When Facebook rolled out its new advertising targeting options a little over a year ago, it generated some significant buzz, but did it really help advertisers better target buyers who were in the market for their products? Or was it just an extension of the same old demographic strategy?
The model hasn't proven itself out completely yet, but Facebook did get one thing right: The recognition that Life Events-getting engaged, getting married, getting a new job and so on-are actually becoming hugely important to advertisers. Change your status on Facebook to "engaged," and you're announcing it to the world via social media. It's a much quicker way to get the word out than an engagement notice in the local newspaper, and a lot easier for advertisers to target you with products they think you might need under your new status. The same goes for changing jobs on LinkedIn; it's a great signal to the world that something is new, and we applaud the effort.
In the end, however, demographic information is still demographic information, and as we've seen from the checkbox and drop-down approach to advertising in the past, it's missing a few important components:
- There's not an appropriate checkbox for most life events. If you're moving, you're more worried about packing boxes than updating your social media platforms with your new hometown. There's no checkbox for announcing you're expecting a baby or planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
- When people finally get around to adding their life events, those events are already in the past. That doesn't match up well with the real-time nature of social media.
- There are "Little Life Events" that demographics can never capture. For example, checkboxes can't show advertisers when a buyer is in the market for a new car, is heading off on a weekend to Vegas, or craving "anything chocolate."
As you can see, there's a pretty big hole in using life events and demographics via checkboxes and drop downs as a solid advertising strategy. Yet a huge opportunity remains; how can advertisers reach these expectant parents, new car shoppers, and chocolate cravers as they're getting ready to shop for products that meet their needs?
It's actually quite easy: listen to what they're saying on social media. Are they asking their Facebook friends for recommendations on new SUVs? Did they just return from the doctor's office and find out "It's a girl?" Listening to what people are saying in context-aka conversational targeting-is not only key, it's the only way to accurately target shoppers with products and services they are looking for as they celebrate these big-and little-life events.