Back in March I wrote a short blog post about the direction I was looking to take Totaal in as a company. In it I spoke about crowd-sourcing an ethical policy and the concept I called “tithing” where I give 10% of my time, roughly equating to half a day a week, to doing things for free with people who needed help but couldn’t afford to pay.
Since that post things have moved on considerably and I felt I’d revisit the concept and update regular readers on the progress of what I then thought would be a nice little initiative but has since turned into a slightly bigger one.
The first thing to mention is that off of the back of this post I began to run the Bradford Social Media Surgeries which have been a really interesting side project. We’ve done two so far, in July and September, and I have been lucky enough to meet some really interesting people along the way. Also, thank you to all of the people who gave their free time to come along and act as ‘surgeons’ on the day, not to mention those that were good enough to give me lots of good, not to mention free, PR for the event. Social media Surgeries are aimed specifically at Third Sector companies (Those in the Voluntary, Community, Charity and Social Enterprise sectors) and that in itself brings its own set of challenges. For instance, how do you help a women’s refuge enter into a conversation with potential service users when their whole business revolves around confidentiality? It’s certainly not a challenge you face every day in the more straightforward corporate world.
Probably the biggest project I’ve been involved with, both in terms of scale and time, has been Fire Walk With Me, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the original – and still only – airing of Twin Peaks. Although largely inspired by the work of David Lynch the event, which took place on the 18th of September, became more of a Warholian affair, bursting at the seems with interesting films, people in costumes, live music performances. In short, it was a rather beautiful night and well worth investing some time in. It was all to raise funds for Temple Works in Leeds which is a lovely listed former mill building which is modelled on the Temple of Horus at Edfu in Egypt and has morphed, via a short period of virtual dereliction, into an arts venue like no other.
Facebook’s recent buzz has all been about their “Twittification”, reducing the former enjoyable randomness of Facebook to a homogenous Twitter feed. It’s caused all sorts of ructions and mutinies among users with the predictable Facebook groups being set up to demand that the system be scrapped and the norm returned to.
Haha Facebook, now you know people who dont like Wispas feel.
Anyway, under the radar of the awful publicity and frantic petitioning Facebook have been making some very shrewd, very quiet changes to the way it works. I have, for some time now, been telling anyone who will listen (and some that wont) that the value of Facebook’s targeting information is worth it’s weight in gold and that they havent even began to exploit it. It now looks like they have began to actually realise what the potential of the data they hold and they have chosen just about the right time to do it. Online advertising spend is conservatively predicted to fall by around 10% in 2009 and Google has just recorded its first sequential quarterly drop in sales since 2004. Even that’s great when you compare it in the virtual collapse of traditional media ad spend which has tanked and is in the process of taking many a newspaper and TV station with it.
So in the face of all of that what of Facebook’s revenues then? Well, as I said above, theyhave historically been awful at making money so it’s from a fairly low basemark. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO says that their ad revenues “may climb 70 percent this year”. Simply amazing, doubly so in 2009, so how are they doing this?
Firstly there’s the ads which have up to “25 characters in the title and as many as 135 characters in the body of the text”, sound familiar? Yes, it’s Twitter. OK, theres an optional photo but that’s what it is, but while Facebook had egg on its face when it last aped Twitter it seems this time it has paid off. Tim Kendall, Facebook’s director of product marketing for monetization (ouch, nice title Tim) says the service lets companies target users based on the information they put on their profiles “You basically just have a greater diversity of people using our ad system — lots of businesses, lots of local businesses finding success. It’s really been a steady, successful growth pattern.”
They have also been *ahem* heavily influenced by Google’s adwords system with their new campaign configuration interface. Feedback for this has been pretty patchy and that’s being kind, but as someone who used early incarnations of the AdWords system I can attest to the fact that it has improved immeasurably over time.
They have also, for the first time, emplyed a real, human Sales Team to assist companies with more interactive promotions, rather gloriously called “Engagement Ads.” They can include features such as video and let users do things like become “fans” of a brand. Add that to the fact that that it has 200 million active users and is still growing rapidly, especially among baby boomers, then Facebook’s outlook is pretty rosy.