When it comes to Facebook, we are who we say we are, and who we say we are is based mostly on who we want to be perceived as. That is, our Facebook personas are defined by self-declared interests and descriptions. Currently, Facebook allows brands to target advertising to users based mostly on—with some exceptions when using Broad Category Targeting—profile information that contains an expansive amount of data points. However, as expansive and accurate as Facebook profiles may be, they only depict an idealized version of a user’s true identity.
In truth, as Aristotle stated, we are what we repeatedly do. Our identities on Facebook are more than the hundreds of static profile data points. They are also a culmination of the things we interact with. Bearing this in mind, it makes sense that the targeting capabilities of Facebook Ads evolve to accommodate for, in addition to interests, the behaviors of users.
Facebook’s Action Spec Targeting, which is currently in beta testing with select Ads API partners, allows brands to target users based on actions taken, apps used and objects interacted with on the Open Graph. Simply stated, the Action Spec brings true behavioral targeting to Facebook Ads. Imagine a supermarket chain targeting a discount offer on poultry to users who have cooked chicken using the Foodily app.
However, the opportunity for brands to employ Action Spec Targeting at scale is contingent upon people’s usage of apps that integrate Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol. True success in leveraging Action Spec Targeting requires not only breadth but depth of usage of the app as well. There are already several widely and frequently used applications and/or services that satisfy these conditions, such as Yahoo! Social Bar, TripAdvisor, Bing, Spotify and Instagram, but this list must keep growing in order for brands to be able to generate scalable targeting segments. Brands that currently have apps that are widely and frequently used such as Starbucks and Nike stand to gain the most from, as they already have a sizable audience available for Action Spec Targeting.
Following the heels of its announcement of Timeline for Pages at its fMC event, Facebook has released a new set of APIs to help brands create more compelling stories and manage relationships more effectively. On March 14, Facebook announced the release of a new set of that reaffirm its stance of allowing third-party developers to play the leading role in helping brands leverage its platform. The new APIs will allow brands to do the following:
For marketers and agencies that manage multiple pages, the new APIs provide a way of streamlining the process of building a brand’s timeline and managing relationships. However, most brands will not be building upon these APIs directly. Instead, most brands will look to their page management vendors (such as Vitrue, Buddy Media, Shoutlet, or SpredFast, to name a few of the big fish) to release an update that integrates these new APIs as features into their existing products. NOTE: At the time of this post, none of the previously named companies have posted an update about integrating these new APIs.
The race to release that update will be a very interesting one to watch. It’s been a while since Facebook has made a platform announcement as significant as Timeline for Pages, especially one that is geared specifically for brands. In the meantime, countless page management companies have sprouted up all over the landscape, a sure sign the industry is becoming crowded. Unique differentiators among these companies are harder to come by these days, and as a result, we’ve reached a point in which most page management tools perform the same basic functions: publish, monitor, and report.
That’s why as a marketer, I couldn’t be more excited about these new APIs. Sure, they significantly increase Facebook’s value as a platform for building relationships with its consumers through storytelling and direct, one-to-one communication. That’s a given. What’s more exciting to me about this update by Facebook, however, is that it allows me to gauge how dedicated these companies are to innovating and iterating. Will they be the first to market with features that leverage these new APIs, or will they let a competitor innovate and simply follow suit? Will the big boys (I’m looking at you Vitrue, Buddy Media, and Context Optional) flex their engineering muscles, or will a smaller company prove to be more agile? Let the most nimble and innovative company win!