Facebook, Natural Selection and You

Written by
Chuck Westfield
September 24, 2012

“Nobody reads ads. People read what inter­ests them, and some­times it’s an ad.”
 – Howard Luck Gossage, 1969
Let’s fast for­ward from the Mad Men era to The Social Network era.

In the last decade, social media has been dri­ven by the acqui­si­tion of users. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – all of them spent the last ten years sim­ply inno­vat­ing some­thing that every­one would want to use. They would fig­ure out a way to mon­e­tize it later. Well, later is now. The Facebook IPO this past sum­mer was a clear sig­nal that social media is ready for the next evo­lu­tion – native mon­e­ti­za­tion. This is excit­ing news for designers.

In 2011, Facebook changed the inter­face to Timeline. The news­feed trans­formed from a stream­ing wall of sta­tus updates into an inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of pic­tures and videos from your friends, fam­ily and recently, the busi­nesses that you ‘like’.

Now when your friends click ‘like’ on a major brand, you’re get­ting more than “Roman likes Coke Zero.” You’re get­ting a well-designed pic­ture with a com­pelling brand­ing mes­sage that shows up in your news­feed. Advertising is becom­ing native to the platform.

We live in the cus­tomiza­tion era, and users will reject any plat­form where they don’t get to choose the con­tent and/or adver­tis­ing.  An email list you sign up for is okay; spam is not – it is unso­licited and unwanted. Facebook gives users this con­trol with the abil­ity to like or hide any post or ad.

The whole social media expe­ri­ence was founded on shar­ing infor­ma­tion between users; it’s only nat­ural that plat­forms are imple­ment­ing adver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion in a way that appears exactly the same as an organic interaction.

To be effec­tive, brands must deliver con­tent that cre­ates value, and thank­fully most social media plat­forms under­stand this. Even a three year old can tell the dif­fer­ence between a good story and bad story, and if it’s not a good story, they turn their atten­tion imme­di­ately. We only become more sophis­ti­cated as we grow. A seam­lessly inte­grated, yet clumsy, pro­mo­tional plug will turn off users, which is why the trends are bend­ing towards inter­est­ing branded content.

This new period of native mon­e­ti­za­tion is excit­ing and marks the begin­ning of an incred­i­ble period for design­ers and cre­atives. Professionally, more oppor­tu­ni­ties will open as demand for high-quality adver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion increases in these pre­vi­ously untapped channels.

So, whether you use social media to share your life with friends and fam­ily, or to build your per­sonal brand, or to expand your pro­fes­sional net­work – guess what? You (with the tal­ent to tell a com­pelling story with col­ors and shapes) have an evo­lu­tion­ary advan­tage – start­ing now.

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