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Tips on Facebook ad campaigns February 16, 2011

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, facebook.
2 comments

A couple of weeks ago Webtrends analyzed 11,529 Facebook ad campaigns representing 4.5bn impressions to see what conclusions they could draw. It’s worth reading their short white paper on Facebook Advertising Performance Benchmarks and Analysis. Some highlights include:

  • Click through rates steadily increase with age up to 65
  • State by state CTRs are relatively flat with the exception of North Dakota and Wyoming being substantially higher than the other states
  • Fun/entertainment focused campaigns work better than other types of topics
  • People who didn’t attend college click more than people who did
  • People who attended college use their friends as a filter to determine who to click on more than people who didn’t attend college
  • FB ads need new creative after three to five days

I’d urge you to read the whole thing. It’s only seven pages long.

Birthday greetings as a proxy for how communication is becoming more public 3.0 September 29, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in communication, email, facebook, social networks, twitter.
2 comments

This is the third year that I’ve tracked my birthday greetings as they have moved from private channels to public channels, primarily facebook. As I noted previously, in 2007 and 2008;

Social networks have changed the dynamic – it isn’t enough to wish someone a happy birthday, but it is also important to be SEEN to wish someone a happy birthday. Equally, it is important to be SEEN to have a lot of people wish you a happy birthday too!

This year the shift continued but was much less pronounced, as the graph below shows:

birthday stats

It’s somewhat notable that despite the huge increase of Twitter usage there were no happy birthday tweets. The use case is off. The tweeter would be sending a birthday greeting to the wrong audience – to their followers, not to mine.

The other notable point is that there is an overall increase in the number of birthday greetings over 2007. This is consistent with the obvervation in a recent edition of the Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine, that we are all writers now:

Go back 20, 30 years and you will find all of us doing more talking than writing. We rued literacy levels and worried over whether all this phone-yakking and television-watching spelled the end of writing.

Few make that claim today. I would hazard that, with more than 200m people on Facebook and even more with home internet access, we are all writing more than we would have ten years ago. Those who would never write letters (too slow and anachronistic) or postcards (too twee) now send missives with abandon, from long thoughtful memos to brief and clever quips about evening plans. And if we subscribe to the theory that the most effective way to improve one’s writing is by practicing—by writing more, and ideally for an audience—then our writing skills must be getting better…

True, much of what is written online is quotidian, informational, ephemeral. But writing has always been so: traditional newspapers line bird-cages a day later; lab reports describe methodology in tedious detail; the founding fathers wrote what they ate for lunch. And the quality of many blogs is high, indistinguishable in eloquence and intellect from many traditionally published works.

Our new forms of writing—blogs, Facebook, Twitter—all have precedents, analogue analogues: a notebook, a postcard, a jotting on the back of an envelope. They are exceedingly accessible. That it is easier to cultivate a wide audience for tossed off thoughts has meant a superfluity of mundane musings, to be sure. But it has also generated a democracy of ideas and quite a few rising stars, whose work we might never have been exposed to were we limited to conventional publishing channels.

So thanks for the birthday wishes, and be thankful that we’re all writing more!

Are there more Facebook status updates or Twitter tweets? September 4, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in facebook, twitter.
2 comments

Facebook says that more than 30m people update their status at least once per day. So there are at least 30m status updates a day, and likely some multiple of that – perhaps in the order of 45-60m status updates.

Tweespeed suggests that there are around 1m tweets per hour on average over the last week, so that is around 24m tweets per day. This is roughly in line with the 210 tweets per second that twitpocalypse is estimating in their countdown, which comes out to about 18m tweets per day. But note that these rates are accelerating fast.

Facebook still leads by 2-3x.

But there is a difference in the velocity of posting (tweeting or updating status) between the two user bases. A recent Harvard Business Review post notes that the mean number of tweets per day per user is 0.37.

This includes inactive users in the denominator so the ratio of tweets per active user is going to be higher. Facebook notes 250m active users and 30m people who update their status at least once per day. Assuming 45-60m status updates in total, that is a ratio of roughly 0.18-0.24 posts per active user. Twitter users show a higher rate of posting. So the number of tweets may surpass the number of status updates over the next 12 months if Twitter continues to grow at its historical rate.

Note that Facebook’s feed is full of events other than status updates, so Facebook will likely continue to have many more feed events than there are tweets for a long time to come.

