The Facebook business model is built on the presumption that advertisers will pay a premium click-through rate because the Facebook corporation, through the super genius of social media marketing algorithms, is able to provide the ability to create advertising campaigns that precisely target the very people who will be most receptive to the advertised message. That’s the theory of Facebook’s business. The reality of Facebook’s business model is that it profits by targeting dim-witted advertisers who are willing to pay exorbitant rates because they actually believe the hype about the state of social media marketing.
A case in point is Lay’s, the potato chip company.
When I was a child, I liked potato chips. In my adult years, however, my rate of potato chip consumption has dwindled. I don’t like getting my fingers greasy. I don’t like the rattle of the bags. I don’t really like the taste of potato chips anymore either – regardless of the flavorings that are sprayed on. I may not even buy one bag of potato chips per year. I don’t spend my time online talking about potato chips, either. Snacks in general are not a topic of conversation for me, either, and if I do talk about a snack, it will likely be ice cream that excites my attention – a food that is not generally thought to combine well with potato chips.
My point is that I am not in the market for potato chips. There’s no Facebook activity on my part to suggest that I’m a potato chips fan.
Nonetheless, Facebook has convinced the Lay’s potato chip company to spend money to insert an advertisement for potato chips into my Facebook timeline. The advertisement is below:
This ad is supposed to be an example of savvy social media marketing because it encourages Facebook users to become engaged with the lays brand of potato chips, rather than just passively seeing a message. This advertisement can’t truly be called savvy, however, because it’s been sent to people who couldn’t care less about potato chips.
I can tell from this ad that Lays wants people to vote on which of its new potato chip flavors should be kept. But what are those new flavors? I can’t tell from the graphic that’s included in this ad. All I can see is that there are three potato chip bags in three different colors – and so I’m left to imagine what kind of weird potato chip flavor Lay’s had decided to add onto the already overstuffed potato chip market. Pickles and peanut butter? Chocolate espresso bean? Vinegar cotton candy? All I can imagine are desperate attempts at ingenuity that were tested through that junk food of research techniques: Focus groups.
I don’t dispute that there is a lot of information out there with which Facebook could effectively design targeted advertising campaigns for its clients. The evidence suggests, however, that this information is not being intelligently used – either by Facebook, or by the dense corporate marketing committees that use Facebook’s services.