Facebook: Towards a marketing database


Ad Age recently carried the following article from me, commenting on the implications of Facebook’s new page post targeting feature. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below:

Facebook Moves Away From Dumb Broadcasting Tool to Marketing Database
Page Post Targeting Will Require a Radical Re-Thinking of the Approach to Content

Facebook’s “Page Post Targeting Enhanced” feature may not have a catchy name, but it’s certainly getting people excited. Available to some pages as of the beginning of August and rolling out to all pages over the next few weeks, it’s Facebook’s most significant update for brands since its IPO back in May.

Before this update, country and language were the only factors available to brands for targeting their posts; and while this was essential for global marketers needing to segment by local market, they were of no use at a local market level.

Now brands can target their posts at different segments of their fan base based on a huge range of factors. It’s not just age, sex and location – this goes as far as relationship status, education, university/college and even workplace. It transforms a brand’s fan page from a dumb broadcast tool into a hyper accurate and always up-to-date marketing database, allowing them to address different segments of their fan base with customized content. It also allows them to take into account the differing user behaviors of different segments, and optimizing the timing and frequency of their updates to match this. Both of these factors combined should generate higher engagement and therefore higher returns.

This looks like good news for brands, but it does, of course, come with the inevitable associated costs. This isn’t money that will go straight to Facebook, but brands will have to radically re-think their approach to content (and their associated budgets), as each of the targeted segments will be interested in and respond differently to different content. Brands will need to spend significantly more creating customized content, and on content strategy and community management for Facebook.

This change in itself will not directly drive revenue for Facebook, but the targeted page posts can be turned into paid-for promoted stories, targeted at friends of fans who meet the same criteria, which brands are likely to find a highly effective way of reaching them.

It’s not just the reader of the story who can be highly targeted but also the content of the story itself, tailored specifically for the target reader. This accelerates Facebook’s drive, first mooted back in February at fMC in New York, to have marketers move away from buying ads on the platform to promoting stories from friends.

Brands will have no choice but to embrace these changes. Organizations long ago woke up to the value of social media, and many have the budgets to spend on reaching and engaging with fans. They won’t be complaining that they now have the opportunity to spend it more wisely. Facebook’s global dominance shows no sign of waning, and changes like this will only make brands more reliant on Facebook to engage with their audiences.