Facebook introduced a new feature of its mobile advertising network yesterday: hyper-local ads. The goal of the feature is to allow advertisers to consider user location when placing an ad, down to a mile. Advertisers will define a radius, gender, and age range for their ad, add a photo and message, and Facebook will display the ad to the matching demographic in the matching location. These are not yet in real-time but from the TechCrunch post it seems that real-time targeting is not that far away, meaning that “eventually businesses will be able to pre-bid on a hyper-local audience and have them shown to users when they enter the geo-fence.” I have not also seen the ability to limit these ads to a time of day, say when the business is open, but it makes sense to offer that limitation.
I can see how these ads can be extremely beneficial to local business owners. They can draw people into their store that would otherwise walk by, they can facilitate a sale by offering incentives on the spot, and they can create return visits simply by knowing a person was in their store the first time, even without buying anything in a sort of twist on web retargeting. But before advertisers get too excited, let’s talk about some informal rules of conduct for both advertisers and Facebook.
Rule number one: don’t be creepy. It’s one thing to know that I have been looking at black boots online and continue showing me ads for those boots for the next week (or month.) It’s another thing to use location knowledge to keep targeting users long after they left the store.
Rule number two: be generous with information. The goal is to get a user to walk into the business, not to click an ad. Provide the full address, directions from current location, opening hours, Yelp rating, time-limited specials and any other information the user might find relevant.
Rule number three: don’t oversell. When a business has access to a customer’s location and to their phone, there could be a temptation to repeat ads. Respect the user by not bombarding them with identical ads in a short timeframe.
Rule number four: make it worthwhile. Make them an offer they cannot refuse. A good discount, a BOGO offer, a free drink? All work to make the user feel pampered instead of being just a mark. Plus, offering a unique deal helps users feel special and gives a sense of belonging.
Rule number five: don’t abuse your power. Perhaps more of a request to Facebook than to advertisers, but please keep these ads passive and not active. If notifications will be peppered with ads, users might start ignoring them altogether. Also, it wasn’t clear from the release if Facebook will allow business to advertise near addresses not their own. It will be interesting to see if local ads will be allowed near a competitor’s location.
Hopefully local businesses can put these ads to good use and not be overwhelmed by the process or by the number of options. Just stay classy, folks.