Social Media SitesThough there are many ways that libraries and other organizations can bring attention to themselves on social media marketing platforms, perhaps one of the most well known is through advertisements. For this post, I’ll focus on Facebook ads because this is one of the most widely used social media marketing models out there. I will cover a little history of Facebook advertising in this post, and in the next, I will focus on how libraries can successfully implement Facebook advertising as a social media marketing strategy.

Facebook came out in 2004, but it wasn’t until four years and one hundred million users later that founder Mark Zuckerberg began harnessing the profit-making potential of the site through ads. In 2008 he hired Sheryl Sandburg as Facebook’s COO and charged her with the task of making Facebook profitable. As a former ad-exec from Google, Sheryl knew that Facebook ads are about creating a demand that users didn’t know they had, introducing them to new products, and allowing companies to promote themselves to targeted users. This model works on Facebook because, as Stanford University psychologist BJ Fogg says, “It’s a platform where users will tolerate distractions.” After all, Facebook is all about distracting you (from you homework, troubles in your life, your real friends…)

In 2010, Facebook made 3 billion dollars in advertising revenue. Clearly businesses were jumping on the bandwagon to advertise on this platform, and for good reason. Think about what advertising agencies do: perform market research. They want to know who likes what, how they’re using it, and where they heard about it or bought it. Facebook has the answers to many of these questions built right in to the users’ profiles: they volunteer this information! And Facebook has made it cleverly available to companies who want to “target” their ads at users who have the highest perceived potential to purchase or make use of their product. (More on privacy issues in later posts.)

There are issues with advertising on Facebook, however. Sheryl Sandburg herself admits that people do not normally get on Facebook (or other social networking sites) to purchase a product. They go to websites like Amazon, or search for products on Google. Facebook is about being social. If users don’t come looking to buy, what is the chance that an ad will be effective, even if it’s targeted at them based on their interests and demographics (made uniquely available based on the social network platform)? According to Professor Ben Edelman of Harvard Business School, the odds aren’t great. He describes Facebook ads as holding “ephemeral value” or possible future value. A company might make themselves known to users, but the user probably won’t buy something from them just because they see the ad. They aren’t on Facebook to buy, and seeing an advertisement won’t convince them otherwise.

Based on the information so far, it seems like Facebook advertising can be a tricky task to undertake. What has your experience been with Facebook ads? Have you ever clicked on one or bought a product from one? Where do you go to do your online shopping? Also, fill out the poll below so we can get a better idea of how people react to social media advertisements.


Miller, C. (Producer). (4 December 2011). Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook. London, England: BBC.


One response »

  1. […] is to avoid targeted ads (if you are unfamiliar with what a targeted ads, see my previous post, Libraries and Facebook Advertising). They are expensive, ineffective, and the violate trust. Even if your address is private, an […]

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