Facebook is rolling out Canvas, which could give your social media marketing an aesthetic overhaul.
Open the pages of Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar and you’ll notice that the first 15 to 20 pages aren’t devoted to articles or photo spreads or editorial content of any kind. Instead, you’ll find it’s all advertisements, usually glossy, highly produced, and full-page colour ads promoting a luxury brand or designer. When you think about it, these kinds of ads are treated differently to how we often think of advertising. They are part of the experience of flipping through a fashion magazine, rather than an annoying and interruptive diversion. We don’t rush through them hoping to get to the good stuff, we often savour the ads as integral to the fashion magazine reading experience, and view the brands featured there as aspirational or luxurious.
If Mark Zuckerberg has his way, you’d soon feel similarly about the ads you see in your Facebook feed. As social media is such a tailored and curated medium—based on a user’s search history, networks, online habits, location, and a range of other factors—it’s a potential goldmine for advertisers who want to reach a specific user. This amount of data available for one potential user means that advertisers can target and show them product content they’re almost sure to love. However, it’s been tough so far for advertisers to attain that, and it’s often because their online ads don’t measure up visually to the user-created content they have to share your feed with.
That’s why Facebook recently rolled out Canvas, a platform designed to help advertisers big and small to create custom and visually pleasing ads that will stand out as much in your feed as your friends’ holiday photos on an azure-blue ocean beach in Bali. Facebook wrote in a press release that “Canvas helps advertisers achieve any objective by giving businesses a fully customizable digital space on which to build multimedia stories.”
There are several keys to creating these kinds of ads, and the Canvas platform is designed to aid advertisers in optimizing their ads. This includes creating mobile native ads that are designed to appear on a phone rather than a desktop or laptop; a glossy production value that ensures high-resolution photos and proper editing; and interactive ads which aren’t clunky and annoying, but rather, load quickly and seamlessly play in a user’s feed. At present, the platform is only available on iOS or Android.
When you consider what Facebook is trying to create with Canvas, it sounds remarkably similar to what they’ve done with Instant Articles. By creating a way for news publications to optimise their articles specifically for the Facebook platform, Facebook is furthering its attempt to create a “walled garden”. That is, instead of directing you to an advertiser’s site or a publisher’s website, you can view and interact with an ad or article without ever leaving Facebook’s platform. This may be good for the user—and it’s certainly good for Facebook—but it’s not necessarily ideal for publishers and advertisers who of course want traffic added to their site.
Facebook doesn’t seem to mind much though. They have continued to capture and dominate the mobile advertising market at warp speed. For every ad dollar spent on reaching smartphone users, 20% is spent on Facebook. That’s already a huge majority, but this latest move signals that Facebook is not done. Insiders suggest that the Canvas platform is being released with the specific hope that more big and luxury brands—who might have previously deemed Facebook’s ad platform as too low quality to feature their product—will begin using it in earnest and add to the social networks burgeoning dominance in the mobile advertising market.
Find out why social media marketing is integral to any business’s marketing strategy over on this blog post.