[Thanks to the guys at Adthrow for sharing this analysis with me]

People under the age of 30 use Myspace more than Facebook July 30, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in facebook, myspace, social networks, twitter.
6 comments

Interesting research noted at Inside Facebook on how different generations use social networks. Most interesting chart to me shows that Gen Y (15-29) and Gen Z (13-14) use Myspace more than Facebook.

Performance advertising success stories in social media April 24, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, facebook, performance, social media, social networks.
9 comments

On Wednesday I moderated a panel at ad:space (an ad:tech satellite conference centered on performance advertising) focused on how performance advertisers can be successful in social networks. The discussion from panelists Ro Choy (Chief Revenue Officer at Rock You, a Lightspeed portfolio company), Seth Goldstein (CEO of Social Media) and Tim Kendall (Director of Monetization at Facebook) was very enlightening.

Comscore recently noted that performance advertising adopts online media faster than brand advertising because it is easier to measure results over short time periods. The knock on social media ad inventory has been that CTRs are low. This is less relevant for performance advertisers who only pay on the click or the action anyway. We heard about some terrific success stories for performance advertisers in social media on the panel who are seeing ROI on their ad spend comparable to Google.

The panelists called out two particular examples of advertisers seeing real scale results. Seth highlighted mobile services as a category that has seen terrific success in customer acquisition in social networks (if you’ve seen the “crush” or “IQ test” ads on Facebook or Myspace you’ll know what he is referring to) and is generating hundred of millions in incremental revenue from this channel. Ro mentioned that Rockyou generated 1.5m new users for an online game advertiser in just one month. Although not represented on the panel, MySpace is selling hundred of millions of dollars worth of performance advertising per year. These are impressive numbers.

The panelists highlighted one key difference between social media performance advertising and Google AdSense style performance advertising. AdSense uses contextual targeting to improve performance. Social media uses demographic, behavioral and social targeting to improve performance.

In the open web much demographic targeting is inferred from behavior. For example a user who visits ESPN.com, Nascar.com and NFL.com might be inferred to be male. This is often, but not always, correct. Social networks take a different approach. On their profile pages, users declare many key aspects of their demographics, including age, gender and location, the three key elements for targeting. Targeting based on these self declared demographic elements can be very effective for performance advertisers within social media. Ro related the example of Rachel’s yoghurt, an advertiser that targeted coupons to women living within 5 miles of Whole Foods in 10 cities through Rock You. The campaign delivered 0.20% CTRs to the Rachel’s Yoghurt site, with a 35% coupon download rate. These are impressive numbers, and led the advertiser to renew the campaign for an additional 12 weeks. Doing such a high level of targeting can result in relatively small numbers of impressions, but this is one area in which social media excels. Because of the high reach and high number of pageviews, social media sites can still deliver sizable campaigns to even highly targeted campaigns.

Behavioral targeting also benefits from the scale of social networks as even tightly targeted campaigns can still deliver meaningful reach. Retargeting works well, as it does for the open web, but once again this can be combined with declared interests on user profile pages. Tim described a very detailed campaign that a politician, Patrick Mara, ran on Facebook to defeat a 16-year incumbent in a DC city council primary last year. Mara was in favor of allowing gay marriage, so he pushed information about his stance out to DC Facebook users who’d listed their sexual orientation as gay. If Facebookers had kids, he targeted them with ads about the school system, and if they were Republicans, he hit them with information about taxes, school vouchers and similar conservative favorites. Very clever! And apparently quite cheap for the results — Patrick found Facebook advertising to be a great way to recruit volunteers. Future local campaigns, take notice.

Social targeting is one area that is unique to social networks. Integrating knowledge of social ties into the creative of the ad can really lift response rates. Seth described one campaign that Social Media ran for Live Nation, the concert promoter. Seth himself saw an ad with the name and picture of a friend of his saying “Dan is going to see Cold Play at Shoreline this summer. Do you want to go with him?”. This is a great example of an ad that takes advantage of knowledge of behavior (Dan is going to see Coldplay), location (the concert is near where Seth is) and friendship ties (Dan is a friend of Seths) to build a very compelling piece of creative.

The theme of customizing ad creative for social media came up repeatedly during the panel. While good results could come from running standard web creative and using the targeting that social media provides, the best results came from building campaigns that appeal to behaviors that are native to social networks. Often this had to do with identifying friends (names and pictures) in the creative, as well as integrating a compelling social call to action. Ro described a campaign that Rockyou ran for Pentel Pens that asked users to enter “their smoothest (pickup) line” into a sweepstake. The rich media with video campaign led to real engagement with a 22.5% engagement rate (2x av performance for the category), a 0.6% CTR and 60% of users watching at least half of the video. The campaign drive over a million entries into the contest and worked well to drive high engagement with an “unsexy” CPG brand because it was well crafted for a social environment.

