facebook ads underwhelms

Every blogger is, it seems, talking about the unveiling of Facebook Ads at the ad:tech conference.

That this news was going to break was known for some time. That the news was as underwhelming as it is was the real shock.

AdAge tries to explain what Facebook Ads is:

“Tactically, it’s not an easy concept to explain. The first part involves user-initiated recommendations of a brand: When people visit a business’ Facebook page, they can choose to share their engagement with the brand (by becoming a “fan” or writing on the brand’s “wall”) with their peer network using a newsfeed or mini-feed. Facebook users can also share their interaction on a brand’s own website through a program coined Beacon. For example, users can share with their network when they post an item for sale on eBay, rent a movie on Blockbuster.com or rate a book on Amazon.com.

The idea is that communication moves not from the brand to the consumer but from the consumer to his or her friends and family.”

That is a big change for a social networking site that was, until recently, the decidedly un-commercial alternative to MySpace.

AdPulp reports that, when asked about people who might not like ads, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shrugged and said, “I mean, it’s an ad-supported business.”

A little more reflection by Mr. Zuckerberg and any interested brands would be welcome. After all, as Tangerine Toad has said, no matter how hard it tries, your brand is not my friend. It is a brand. That is trying to sell a product.

The brand is no more likely to be my friend or, more importantly, is no more likely to influence me to buy if someone connected to me on a site like Facebook is its friend than if I saw a ad for it. Because most of the people on Facebook aren’t my friends either.

And I am not the only one.

I joined Facebook mainly because a girl I was interested in at the time told me to join so I could see some pictures that she posted. Hoping to see something a little racy, I joined. I have a very unique name (no Joe Smith am I) and people just sort of found me. Some I am friends with and communicate with outside of Facebook. Others I haven’t spoken to in years…and connecting to them on Facebook did nothing to change that.

And marketers expect that these people will affect my brand decisions.

I am annoyed as it is with the sheer mass of irrelevant-to-my-daily-life information that is pushed out to me on Facebook. Brand information from people I don’t know is even more irrelevant and even more annoying.

Word of mouth is effective, but it is only effective if it comes from someone whose opinion on the subject I respect. My brother, for example, is an unimpeachable source on cars. My buddy in the next office over is my source for new music. My Mom is the final word on manners. A person I worked with five years ago and haven’t spoken to since will not influence me on anything, except perhaps to quit Facebook.

There is a chance that this sort of marketing will work, but the way Facebook Ads is currently designed with the newsfeed as the primary element, it’s just too secondary, too easy to tune out and too irrelevant.

Game-changing, this is not.

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