As we creep into the early maturity days of the social net, media companies and clients are bemoaning the low click through rates for ads on social networking. What used to be exciting experimentation has turned into discussions of return on investment and questioning the legitimacy of the media channel.
In truth, a vast majority of media/marketing is just catching up with the idea of advertising on social nets. The prediction that social network advertising should climb by 70% each and every year for the next 5 is likely a safe one (source: Veronis Suhler Stevenson). Media sense oftentimes lags media realities.
In the last few months from the ashes of Facebook Beacon, their early attempt at social network marketing or social video ad units, we've seen a number of other forays that have varying degrees of promise.
I have scripted up a composite (pictured to the left) of some of the features of the leading candidates to get a sense of their social features involved.
Facebook has begun to rollout a Social Video Ad Unit earlier this month which allows people to drop in comments and list them below the ad featured attributing the comment to the person's profile. Although advertisers may not like the public villification of their horrible video ads, it does provide a sense of who's engaged, a deeper level of interactivity and an immediate insight into what people are thinking about your ads.
When we launched new and big advertising campaigns in my corporate gigs, watercooler heresay and pillow talk were the key forms of feedback on what the initial response from consumers registered...at least this type of social ad commenting represents an improvement on "finger to the sky" ad research.
Avenue A and Razorfish are working with specialist web ad company Pluck to rollout their own media ad unit that may allow you to upload pictures, photos and other options to existing banner ads.
Mediaforge has an interesting menu-based ad unit allowing a user to customize what view or option on their ad based on their interest.
YouTube has begun rolling out in stream overlay/annotated ads across their network claiming 5-10 times the level of standard banner rates.
Chitika has also been successful in getting outside its Facebook API box and having social media ad with a shared revenue model with participating publishers (60% of social banner ad revenues go to the publisher).
The idea of participating in advertising is noble and I could forecast the novelty factor being quite helpful to advertisers in increasing their poor clickthrough rates. I can also see this becoming wallpaper really fast with the key reason being that viewers need to fell empowered, if all you are doing is leaving comments and rating, at some point you will feel "why bother" - are my comments really changing/influencing anything?
Given the fact media companies will be pushing this medium, i'm not hopeful that the idea of using ads for company insight or content will be a foremost consideration. In online media, it's still all about the clicks, clicks, clicks, push, push, push...I can already see the pitch deck - clickthough rates for conventional and clickthrough rates for social media ad.
Progressive coimpanies will use social ad units to accelerate campaigns that spawn debate, ask questions, launch altruistic causes....think Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty in a social media ad....now that excites me.