On Facebook Advertising

Two things happened recently: Facebook’s IPO fizzled and there was a slew of articles and blog posts about how Facebook ads are ineffective. The majority of the articles follow the same song and dance: we spent $250, got some likes from random people and nothing changed. The one standout it GM dropping Facebook ads. GM’s budget was 10 million dollars, and the way I understand it, this is their equivalent of $250 for a small business.

While I personally dislike Facebook tremendously and want it to fail, I think that the FB ad-bashing articles are off base. Facebook ads are a great deal. I am not an advertising professional, but I drank with a lot of them and I think picked up a reasonable amount of knowledge about the industry. I also stayed at … hmm, can’t remember the name of the hotel, but this is a reference to the TV ads where people say “well, I’m not a [professional that has to be very smart and skilled] but I stayed at [name of the hotel]”.

There are many, many bad deals in advertising. There are big-name websites that have “respectability” plus a huge saleseforce. These guys can charge $15, $20, $30, sometimes even $50 per 1000 banner impressions. cost for 1000 impressions is called CPM: cost per M where M is the Roman numeral 100. At the higher price you get gigantic custom ads known by a variety of names: browser crashers, godzillas, superskyscrapers, page fuckers, etc. There are also “sponsorships” where dumb companies buy little badges on new sites with next to no traffic.

How do these things get sold? Well, the agency people who control how the ad budget is spent are often young and get a lot of free drinks. Also, ad sales people are very good at what they do.

Then there are cut rate ad networks that have 5-20 cents CPM. The traffic for these comes from all kind of low quality sites: lyrics websites, guitar tab sites, all kinds of web farms, dating sites, porn and near-porn sites and the like. Big sites sometimes buy traffic from these sources when they don’t have enough “inventory”, but they’ve already sold a lot of high CPM ads. These are a pretty bad deal, and I suspect much of the traffic is simulated by bots. It is cheap and there’s a lot of it though. Targeting options are pretty weak with the exception of plentyoffish.com: POF allows for very detailed targeting. If you want to target only Canadian redheads between the ages of 18-22 – you can.

Google ads are a better deal: you are targeting people that are searching for something. Google has pretty sophisticated algorithms for detecting fraud, but I suspect click fraud is still rampant. Google’s predominant model is charging per click instead of per 1K impressions, and you have to compete with other people for hot search keywords. For instance, ambulance chasers pay ridiculous money for “mesothelioma” keyword. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos, and layers apparently can make crazy money suing on behalf of people who have it. A click on an ad can fetch as much as $10 or more. There are many other expensive keywords where even a single click is worth paying actual humans to click on them from time to time. There are also pity clicks and punitive clicks: sometimes people click ads to support sites that they like and to punish ones advertisers they don’t like.

Facebook ads by my estimation cost about 1/10th of Google’s, almost in the low quality network territory. The targeting is amazing though: Facebook knows a lot about what people are interested in and lets you have a sniper-like precision of putting your ad in front of them. Do you want New Yorkers who are into planted aquariums, fishing and knife sharpening? If there are 10 people like that you can reach them on Facebook for a few bucks. Unlike Google users who are searching for something, Facebookers are there for ogling hot people and playing Farmville. They tend to ignore the ads, but you can get an even better deal by buying CPC ads. Massive click fraud is difficult on Facebook, most of these clicks are real.

There are many things about advertising in general that are mysterious: starting with the “if I almost never click on ads then who does” to “do tv and magazine ads actually make me buy anything”. Are funny ads where you remember the joke but not what was advertised worth the money? Are people swayed by car commercials? How about those Coca Cola billboards? How about those ads in New York taxi cabs and ads that annoy in general – are they effective? QR codes ( http://wtfqrcodes.com/ ) – are they the advertising equivalent of “free public wifi” zombies? I have a hunch, but I don’t really know.

What I do know is that compared to other options FB advertising is a pretty good deal at current pricing.

