2011 has been a year of drastic changes whether it is social lives or networks. We saw Google Plus coming into existence and thereafter we saw a list of new enhancements made in Facebook. With changes in the way timeline looks to showing ads in the user timeline, Facebook has made sure that users keep hogging on to it. The latest announcement by Facebook that ads will also be shown now on user timeline created a great deal of buzz in the media and on discussion forums as well. However the important question to be asked here is why is Facebook messing up the user timeline with ads or sponsored stories. We do have sponsored stories that pop up in corners of your pages. So is that not enough or is it that Facebook has become hungry as it may plan to file an IPO next year. It is also interesting to note that few years back Facebook did try the same with “Beacon” ad platform but due to lot of protests Facebook had to pull it down. So why now?
“Facebook is not becoming hungry, it is becoming aspirational and nothing wrong in it. A good practice for brands to become more social” says Preetham Venkky, Business Head, India, KRDS. He further adds that the new thought process aligns with the vision of Mark Zuckerberg. Mark’s vision is that ads should be useful content to the right people. So Facebook is pushing brands to push content on the user stream and not ads that would be useful for the users. This is a complete shift from selling mindset to creating bondage with better content. This is why these days all over you are seeing a drastic shift from direct selling to becoming more customer centric and creating a bondage. The recent ‘I am Mumbai’ video by Mumbai Mirror, ‘Har Friend Zaroori Hai, Yaar’ from Airtel and the ‘Kolaveri‘ mayhem all become popular cause due to the drastic shift that was not possible fiver years back. So Facebook is enhancing sponsored stories and it is giving avenue for more people to see the content.
Rajesh Lalwani, Founder and Principal of Blogworks stresses on the fact that brands need to be more transparent. He adds that social media mentions for brands move through friends endorsing brands giving not only reach into their networks but also adding their own credibility. If done transparently the value can be immense for brands to create authentic surround sound.
Delivering content and being transparent is a great thought but then the question arises that how many times one would see such sponsored stories. For now Facebook has said that it is going to share only one such ad on the timeline. This brings us to an interesting thought that Brand will have no control on the message placement on the timeline. Ideally if there is a status update by a user saying that he is celebrating his birthday, the brand would like to show it’s party offers. However there could be cases where the ad might pop up at a wrong place on the timeline that could kill the objective of the ad.
Preetham thinks that Facebook on the other hand is providing more avenues for brands to be visible. No one is not available on Facebook 24*7 so if you have a content that you think is great then you have the chance of pushing it on the timeline more that once. You are doing it because you believe that it has a great content. Facebook has changed human behavior and now it is forcing brands to think more like a social brand.
True, if you have to survive in social media today, you can’t hide behind a logo and one has to be more social, more humane to connect with humans. However Rajesh highlights a major problem that he thinks might create issues for Facebook. Over time as user movements become stronger, Facebook might encounter issues as it tries to monetize user comments (on account of commercial gains from user content), adds Rajesh.
Apart from this issue, Preetham visualizes some grave problems in the strategies formulated by brands. He thinks that not many Brands get the idea of generating content. He thinks that there would be brands who will post an ad as an update which is completely wrong and then would also use sponsored stories to enhance it. This would only lead your fans to unlike you. So a brand needs to differentiate between sponsored stories and the ads that are going to be sent on the user timeline.
Brands will have to clearly figure out the difference between the two as Preetham mentioned. Ad by brands on timeline is entering the user timeline and one will have to respect a user space. Rumor has it that Facebook might introduce this feature in early 2012 with few brands. I find this is a very exciting move by Facebook to force brands to be more social. It would be interesting to see how often do you see them and now the onus would lie on brand how social would they be.
So do you think Facebook is making brands more social or is it another way of filling its pockets?