It is clear that social networks provide a real opportunity for performance advertisers. Smart targeting allows the first level of performance lift, and custom campaigns and creative that are “native” to social media can deliver even further lift. I think we’ll see much more adoption of this channel by performance advertisers over the coming months

What’s the real world analogue of Twitter and Facebook? March 30, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in facebook, twitter.
18 comments

Last September the NY Times did a terrific job of explaining microblogging, including the key elements of Facebook and Twitter. However, one thing has always bothered me about Twitter and Facebook status updates.

I believe that there is nothing new under the sun. Consumer behavior is typically consistent, and usually when you find a very fast growing online phenomena, you can find a popular real world analogue to that behavior. I think that there needs to be a familiar cognitive “hook” for any new online activity to really grab consumer mindshare. If the online activity parallels a familiar offline activity, or a familiar activity in another online medium, then you can see very rapid growth. Examples include MySpace’s profile customization (analogous to buddy icons in instant messaging, .sig files in email and even stickers on highschool lockers), Stardolls (analogous to real world dolls) and Digg (analogous to forwarding viral emails).

I’ve never been able to pinpoint a real world analogue to microblogging. However, I think I may have thought of a candidate – Holiday letters.

Sending holiday cards is very widespread. Almost every family sends them. Many people include a letter with their holiday cards that tells the recipients what they have been doing all year. Holiday mailing lists are often fairly broad and include close friends, business associates, and people who were once close friends that have since faded into the background. In particular, old classmates, colleagues from past jobs, friends from cities you once lived in but don’t any more are all prominent categories of holiday card recipient.

A holiday letter’s primary purpose is to share what is going on in your life, and through that to maintain closeness. These days, the cards often include family photos. The letter is part bragging, part travelogue, but always carefully constructed to show the writer in the best light. A good holiday letter is a little bit funny, a little bit personal, but it manages to catalogue achievements. We vacationed in Hawaii. Little Timmy made the football team. Dad got a promotion. Jane got into lawschool. You’ve read them before.

Twitterers and Facebook status junkies, does this sound familiar? Similar audience, similar objectives, just smaller scale. It isn’t getting into lawschool that you tweet, it’s eating at French Laundry , or being at SXSW. It still burnishes your image. Microblogging is a more continuous, lighter weight online version of holiday letters.

What do readers think? Can they think of a better real world analogy? I’m all ears.

What could Facebook do to increase its digital goods revenue – increase Motive. 3/3 February 5, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in digital goods, facebook, gifts, virtual goods.
9 comments

I’ve been posting on what Facebook could do to increase its sales of digital gifts, breaking down tactics into three categories, Means, Motives and Opportunity. We’ve covered Means and Opportunity, and today we’ll address Motive.

Motive

Let us start by understanding the motives of gift givers. Gifting serves the same purposes on Facebook as it does in the real world. Firstly, it serves to strengthen social ties. Secondly, it serves to draw the receivers attention to the gift giver. Facebook can increase motivation for gift giving by playing into these two familiar behaviors, looking to the real world for conventions that can easily be borrowed.

Strengthening Social Ties

One of the strongest conventions of gift giving is reciprocity. It is awkward to receive a holiday card from someone that you did not send a card to. So too with virtual gifts. But right now it is difficult to know who has given you a Facebook gift. Since virtual gifts are given with the context of the wall, the wall is the best place to highlight gift giving. If each time I visited a friends wall I could prominently see what gifts that friend had given me, that would increase the pressure for me to buy a virtual gift for my friend to accompany my wall posting, especially so if it was a gift giving occassion (such as a birthday, holiday etc). Of course the opposite is also true – if a friend had not given me any virtual gifts you would not want to highlight that at the point at which I was considering whether to give a gift myself.

