Facebook games are powerful tools for brands, providing marketers with channels to get their messaging out while consumers are receptive. But marketers need to choose the right kinds of campaigns.
The rising popularity of Facebook Credits suggests great opportunity for CMOs. Based on estimates drawn from Facebook’s recent IPO filing, Facebook users spent about $1.8 billion on virtual goods last year, mostly in the many games on the social network. Users can buy credits with real cash, or earn them through third-party offers and auctions -- which is where the marketing opportunity comes in.
Facebook gamers can earn Credits and game items through offers from third-party companies. This channel is called CPA, for "cost per action." Also, Facebook users can earn Credits by engaging with online ads, which is called CPE for "cost per engagement." So, for example: Subscribe to service X, get 20 golden cows for your farming game; watch an advertisement for brand Y, get 10 Facebook Credits.
To sweeten this opportunity, Facebook recently relaxed its rules for game developers that want to sell their virtual currency for real-world advertising offers, making these kinds of campaigns even more attractive to potential advertisers.
But what kind of campaigns work best in Facebook games, and what kind of results can a CMO expect? I recently talked with two leaders in CPA and CPE for their takes.
Campaigns that "include several steps or interactions, e.g., an engaging video combined with a short, relevant poll and finally a discounted purchase offer" work best, said Projjol Banerjea, director of marketing for SponsorPay, an international, cross-platform, in-game advertising solution provider, which has partners including Gameforge and Digital Chocolate.
"This is primarily because our platform reaches users in their free time (when they’re playing games) and creates user-initiated interactions with specific content the user is interested in.” Banerjea told me.
Video ads on the company’s platform consistently get conversion rates over 90 percent -- in other words, 9 in 10 who choose to view the ad in exchange for Credits or virtual goods will watch it all the way through.
For Facebook games, the ideal offers are low-friction and easy to complete.
Another effective approach is a value-exchange advertising model, which, in the case of Facebook games, means attracting players to engage with brand advertising experiences, in exchange for virtual rewards. That's the specialty of SocialVibe, a digital advertising technology company that has worked with brands including Toyota and Microsoft, and games including Zynga’s CityVille and FarmVille.
SocialVibe reports strong performance in many categories, with campaigns for auto, technology, entertainment, and other sectors garnering an average 80 percent completion rate and 41 percent click-through rate to the brands' sites. Health and beauty brands have shown a 90 percent completion rate, according to SocialVibe director of communications Molly Heintz.
For example, the company helped deploy an opt-in brand engagement campaign for Anthem Blue Cross running in Zynga’s Facebook games, with an augmented reality "checkup" using players’ Webcams. Average time spent with the engagement was 76.1 seconds, with 71.6 percent of consumers clicking through to Anthem’s site.
To gain great results like that in Facebook game campaigns, Heintz stresses the importance of matching an attention-getting ad with the ultimate message. Campaigns also need to keep the focus on fun. “In this channel,” Baanerjea says, “the only way to truly secure user attention and stand out is by ensuring the advertising content is entertaining.”
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— Wagner James Au is the author of The Making of Second Life, covers online worlds and virtual goods on his blog, New World Notes, and is an analyst for Media Bistro’s Social Times Pro.