I attended an IxDA all star usability discussion this week over at Yelp. The MC was Nate Bolt who is a usability manager over at Facebook. For the past several months I’ve wanted to write two letters. One to Mark Z, and one to Marissa Mayer. Both of these letters are thoughts on what I believe could change the course of how Facebook and Yahoo Interact with the public, potentially creating better relations between you and the company, and create great profitability. I’ve been procrastinating, busy working days and studying in the evenings, but… this connect to Nate seemed like a great way to break the ice on an idea I’ve had to change how Facebook negotiates ads with us.
For starters, its no secret that at its core, Facebook is an advertising agency. Actually its more of a publisher but I keep hearing people call it an ad agency. I’m still on the fence. But if they are, they are one of the few places in the world that are truly both an Agency and a Publishing space.
Lets do a brief review of how marketing works.
Marketing has 2 sides:
1. Publishers are those with space for sale including magazines, radio, TV, website with ad space, billboards, etc.
2. Advertisers are the people who want to buy that space.
3. I said two but there is a third party called the Media Buyer. These are the middle men who buy lots of Pub space and sell to the Advertisers at a premium, or via their “service” which allows them to bundle these in tiers (1, 2, 3 usually, with 1 being great prime time and position, and 3 being that 2-6AM time slot).
One of my passions is designing Advertiser Interfaces. These would include Campaign managers, Ad Creation and Modification tools, and especially self-service product creation and campaign management dashboards. The key word here is “Self-Service”. There just aren’t any out there that work and handle the Media Buyer role properly. I’ve got three under my belt. One didn’t go into production, but was an awesome experience. One for Quantcast was a 2 week under-supported effort around the holidays in 2008, therefore a fail. The other one is in process. We’ll see if it goes anywhere. Its all about funding the dev portion.
So i at times think about Advertising in my sleep. It would make sense that I’d think about the way to cut out the Media Buyer and make it all just work. Sad as it is, I’ve done so many interviews with Media Buyers, i know i could cut them out of the deal. And to design the ultimate Marketing and Publisher Dashboard, I’d do it. How would i do it? Its all about the API feeds
So what does this have to do with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Nate Bolt?
One of my recurring dreams (both day and night) has to do with Facebook’s inability to get prognostic results (Ads and Deals) to their people. Yes, you and the other Billion members. They know more about you only shy of your bank. If your bank served you ads, they’d be Spot On. Because they know your spends. But Facebook doesn’t have that info yet. They know what you like to some degree; what your friends like to some degree, prob your DOB, and several other items that set them way ahead of the curve. However They have yet to serve me an Ad in 6 years that I’m willing to act on. Facebook Ads have a 0% conversion ratio with me. And I’m guessing a ton of other people share similar results. Sad but true. So how do we fix this and make it both beneficial for the user and the site owners? How do we make Facebook the first true Publisher that really, really gets what we want to us and just in time?
Here is what I suggested to Nate on Wednesday.
Create and interface that allows users to interact with advertisers directly by setting their preferences. Make it simple. Model it on Netflix but gamify it. Let people scroll through rows of items in each vertical such as: Clothes, Electronics, Cars, whatever. As long as the brands are specific to the user or user friends interests. Do you remember your first time (and second and third) using the Netflix preference section? The one where you side scrolled through and rated movies? Yes that one, with the stars? Create that for us and make it fun. We’d probably use it with some regularity That way you could gather our data passively, but also activate us. This creates a relationship between your users and your company. This is something Facebook doesn’t really have right now, and its sad. They tried some years ago to create a direct conduit to the Dev team, but I’m not sure where that really went.
Engage us. Create something great that allows us to swipe through products and give them a grade. If you’re afraid of using stars, then use ABCDF. Maybe a – + scale we slide on each one. No need to save, its all in HTML5. Done Asynchronously. Netflix did a great job here with movie prefs, but Facebook can potentially secure their spot as the greatest Publisher in the world. When they get a certain amount of hits for a certain product, they start buying that product and offer a deal on it to those individuals that graded it highly. However they serve that is beyond the scope of this afternoon, but its a big question.
Can Facebook create a fun and engaging interface that will allow users to engage with the company in a passive/active way, put in their product preferences, helping secure the relationship, finally instilling some trust, and in turn everyone wins?
Next up… A Note to Marissa Mayer. How she can change Yahoo, create profitability and not just focus on the home page.