“We’re testing ads in Groups,” states a message that is going out to some Facebook users in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
This means that Facebook is likely testing in these regions to prepare for a worldwide rollout in the next year. It makes sense, Facebook says it will reach maximum News Feed ad load in mid-2017, so in order to keep growing, monetizing the very successful “Groups” is the logical next step.
After all, targeting in these groups will be pretty easy. Instead of a person just “liking” a page, which can indicate anything from a casual interest to a deep passion, groups are very clear as to what level a person is interested in a topic.
But it’s been six years since Facebook rolled out Groups. Why wait so long? And what can marketers take away from the time and development that Facebook has put into Groups.
A History of Groups
Facebook groups have been around since nearly the beginning of the platform itself, but not in its current form. Before 2010, users were able to passively join a group, but there was no way for users to interact with each other.
When Facebook switched to a forum-style platform, it created a place for community.
I know of several communities that wouldn’t be half as connected without Facebook to host it. Friends who only see each other at that community’s events will stay in touch in these groups, updating their friends on things specific to that niche interest.
Facebook took the time to create a valuable product before they tried to sell in it.
The Concept of a Value Trade-Off
Facebook and its users have an agreement. Facebook provides a platform for a community to be built on, which users agree to, as long as Facebook gets to do things like put advertisements in those groups.
Without users, Facebook is would have no one to serve the advertisements to, therefore halting its ability to make money. Which is why it had to build the community, and therefore the trust, before it could monetize.
This is similar to a publisher and audience relationship in content marketing. You will often have a base of non-customers that will engage in your content, some even coming to trust you enough to provide their email address in exchange for something they perceive as valuable.
This can come in the form of getting an ebook in exchange for filling out a form, or dealing with advertisements that come along with content created by your friends and peers.
So how did Facebook develop the trust, and therefore a favorable value trade-off, to start putting ads into Groups?
Groups Needed Development Before Being Monetized
If Facebook had started Groups immediately as a place to serve the public targeted ads, I doubt it would have gone over well.
Not only would the public have been opposed to joining a group, just to have ads served at them, but also the targeting would be less effective for advertisers.
Groups sometimes change in purpose and focus as the communities fostered within them change. They also might be named something that doesn’t quite describe the community.
What’s important to note is that groups have matured since their inception, having been refined over time. Facebook has been patient, making sure that its groups were running smoothly and as-desired before it monetized them.
If ads had been introduced too early, it might have ruined groups.
Imagine if Hubspot asked for users to fill out forms to read any and all of its content at the beginning stages of the business. Nobody would have done it and their business would not have grown.
But now that the brand has authority and you know the quality of its products, you don’t even bat an eye to give out your contact information for whatever content marketing goodie they are currently offering.
The B2B Lesson
Make sure your content is worth it.
No matter what the value proposition is, make sure your content is good enough to stand up to it.
For a value proposition that inconveniences the user, make sure that the content is great.
Facebook has developed and perfected its next money-maker, groups. Make sure that content is similarly perfect when you are asking for something from your audience.
If you’re creating an ebook and asking the users to fill out a form to get it, make sure that the contact information that they are giving up is worth it.
Keep the content free of errors, misinformation, or disorganized writing.
It might take some time tweaking and perfecting before you can justify upping your value proposition, or even, charging for a piece of content.
Like Facebook, be wary of asking too much too early, otherwise you may scare away those who would make the exchange in the future.
Take it slow and you will soon see the value of your content growing, and with it, your ability to ask for more from your audience in return.
What do you think of Facebook’s new ad stream? Will it affect your user experience? How do you think American users will respond? Let us know in the comments section.