In the world of Internet advertising as a whole, Facebook is the new kid on the block, so to speak. To put Internet advertising into perspective, Facebook is a toddler, whereas Google is the grad student who has already started a successful entrepreneurial venture at this point.
That said, Facebook shows a great deal of potential to help businesses across the country – and around the world, to some extent – generate additional revenue and connect with prospective customers directly on their personal Facebook profile pages.
One of Facebook’s biggest challenges at this point is that while its network of users is huge and its practically a household name, the paid advertising division of Facebook is still in the “start-up” phase and they’re certainly still working out the kinks – dealing with scaling up their operations to meet advertiser demands.
In a recent WebmasterRadio interview with Jeremy Schoemaker from www.shoemoney.com, Tim Kendall – the Director of Monetization for Facebook – discussed a number of topics, including the future, direction and challenges facing Facebook’s ad network.
It was an enlightening interview and I certainly recommend that anyone wanting to learn more about the future and direction of Facebook’s ad network take the time to listen to the show.
Burger King’s Viral Magic
Perhaps the most well known viral campaign carried out using Facebook thus far has been Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign. From the somewhat creepy “King” character, to the family of Whoppers, to the recent “Whopper Virgins”, Burger King is known for taking a “think outside the box” and “push the envelope” approach to advertising. The same holds true of their recent foray into Facebook advertising.
The basis of the campaign was that Facebook users were asked to delete 10 friends from their profile in order to earn a free Whopper. Once deleted, the activity would be reported on your profile’s activity feed as follows, “Alysson sacrificed Josh Garner for a free Whopper.” While the campaign itself was somewhat controversial and ultimately ticked off Facebook a bit in the long run, this is certainly the epitome of a viral advertising campaign.
It became so viral, with over 230,000 “severed friendships”, that Facebook ultimately disabled the application’s ability to publish the aforementioned blurb on profiles. Burger King subsequently put an end to the campaign, dubbing it a success and stating that users’ “…love for the Whopper sandwich proved to be stronger than 233,906 friendships.”
For further proof of the stunt’s viral nature, you need look no further than the coverage it received from some of the Internet’s most highly trafficked news sources, including CNET, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch.
Profit Doesn’t Corner the Viral Market
While companies like Burger King can clearly create a great deal of buzz about their products and use Facebook to increase sales and customer loyalty, creating viral applications on Facebook isn’t just an “advertise, sell, advertise, sell…” game. There are several applications that use Facebook to promote not-for-profit causes and environmental issues, as well.
One such application is (Lil) Green Patch, which encourages its users to send virtual plants to one another. What makes this viral is certainly the act of sending a virtual plant to other Facebook friends and them not only sending a plant back to you, but on to their other Facebook friends, as well.
What’s the point? Well, for one, you create a virtual garden on your profile made up of the virtual plants sent by friends. While that may not serve as a huge incentive to participate, there is a greater good to be served. After all, there’s nothing wrong with adding a little color and panache to a Facebook profile, right?
By using the (Lil) Green Patch to send virtual plants to your friends, you have a direct impact on saving the rainforest. Sponsors of the application contribute money to the cause based on participation, so the more plants you send, the more square footage of rainforest is saved.
(Lil) Green Patch isn’t the only application using Facebook in this way. FooPets (formerly Pokey!), an application that lets people adopt a virtual dog or cat, encourages greater participation from animal lovers by donating money to the ASPCA.
The Sea Garden application donates money to save the world’s oceans based on users sending one another sea creatures. And the African Safari application helps to fund Malaria prevention with the money raised through the use of that application.
While this certainly doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of viral advertising, since no actual products are being advertised or sold, these applications certainly do fall under the umbrella of viral content. Not only do the applications encourage ongoing participation of their current users, but they also give Facebook members the chance to invite more of their friends to use these fun and easy applications as a means of contributing something worthwhile to these causes.
There are clearly as many uses for Facebook advertising as there are companies and causes that stand to gain from using it. Moving forward the ad network is bound to become more user-friendly and more profitable for advertisers, as well as more intuitive and more beneficial to Facebook’s users. As Facebook’s popularity continues to grow, so will the opportunity to use it to turn a profit or generate revenue for a favorite charity or not-for-profit organization.