Targeting Facebook Users Through Applications

Another day provides another opportunity to talk about Facebook. Why does everyone like talking about Facebook? Mostly because it’s totally awesome.

I generally share Vanessa Fox’s love/hate relationship with social networks, but for me, Facebook really does serve most of my needs. Here’s why:

  1. Ninety percent of my friends are using it. They’re practically camped out in sleeping bags in front of their computers.
  2. We all compulsively update our Facebook status messages which means I’ll never have to use Twitter.
  3. Despite my initial fear, the new applications have rocked and are spreading like viral wildfire. (Challenge me to a game of Scrabulous, I dare you.)
  4. It’s Susan Esparza-free. [She says that like she doesn’t tell me to join every other day. –Susan] — I only ask because I know you’ll never actually do it. I’m amazed you joined Sphinn, you antisocial nerd.

Because of its high-adoption rate and the number of engaged users, Facebook has the potential to be an advertiser’s dream. I mean, look at it: We’re all spending an unjustifiable amount of hours there, we’ve given FB access to all of our personal information, and then we join groups and adopt applications to give them even more dirt on us. Facebook knows almost as much about me as my best friend. This should be the perfect place to advertise, right?

It should be, but a lot of advertisers haven’t found a way to be successful at it yet. Why not?

Robert Scoble blames Facebook for not tying ads to people. For example, a quick look at my profiles tells you where I live, what I’m interested in, and how I like to waste my time on the Internet. There are multiple references to blogging, running and anything New England. Why don’t the ads on my profile page reflect that?

Ideally, they should. I agree with Robert that the ads could be better targeted, but I don’t think that’s the real problem here. Truthfully, even if the ads were person-specific, I probably still wouldn’t click on them. I really don’t think advertisers are going to convert users through CPM-based advertising. Savvy Web users have all been trained to ignore anything that’s going to take them off the page. You can try and put something there but I probably won’t see it. Heck, people who run ad-blockers definitely won’t see it.

If you want to know why your Facebook ads aren’t converting, take a look in the mirror. You’re why they’re not converting. You’re approaching Facebook like it’s MySpace. It’s not.

Now, now, don’t feel bad. It’s not that you’re not putting enough time and energy into targeting users, you are. I’ve read the copy in that flyer you posted on my home page, it was both inviting and creative, but I didn’t click on it. That’s not how I’m going to interact with you. If you want to start a conversation with me the way to do it is through the Facebook applications.

In late May, Facebook unveiled f8, which gave developers an API to create additional functionality to the site. Since then the site has seen everything from online Scrabble to music players to horoscopes to political compasses and to Top Friend lists, etc. It’s a sea of viral over there. If you want to connect with Facebook users, this is where you need to be. You need to develop engaging Facebooks apps that users and their friends will have to have. You want to create an application that is going to sit on users’ profile pages, garnering you powerful exposure and brand evangelists.

The power of these apps is then strengthened through each user’s news feed. Each time a user adds a new application, their friends are notified. If one more than one user adds it, the notification may even appear a little bit bigger with headshots of the users who added it. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure or how quickly things can go viral.

Take a look at iLike. Had you heard of them three months ago? I hadn’t. But they were one of the first Facebook applications out of the gate, allowing users to make their quiet Facebook profiles a little more MySpacey by adding music. How many times have you heard the name iLike in the last two months? Probably a lot. I don’t have the application installed, but almost all of my friends do. Personally, I’m more into Scrabble.

There is tremendous power for Internet marketers to connect with their audience by tapping into Facebook, but you’re not going to do it by buying CPM ads. You have to give users something creative to engage with.
My advice to you: Take a look at the applications currently being used on Facebook and then take a look at your own company. You know those dumb "if you had to be an animal, which one would you be" questions? Well, if you had to transform your company into a widget, what kind of widget would you be? How can you miniaturize your service for the Facebook audience? What can you bring?

Once you have to idea you have to optimize it so that it blends in with the space. Make sure there’s a clear call-to-action, encourage users to invite friends and feature the application in various parts of their profile page.
Dave McClure actually had a great post yesterday about how to optimize your Facebook app for maximum exposure. I’d recommend you print out two copies. Tape one (or staple it, whatever) to your wall and put the other one under your pillow. One of the things Dave’s post discusses is how to increase Facebook exposure by optimizing the feed notification messages that appear on people’s home page.

You may or may not know this but each time a user interacts with your app, all of their friends will be notified via their personal news feeds. You would not believe the amount of buzz this creates. Take me for example; I happen to think that LOLCats is 89 percent retarded and only 11 percent amusing. However, after reading that 10 of my friends subscribed to the app, there’s now a dumb looking kitty on my profile too. It’s all part of Facebook’s viral marketing effect.

Dave believes consistent and creative Facebook app marketing and event notification is the key to unlocking the viral power of Facebook. I completely agree. That’s the power of marketing on Facebook, not old CPM ads.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
Filed under: Social Media Marketing
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5 Replies to “Targeting Facebook Users Through Applications”

You’re absolutely right about marketing on Facebook. Savvy users today (who make up most of Facebook’s audience) are exceedingly adept at ignoring ads. More at Agencies and Facebook / Twitter Social Marketing.

Ian from

This Facebook application is part new and part social networking…


I’m not sure if these ads are geotargeted to Canada or not, but I noticed that Telus launched a new application where you can make your friends into fish, and then I noticed the banner ads to advertise it. Advertising your application? Now advertisers are going to get some notice.

If you want to see how the built in virality (is that a word) of facebook apps translate into growth in these apps, check out our growth trend data on
I think you’ll appreciate it.

thanks lisa, appreciate the reference :)

still lots to learn about Facebook… gotta keep grokkin’ it. can’t seem to stop anyway, sigh.


– dave mcclure


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