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Are advertisers killing Facebook?

Are advertisers killing Facebook? Michael Estrin

In an industry so fixated by numbers that new statistics are invented on a daily basis, it's easy to lose sight of a fundamental question: What is it?

The question of taxonomy, identifying and labeling a particular player or group of players in the digital space, is one of the first queries put to any new entry. But somehow social networks, perhaps buoyed by a meteoric rise in popularity, have managed to skirt the fundamental question.

Long the darlings of Silicon Valley, sites like MySpace and Facebook have presented the world with nothing short of a phenomenon -- and advertisers with the promise of a massive audience with members who are both ) just as the site launched the Fox Interactive Media Audience Network, a kind of hybrid ad network containing smaller verticals developed out from MySpace's niche communities.

But Facebook's attempts to poach Google executives and MySpace's constant reshuffling, may still miss the larger point.

At their core, social networks are closer to a telephone conversation or a meeting in a coffee house than reading a newspaper or watching TV. For Smith, that means sites like MySpace and Facebook are probably good places to deliver marketing messages, but not specific ads. Precisely what that means isn't certain, but according to Smith, social networks are in danger of being destroyed by salvos from Madison Ave. His advice: Take a step back and figure out how the brand can participate in a new kind of community experience and leave the impressions to publishers.

Michael Estrin is associate editor at iMediaConnection.

Michael Estrin is freelance writer. He contributes regularly to iMedia, Bankrate.com, and California Lawyer Magazine. But you can also find his byline across the Web (and sometimes in print) at Digiday, Fast...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Shari Gunn

2008, April 24

Great article and very relevant for me -- One of my key responsibilities right now is to help define and construct the advertising/monetization strategy for a niche social networking site. While we are fortunate enough to have some very strong interest from Madison Avenue, we find that a big part of the process is the continued education of both clients and agencies alike in helping them understand how best to respect the culture of the community. While no one likes (or wants) to turn away ad dollars, it's just reality that not every advertiser is a good fit and you have to make decisions that will preserve the integrity of the community -- and not strangle the goose that lays the golden egg.

Commenter: Andrew Reid

2008, April 21

Thanks Michael. The industry, whether in the US or Australia, needs to debate the purpose and utility of social media more thoroughly. While the medium is now a given, individual brands - MySpace, Facebook etc. - will come and go, in no small part to over-exploitation of the audiences concerned. For my part, advertising in these 'spaces' does not work because of what I call the 'Id' factor (www.victrixmedia.com.au) - individual ego running rampant. The irony is that in these community environments, the individual rules supreme with all there self-centred, egotistical and narcissitic behaviour. How the hell does a message about financial product compete for attention in that context?

Commenter: Michael Estrin

2008, April 16

Andrew,Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading.

Commenter: Andrew Stein

2008, April 16

I really think you are right on the money with your article. I do SEO/SEM for my company's adveritsing agency. My kids right now are in high school & college and every time I try to get their input as to what advertsing they would respond favorably to on Face book or Myspace they always tell me NONE, ZERO, NADA Dad! I try to explain to them that advertising is what makes all things possible, but they tell me that all of their friends either go out of their way to avoid advertising on the web or they can actually mentally block it out completely so they could never tell you what any ad they saw said. Even if you were holding a gun to their head and threatening their life! (Their quote not mine)Meanwhile I am like everyone else trying to figure out a way to make money from advertising on these social media sites so I hope somebody figures it all out soon.