Gift giving is strongly influenced by immediate social norms. If I were to show up a dinner party empty handed when all the other guest had brought a bottle of wine, I would also feel awkward. People look to the behavior of others to see what is appropriate for their own behavior. Once again, the wall is the right place to highlight this. Right now the wall displays all postings in reverse chronological order. Since a new wall posting appears on the top of the wall, you will only see the most recent postings on your friends wall, many of which may not have digital gifts attached. What if the top postings on the wall were those with virtual gifts attached, and then reverse chronological order after that? (Perhaps with some time limitation, so that top posts would be virtual gifts received say in the last week). This would create a sense of social pressure to a visitor to the wall who would see virtual gift giving as a social norm. This will be especially effective around traditional gifting occasions as before. By highlighting desired behavior, you can influence social norms in the direction that you want.

Drawing Attention to the Gift Giver.

Facebook can be a noisy environment. On your birthday you can receive 10s and even 100s of birthday well wishes. That is a lot of messages to sort through, and often these wishes are not responded to individually due to the volume. How can I make my well wishes stand out from the rest? How can I show how good a friend I am or how much I care? One way is to attach a virtual gift. Because the gift is not free, the very act of attaching a gift serves to differentiate my message from the rest. This is visible not just to the recipient, but also to all other visitors to the profile. Facebook could makes product changes to make this differentiation more prominent. One way would be to “pin” gifts to the top of the wall for some period, as noted in the preceding paragraph. Another would be to similarly “pin” gifts received to the top of the News Feed page for some period, ensuring that the gift is noticed and emphasized to the recipient. Finally, having a small profile picture accompany the gift, instead of just the name of the giver on the News Feed would serve to further draw attention to the gift giver.

Building from this approach, gift giving draws attention but it currently cannot draw gradations of attention. The absence or presence of a gift is the only distinction because all gifts currently cost the same (with the exception of free sponsored gifts). If Facebook were to provide gifts of different prices and levels, this would enable a gift giver to express their interest in a more nuanced way. One problem with implementing this approach on Facebook is the sheer volume of available gifts. There are over 300 Facebook gifts available today. It will be hard, if not impossible, for a gift recipient to tell what is a more valuable gift versus a less valuable gift just by looking at the gift. HotOrNot’s Meet Me solved this problem by starting with a small range of gifts with value tied to a conventional scale; flowers, ranging from the least valuable daisies to the most valuable red roses. Given the profusion of gifts available on Facebook today, Facebook would need to find some other way of demonstrating value to a recipient than relying on the image itself. Perhaps it could show the point value of each gift when the gift displays. But that is a bit crass – it is like leaving the price tag on a gift.  It may need more creativity to make this obvious. Facebook could change the background color of the gifts according to a scale of value that is well enough understood: perhaps white – bronze – silver – gold? This would allow for the current large range of gifts but make it easy to tell at a glance the gradations of value.

Obviously, allowing gifts to have a range of prices will increase the average sales price of gifts, hence increasing revenue from digital gifts sales.

Motivation for Gift Receivers

Looking at gift givers motivations is only half the story. The other half of the story is the gift recipient. What are their motivations?

One simple dynamic to increase gift recipients’ motivation to receive gifts is to make gift getting competitive. Keep track of how many gifts have been received and display this prominently. This could be done on the profile page; in the same way that number of friends is tracked and thumbnails of friends shown, number of gifts receieved and thumbnails of gifts received could also be shown. Or it could be made even more explicit with leaderboards for the people who have received the most gifts. The power of displaying metrics to drive behavior is well documented by game designers. (If you haven’t read Amy Jo Kim’s work on game design for social environments, you should). Once people want to receive more gifts, they will start acting in ways that encourage gift giving, whatever that might be.

Game design provides a second possible mechanic to induce gift recipients to want more gifts; collecting. Gifts are all treated the same right now. If Facebook were to offer awards and achievements for getting “sets” of gifts, you would most likely see some users work very hard to collect gifts to complete those sets. PackRat has shown just how powerful and addictive collecting behavior can be on Facebook. Facebook could for example offer a free [birthday cupcake] to give to someone else if you were given five [birthday cupcakes], or put a custom Christmas skin on your wall if you received 10 Christmas themed gifts.

I believe that through increasing the motivations of gift givers and gift receivers, Facebook could see a more than doubling of their virtual gifts revenue.

What do readers think?

What could Facebook do to increase its digital goods revenue – increase Means. 2/3 February 4, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in digital goods, facebook, gifts, virtual goods.
11 comments

We are looking at how Facebook could increase its digital goods revenue by improving the Means, Motive and Opportunity for users to buy digital gifts. Yesterday we looked at Opportunity. Today we’ll look at Means.

