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4 Key Things Every Marketer Should Know About “Walled Gardens”

As a marketer, you may have heard the term “walled gardens” thrown around to describe the way major online platforms keep their data close to their chests.

We take for granted that our social campaigns live in segregated worlds quite distinct from our other programmatic channels. But what if this wasn’t the case? What would the world look like if the walls of the internet came tumbling down?

Here are 4 key questions we should be asking ourselves about so-called “walled gardens”:

1. Why Do “Walled Gardens” Exist in the First Place?

Because They Can

The answer is quite simply because they can. When it comes to advertising, giant firms like Facebook and LinkedIn hold all the cards. The amount of data they have on users who readily allow access to personal information such as age, gender, location, interests and browsing behaviour is unprecedented. Why would a company with that kind of exclusive access invite competition?

Increased Accuracy in Forecasting and Optimization

Closed platforms also provide benefits to the end user. A closed loop allows more accurate forecasting and optimization of the available data.

No one has a firmer grasp on the tendencies of their customer base like today’s major social media platforms; This solid grasp of likes and dislikes is what leads to more enjoyable news feeds and more relevant ads.

2. What Are the Limitations of “Walled Gardens?”

An Inconvenient Truth

One of the foremost challenges of modern digital marketing is an overabundance of tools with limited integration capacities. If you’re a digital marketer in 2017, the number of platforms you are expected to master is bordering on ridiculous, and it is all but impossible to reconcile various success metrics in order to determine a cross-platform ROI on marketing investment.

Even with automation software, closed platforms still add to complexity by keeping your campaign intelligence siloed. Comparing performance can be incredibly tough, making budget allocation a shot in the dark.

You Can’t Take Your Data With You

Of course, data within closed platforms must necessarily stay within those platforms. Learnings gleaned from the sophisticated targeting capabilities of “walled gardens” cannot always be replicated in your next open market campaign.

This fragmentation leads to limited optimization capabilities. For example, you may know from experience that users who like a specific brand would also be interested in your product, but in many cases you have no way of targeting those people outside of the closed environment.

3. What Would the Internet Look Like if the Walls (of Closed Platforms) Were Torn Down?

The benefits of data integration would be enormous for digital marketers:

  • Access to a broader audience set
  • Intelligent bidding and targeting capabilities (the learnings from one platform could be implemented across the board to increase optimization)
  • Sophisticated targeting could be put to use in the open market which in many cases would mean lower costs for advertisers
  • On the other end, open market learnings could be now applied to currently closed platforms

4. In Reality, Will the Walls Ever Come Down?

It’s doubtful that data powerhouses such as Facebook and LinkedIn will ever fully integrate with the wider internet. But there are certainly workarounds in the making. For example, it is possible to directly integrate with a closed platform’s API and replicate the behaviour of the platform within the software you use for the rest of your programmatic advertising needs.

In this case, although you still can’t squeeze data out of the walls, the two tools now have a way of communicating to each other in a way that allows for some integration of targeting methods and something called “lookalike audiences”. Lookalike audiences take the attributes of a particular data set (aka audience) and use those same attributes to target that same group within the closed platform.

In other words, the most we can hope for in the near future is a one-way street, but hey, it’s better than no road access at all.

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