How To Speed Up the Web (And Gain A little Privacy)

Let’s face it: Facebook “like buttons” are dragging the pageload speeds down. They are just the pits, and they are slow mostly because the Great Zuck want to know what you are up to. Screw that – install WidgetBlock for Chrome, your pages will load faster, your browser will crash less, and Zuck will know less about you.

This has been a public service announcement. Also, don’t forget to back up – hard drives only live for a few years.

[update] I seem to be singling out Facebook buttons. And I do – they are the worst offenders in terms of performance. On the other hand Widgetblock works for all kinds of widgets.

Love,
Deadprogrammer

I, for one, welcome our new social overlords

Disclamer: I thought that Google Wave was an excellent idea, so you can safely disregard my blathering here.

Here’s what I’m picturing in my head: Google has approached Facebook and Twitter on the playground. Twitter stole a piece of Facebooks lunch, but can’t really hold onto it. After a few threats and a bit of running around and a few ineptly thrown punches Google got itself into position to really clean Facebook’s clock and take its lunch. Foursquare and Groupon which earlier evaded Google’s punches in the most ebarracing for Google way possible are likely to be lunchless later. It is rather strange that Google does not go after scrawny TV Guide and White Pages – it looks like their lunches are not that tasty.

Yes, it’s just another social network. Yes, Google has a track record of failing fast and frequently (which if I remember correctly is a “good thing”). But remember, a bunch of incompetent coders received such an applause, press coverage and a whole evem some money to build a Facebook alternative. And finally mighty Skynet is doing the same thing. I think the company behind the mighty Skynet and the future parent of our robotic overlords has a chance against a bunch of compiled spaghetty PHP.

P.S. Zuckerberg and his approach to privacy creeps me out, so I have deleted my Facebook account and turned it into a blank account used only for work (writing Facebook apps, testing and such). I’m completely fed up with the character limit on Twitter – it’s nothing more than a feed from my blog. But I do want to share photos, and I do want to post shorter, non-blog-worthy thoughts. I’m really rooting for Skynet here.

Gmail and tracking numbers

Hunting around for UPS, Fedex,USPS, and Japan Post tracking numbers in Gmail is no fun. I really wish there was a way to aggregate all the shipping numbers in a single Gmail plugin which would at a glance tell me where all the crap that I ordered is at any given moment. Google already knows how to tell a tracking number from all other strings, and there are apps for iOS that aggregate tracking (unfortunately you have to manually type in all the tracking numbers). A Gmail plugin that would keep track of tracking numbers would be great – maybe anyone with a bunch of mythical %20 percent time at Google will implement this…

Cognitive Filtering and Bayesian RSS

I hope one thing from the future will become popular in 2009: cognitive filtering. If the Internet was Dr. Dorian from the hit tv show “Scrubs”, I would be Dr. Cox with his list of things he cares very little about.

I got this idea from a science fiction book. In John C. Wright’s Golden Age Trilogy the singularity happened and people can upgrade and back up their wetware in any way they can afford. They still had the same problem that Henry Kuttner described in his short story “Year Day” – an overbearing amount of very innovative ads that masquerade as information and other spam. The trick in Golden Age was cognitive filtering: configurable software that removed any manifestations of anything an owner considered unpleasant: ads, sounds, pictures, symbols, and even people.

I like Twitter, and I like Robert Scoble. But I am tired of Robert’s relentless posts about friendfeed (sometimes I’m not even sure if he works with me at Fast Company or at friendfeed). Filtering this out would not be too hard – I could just ignore any post that has “friendfeed” in it. In fact, a Bayesian filter for Google reader, Facebook, and Twitter after a bit of training could do this automatically: I’d just flag posts that annoy me and the filter would analyze the words in the post, figure out which ones occur together more frequently in the posts that annoy me and hide future annoying posts based on that.

To take this a bit further, I would also like a Bayesian filter that would find me good posts from the firehydrant rss flow based on the ones I already like. There seem to be a few of these out there, but I find it hard leaving Google Reader.