Means

Last year Facebook switched from denominating gifts in dollars to gift credits. This was a good first step as users tend to be more willing to spend virtual currencies than real money, even when they are readily interchangeable.

Currently there is only one way to buy Facebook gift credits, and that is via a credit card. But a lot of Facebook users don’t have or don’t use credit cards. They may want to be able to buy and give gifts, but they can’t do so. This is a common problem for a lot of game developers, including many game developers on Facebook. The techniques that worked for them can work for Facebook too.

As a start, Facebook could enable additional payment mechanisms, including Paypal, cell phone billing (including premium SMS) and direct debit from checking accounts. With such an international audience, additional payments mechanisms would allow many of Facebook’s international users to more easily buy gift credits.

Some Facebook users, especially those younger than 18, may not have access to any payment mechanisms other than cash. Accepting cash in envelopes for Facebook points would not scale very well. However, many game companies have been successful in getting their branded prepaid cards distributed at retail. This is one way of turning user’s cash into a payment mechanism that can be used online. Facebook has the brand awareness to do the same thing by striking deals directly with the two biggest distributors of prepaid cards, Incomm and Blackhawk. Alternatively, if they did not want to deal with retailers directly, a company like GMG Entertainment could handle it for them.

However, some users don’t have any money at all to spend on gift credits. $uperRewards and MyOfferPal have found one way to reach this market, through incentive offers. These companies allow users to trade their attention (through filling out market research surveys, applying for credit cards, getting a free trial of a service, signing up for email newsletters or other activities) for virtual currency. They take the bounty paid by the company acquiring the user, and use some of that to buy the user their virtual currency. Facebook could enable users to buy gift credits with incentive offers.

The combination of these tactics to increase Means to buy digital goods could provide an additional lift of 50-100% in digital gifts revenue.

What other ideas do readers have
?

Tomorrow we’ll discuss the last, and arguably most important factor, Motive.

What could Facebook do to increase its digital goods revenue – increase Opportunity. 1/3 February 3, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in digital goods, facebook, gifts, virtual goods.
8 comments

Last September I estimated that Facebook is doing around $35m in digital goods sales. In November anonymous insiders suggested that it was closer to $50-60m in digital goods sales. That’s a healthy run rate, but I think Facebook could make a few product changes to do even better.

I’ll split my suggestions into three categories: Means, Motive and Opportunity.

Opportunity.

Facebook has made some smart changes to its digital goods/gifts product recently, highlighting upcoming friends birthdays on the home page, prompting gifts on birthdays and allowing users to buy birthday gifts in advance. As birthday gifting is the most common usecase for Facebook digital goods, these are changes that increase a users opportunity to buy virtual goods.

Facebook could increase gifting opportunities by prompting gift giving on other calendar events as well. Some are natural gift giving holidays, such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Valentines day etc. It already provides a selection of holiday specific gifts for each of these occasions. Facebook could generalize the “birthday” section on the homepage into a “calendar” and note upcoming events that are gift worthy, and perhaps even suggest recipients. For example, if you are “in a relationship” with someone on Facebook, then they would be a natural person to prompt for a Valentines day gift.

Chinese New Year themed Facebook gifts

Chinese New Year themed Facebook gifts

Facebook could also prompt gift giving on certain notifications in the feed that might be “gift worthy”. Especially notable are changes in relationship status (e.g. moving from “in a relationship” to “married” or to “single” for example), but others might include changing address (housewarming gift?), changing educational or job status (graduation gift, or new job gift etc).

Finally, Facebook could prompt for gifting more generally through more, and more direct, calls to action. “Give a gift” is the fourth option for writing on someones wall, and moving it to first would likely increase gifting immediately. So would prompting for gift giving (not just comments) on Status Updates on a profile and in the news feed. Simply putting a link to “gifts” as the default first application in the application box in the right rail would help.

I suspect that increasing opportunity could increase gift giving by 50-100%.

What other ideas do readers have?

Tomorrow, we’ll cover means.

Facebook’s digital goods revenue $50-60m sources say November 12, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in digital goods, facebook, gifts, virtual goods.
12 comments

In September, I estimated that Facebook’s digital goods sales were on a $35m revenue run rate. Silicon Alley Insider quotes an anonymous insider to say:

Facebook’s revenue this year will be about $265 million, the source says, which is less than the $300 million expected. The source estimates that this is composed of about $180 million of ad revenue, $50-$60 million of virtual gifts, and some smaller revenue items.

I was in the ballpark!

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