that brief exposure? Well thought out online ads go beyond the IAB standards and use the full inventory to tell one congruent story and, in the end, engage more potential customers.

I see shockingly few really good online campaigns. The medium is limitless so why are people still applying traditional thinking? Here is a litmus test. If you can send your online ads to a magazine and have them run as is, you need to SERIOUSLY re-think what you're doing online. Reach out, engage, tell a story and give people a reason to click.

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Page views are dying, but are visits the answer?

admitone_ticket.jpgOne the the main challenges of interactive marketing is measurement. For quite some time the page view has been the gold standard of analytics. However, as technology changes the page view measurement is quickly losing credibility and content publishers are looking for a replacement.

The problem: The specific problem is that as user-centered technologies like AJAX penetrate the market, there are less pages viewed. Simple eh? Here is an example I use in presentations when explaining AJAX.

It's April 14th at 4:45pm. You just started doing your tax returns (you know who you are). You're filing online and you come to a page that needs to find you local school district.

    Old way -- you are shown a pull down menu with all of the states listed. You choose your state and the page reloads with all of the counties (that's one page view). You choose your county and the page reloads with all of the cities (that's two page views). You choose your city from the list and the page reloads with all of the applicable school districts (that's three page views). You then submit the form and get a big refund check.

    New way -- you come to the school district finder page and see a list of states. You choose your state. As you click your state the list of counties appears immediately below (still one page view since the page did not reload). You choose your county and a list of cities loads (still one page view). You select your city and the list of school districts appears (still one page view). This saved you time as a user since you didn't have to wait for the page to reload, but the site lost two page views.

The first A in AJAX is where the problems lie. It stands for Asynchronous, which is a complex way to say that the data transfer is happening in the background and doesn't require a new page load. The technology is very powerful and really adds a lot of value to the end user since the web application works just like an offline application (when done right). A good example is Google's Docs and Spreadsheets applications which work using similar technology. If you go to and create a spreadsheet. If you didn't know you were in a web browser, you would think you were using Excel.

So that's the problem. A few people have proposed a potential solution as AJAX adoption spreads quickly increasing the number of sites where the page view is irrelevant. ComScore recently put their weight behind using the unique visit as the new standard. Here is a breakdown of what they've said:

  • Unique Visits - this is the number of unique visitors who come to your site. Each user is tracked by IP address. This number will also give the best gauge of overall site performance and will also replace page views in the sales process.
  • Average visits per visitor (30 days) - this number shows engagement on the site. The more visits per visitor the more engaged the person is with the content.
  • Time on site - time on site is not a new metric, but is still very valuable to determine engagement. We will even see an 'average time per visit' using this metric and the average visits per visitor.

One of the biggest shifts that this will require is website valuation for sponsorship and advertising among SMB's. Most online ad sales people are just coming up to speed with setting real value on websites and they've been using page views. If you look purely at the numbers, 'unique visits' is going to be lower than 'page views'. How do you explain that to an advertiser? Steve Rubel does a good job outlining his concerns here. I'll dig into how this can be approached from an advertiser and site owner's viewpoint in a future post.

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More great environmental, interactive advertising

800x600_collage.jpgOne of my favorite trend watching sites is PopURLs. The information is timely and relevant and I have the ability to control a lot of the content on the page. One content area on the page shows the top 18 photos on Flickr at the moment (see a screen capture below). As you'll notice, the 18 images starting from left to right are from Flickr. The last three spots in each row are actually part of an ad for Hammer and Coop, a 70s action parody from BMW's Mini brand.

So what makes this kind of environmental advertising work?

  • It's obviously custom-made for this site and shows the brand cares enough to tailor the creative
  • It interrupts the user in an unexpected way to be more memorable
  • It's in line with the tone of the site and the audience

Here is the Mini example:

Picture 1.png

By comparison, here is the normal way this area looks...blatant and easily ignored:

Picture 2.png

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Cool, branded and ad-supported

Picture 4.pngIf you are an advertiser (or marketing company creating ads) wouldn't you love for people to see your work and say "damn, that's nicely done and cool"? I was looking through my Twittersphere and came across a link to the Pandora music service. In order to bring music to people for free, the site serves up advertising to users.

Pandora allows advertisers to leverage technology and design to enhance the user experience. The page load that I saw was a very nicely done Altoids Chocolate surround. This combines their campaign which feeds in user messages to the advertising across the ad networks that Altoids uses.

Here is an example of a non-branded and branded surround. Pretty clear choice eh?

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Kudos to the Altoids ad team. Not only is the page more aesthetically pleasing, but it combines user-generated content to add value and connect on a more personal level with consumers.

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Yahoo playing advertising catch-up

yahoo-logo-735610.jpgYahoo's long-delayed new advertising system, code named project Panama, is in the process of launching. Yahoo has been trying to catch up to Google and Microsoft for quite some time and Panama is expected to bridge the gap.

Yahoo needs this project to be successful in order to increase its revenues and lift its stock prices. The next step is for Yahoo to try to gain ground in the search volume race. Right now the change in model doesn't mean a lot without more volume and more impressions. For media professionals, it's just another disparate system to learn, for Yahoo this could determine their relevance as a search powerhouse.


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Hispanic ad spending to rise, internet key

According to a TNS Media Intelligence study via AdWeek, spending in Hispanic advertising and other media will rise 5.4% in 2007. The overall ad market is expected to rise 2.5% in comparison, half of the hispanic target.

The internet will be key to reaching Hispanic consumers as the population and percentage moving online grows this year. This presents a great opportunity for marketers to tailor their messages and reach a new audience without re-creating a product or re-using existing marketing (a bad idea).

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Truth in advertising parody

Saw this at PSFK and had to post it. While I know this is how a lot of agencies operate (because I've seen it firsthand) I hope that clients are getting smarter and looking for more least that's what I hope.

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How consumers find packaged goods

A new study conducted by iCrossing shows the increasingly large import consumers are putting on search to find packaged goods. The bad part is that companies are late to recognize this and online ad spending is at only around 1% of the budget.

39% of US adults performed a search online according to the study. 20% of those search for CPGs monthly and 9% weekly. The demos are outstanding for companies as searchers are most likely well educated, wealthy, female and 35-44.

Another interesting thing to note is the amount of traffic going to brand sites directly. While 67% of users find information on a traditional search engine, 60% are using the brand sites for the same info. Surprisingly few consumers are using comparison shopping sites or other forms of product rating sites.

CPG companies need to re-evaluate in a media-agnostic manner where their consumers are finding out about them and invest in the web as soon as possible. Not all products are the same and the media mix will vary.

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