Facebook Cookbook: Build Your Facebook Empire

Now you can build Facebook applications that truly stand out among the thousands already available on the platform. This book’s easy-to-follow recipes not only give you useful ways to design and build scalable applications using Facebook’s development platform, they also provide you with strategies for successfully marketing your application in this highly competitive environment. With plenty of examples and practical solutions, Facebook Cookbook answers some of the hardest questions Facebook application developers contend with — including how and where to get started.

  • Learn to build an application architecture that scales to accommodate a sudden influx of users
  • Get tips for designing applications with hosting and deployment costs in mind
  • Find out how to use Facebook’s various integration points
  • Discover which widgets and controls to use for building the most attractive user interface design
  • Understand the differences between standard HTML, JavaScript, and SQL, and the versions used on the Facebook Platform
  • Learn how to target large defined groups on Facebook, including those who want to find jobs, hire employees, market a business, advertise, and more

If you have experience building simple web applications with HTML, Facebook Cookbook will guide you though Facebook’s toolkit, so you can build applications with the potential to reach millions of users around the globe. Learn what it takes to design applications that stand above the rest.

Inside Facebook: Life, Work and Visions of Greatness

As an early engineer, I was on the inside during Facebook’s explosive growth. In Inside Facebook, I’ll give you the scoop on the company as it became the premiere online environment for U.S. college students, including how and by whom the products were made, how you can use them best, views on what makes social networks so valuable, and where the industry is headed. You, too, can achieve startup success and attain your greatest dream; I hope to inspire you toward fulfilling your potential.

“Love the book. It captures the ethos of the place and a substantial degree of the vision and drive which is a secret to success.”
-David Kopp, Sr. Director, Community at Yahoo!

“Inside Facebook is a compelling look inside at a fascinating moment. It’s a riveting read. Karel may be an Engineer, but after reading Inside Facebook you’ll see he’s a great storyteller. I couldn’t get myself to stop reading and wanting more.”
-Ariel McNichol, CEO of mEgo.

“I love the style. It’s made for college students, like Facebook. Karel takes you into the personalities and minds behind Facebook. A must read for young entrepreneurs, and anyone into online social networking.”
-Mohammad Naqvi, UCR, creator of Facebook Notifier at fbQuick.com

Facebook Marketing: 25 Most Effective, Unknown, Black-Op Marketing Techniques for Bands and Businesses

The much anticipated Facebook Marketing Book by Nick Jag ( NickJag.com ).

Everyone has been talking about Facebook – it’s the next MySpace! The problem is, how to do you, as a band or business, take advantage of this opportunity?

Whether you’re just getting started on Facebook or have been on the site for years, this book is going to show you how to promote your band or business effectively and efficiently!

There are so many marketing channels in Facebook, many of the ineffective. Some will even get your profile deleted very easily. Don’t worry about any of it, because with this book you will learn…

– Which promotion channels to avoid, hitting limits, and being reported as spam.

– Which main promotion channels are most effective for your brand and how to get the most out of them.

– Hidden marketing techniques that will sky rocket your brand expansion, having the Facebook site do all the work for you!

– Top secret mass messaging and marketing techniques that will leave you in awe ( NickJag.com )

Facebook Page For Deadprogrammer.com

In a desperate bid to shore up deadprogrammer.com readership I’ve created a Facebook page. Please go and become a “fan” of it on Facebook. The idea is that once you become a fan, a message about that will appear in your friend’s news feeds. They’ll become curious and check out Deadprogrammer’s Cafe. That will result in an ego boost for me and a few fresh posts (one about the nature of time, and a series about my trip to my hometown of Odessa).

Facebook fan page is a neat and low effort passive-aggressive way of promotion. They take just a few minutes to create. On the other hand, they look pretty lonely when you only have two fans yourself, and your mother. And my mom doesn’t even have a Facebook account.

P.S. If you are friending me on Facebook, just mention that you are reading my blog or something.