Google’s recent announcement that they will start to use your Google+ data within display ads has not surprisingly generated some debate. Any move that strays into the privacy arena will garner attention, and the prospect of your friends seeing your face in ads will generate discussion simply because it’s encroaching on an existing boundary. Are the concerns justified, or is this just the evolution of the web?
Why use social data in the first place?
Firstly, we’re inherently social. As well as spending a large proportion of our time within social networks, the majority of web products and services have social functionality to facilitate people sharing and connecting with each other. As a result, social data for advertisers is a constant stream of information on people, at scale.
Secondly, understanding the social graph provides an additional data source for understanding people beyond the other actions we do each day online, such as searching, browsing and buying things. As a result, it provides uplift on performance, as you have more data to understand interests and intent.
Lastly, social data enables social endorsement of ad creatives, which provides increased ad engagement by 1) giving authority to the brand by being endorsed by someone you know and 2) by being a unique recommendation to each user, increasing the relevance and responsiveness.
Three signs of what’s coming:
– Your Google+ connections imminently in display ads.
– Twitter’s acquisition of MoPub to facilitate use of Twitter social ads outside of Twitter.
– Facebook experimenting with ads outside of Facebook within games, and readying their ad network proposition.
– Within a short timeframe, display and video ads will be inherently social, becoming individual social recommendations to the user, and taking digital advertising nearer to ‘word of mouth’ marketing.
The social networks want to do this at scale, giving them an advantage over anyone without social context. Adding social context to ad creative provides uplift and additional targeting functionality, uplift that wouldn’t be achievable through purely optimised algorithms and RTB alone.
Will privacy concerns inhibit the adoption of social ads?
Naturally, there is scepticism to new services that utilise individual’s data beyond what the user conceived the data could be used for originally. However, the web is a very different place to what it was a few years ago, with consumers constantly connected, sharing every aspect of their lives. The ‘norm’ of what is open and what was originally kept private has changed. Generation Y understand it’s a value exchange. I use your services for free; you serve me ads to make money.
Ultimately, if the application and use of social data can enhance the user’s web experience then any concerns will quickly fade away. If it’s explained clearly with sufficient opt-out opportunities, any backlash from privacy advocates will be outnumbered by the value others see they get from the service. Personalised Retargeting is a good example of initial concerns to a new technology, and now personalised e-commerce ads are considered part of our web experience.
At Affectv, we believe the use of social data will become the norm in digital advertising as the web becomes intrinsically social, and that as consumers we’re aware of the trade-off between using services for free in exchange for being served better ads. We predict users will upload more flattering profile pictures instead of reach for the privacy settings!