What’s Social About Advertising?

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Just finished reading a report by the IAB that defines social advertising and lays out some best practices. In the past I’ve posted about businesses partnering with customers to enable personalized advertising (also known as “ads customers actually want”). I’ve also recommended that business need to create tool kits that enable customers to create quality ads.

This is a step in that direction. The IAB defines social ads as:

An online ad that incorporates user interactions that the consumer has agreed to display and be shared. The resulting ad displays these interactions along with the user’s persona (picture and/or name) within the ad content.

(This is not to be confused with behavioral targeted advertising which is based on tracking your movement through the Internet and then an ad system funnels advertisements “at you” based on your surfing patterns.)

What this type of ad does it put the weight of the individual behind the ad. Based on the permissions that a user controls at opt-in, their persona image and personal profile information can be used within the ad. This is done with the belief that empathy can take the ad a long way. “I have a lot in common with that person. Maybe this ad is worthwhile?” This is also another way an individual can make new acquaintances. If the brand they are passively representing (Puma for instance) is one that they are passionate about, they may friend them. This could be a boon for Twitter and already exists in some form (just not multimedia), even though Twitter says they are steering away from advertising.

The other scenario has the ad forwarded on to the customer’s social graph. The goal is for the user to become a conduit and as OpenID becomes more prevalent, users will be able to share beyond the borders of one social network.

I think this could be an amazing tool for passive fans. When I originally posted Your Advertising Partner, I had more of a true fan in mind and I think there may be a way to get people to transition from passive to a rabid fan. One of the methods listed in the report for getting people started was to have them take a poll. This is a great way to get the customer to participate. I would also encourage businesses to let users vote on the look and feel of the ad with the winner being shown. Or you could allow them to select one of the three styles that their profile will be shown in. With this, the user is not only sharing their information, they are contributing to the success of the organization; personalizing the ad. I still believe that a deeper set of tools needs to be created for fans that allow them to create ads within the brand identity the business has worked to build. Generation Y has shown a great passion for brands and a tool kit like this would help.

The real trick for all of this to work  is how to get very small businesses to participate? This is not a campaign for Pepsi. This is not broadcast. This is for businesses like Wheat Ridge Cyclery or the Tattered Cover Book Store. This is either going to take a paradigm shift or a lot of footwork.

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I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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