Facebook, Natural Selection and You

“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.

By Chuck Westfield
Published September 24, 2012
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