Today at the IAB Social Media Conference in New York, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a new set of best practices for social advertising online. The IAB began setting standards for online advertising in 1996, and the new guidelines are meant to make social media ad buys more standardized, and especially, more scalable.

This is important in the social media space, where so many people are still unsure of what they want from social media campaigns and what their campaigns are capable of there. However, it is still unclear if the large social media networks will adhere to the standards.

According to Seth Goldstein, CEO of and a creator of the new standards, the best practices were created simply to "make it easier for advertisers and agencies to buy social media ads."

As in the video and gaming space, the major barrier to entry for brands and agencies in social media is often a lack of confidence in new formats. The standardization of ad units and the ability to purchase large scale campaigns will encourage more brands to step their toe in the water of social media advertising.

Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the IAB, says that the problem online is never measurability. It's that you can measure too many things.

"Anything you want online is directly measurable. But are you applying the right metrics? Working in the traditional media and marketing world, that answer is very simple. Social media is very easy to measure. But first you need to figure out your objective."

For many brands, the most important thing to achieve in social media is positive word of mouth. And scalable campaigns are not as important as the end goal of brand likeability and sales. Another issue is that the players in the space do not currently adhere to the standards. Rothenberg emphasized that the new guidelines are open to change, but companies like Facebook currently sell inventory that is not in line with the new recommendations and it may not be in their best interest to change all of their products to adhere to them.

Standardization will help dollars move into social media, but rather than going big, brands often find that uniquely tailored campaigns that encourage interaction with consumers are the best use of their time and money in the social media space.

Meghan Keane

Published 18 May, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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