Facebook has announced a new proximity based hyperlocal ad product for businesses. You draw a circle on a map and Facebook pushes ads for your business to groups of people in that circle. It will come to the UK in a few months. The Facebook article is easy to understand and the TechCrunch one is decent too. It looks like some clever tech and you can see the appeal.
One of the odd things about the local web has been the experience people report of selling online ads on hyperlocal media in the UK to very local traditional businesses (I have to confess that I don’t sell local ads myself but talk to many who try to). A couple of things come up – people’s suspicion of the google-style context aware product when they can’t ‘see’ their ad anywhere, a general lack of online sophistication in local businesses who often don’t do much online (see the Portas review of high street decline) and a willingness to only pay 10p in the pound of he price of a print ad.
In UK hyperlocals this has led to people producing sites that replicate ‘old fashioned’ display ads online – the best of which is the excellent site for Towcester the right side bar of which wouldn’t be out of place in a local printed paper. And also local sites falling back to producing print media as a way of selling ads and raising revenue – Brixton Blog and Port Talbot Magnet for instance. Or very traditional products such as business directories. We see very few independent local sites using geo-context sensitive products.
The Facebook ‘Local awareness’ ads are interesting in what they don’t promise – towards the end of their introductory article the prose hints at reasons why people won’t see your ad – they might not have GPS turned on, they might have opted out etc. When you factor into this the weirdness and secretiveness of the Facebook News Feed algorithm you are left wondering who will actually see your message and whether they will be relevant to you. It’s tricky to have a secret algorithm and at the same time promise business customers that their stuff will be seen by willing customers.
So despite this new product it does seem to me that there is room for local site owners to differentiate themselves from Facebook playing on the transparency and recognisable products local sites can offer.
Of course Facebook already has loads of local content on pages created by hyperlocal sites. At my Kings Cross page we have about 7,500 likes and 195,000 checkins (we have a large train station in the neighbourhood) and I guess my readers will start to see more Facebook ads for the local eateries popping up as local awareness kicks off. It would be lovely to get some sort of revenue share from Facebook that we could feed back into the local community – but I am not holding my breath.
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