The internet has changed. It’s no longer just used for search and gathering information. In 2011, consumers primarily use it to connect with friends and peers, sharing ideas and content. With the rapid rise of social networks, the influx of affordable handheld smart devices and a never-ending introduction to “social” applications, the evolution will undoubtedly maintain this momentum over the course of the next few years.

The hype and frenzy around advertising on social networks, predominantly Facebook, has led many advertisers to conclude this is where budget should be allocated. However, this is already an archaic approach. The maturing of the internet into the open web is what has really changed the face of advertising as it now allows the whole internet to be targeted – not just the enclaves of a social network.

The open web is based on social connections, which can be anything from an emails, a copy and paste, the use of a share buttons or URL shorteners etc… It’s these endless opportunities to share and connect that have made the internet social, and herein lies the opportunity. For online advertisers, segmenting audiences within a social network, based on their likes and discussions, is undoubtedly useful, but why not use these techniques on the entire web to reach a bigger audience, be more relevant in its targeting and improve conversion rates?

Facebook’s, and increasingly other networks’, ability to segment cannot be ignored, but the stark truth is that it does represent a walled garden, going directly against what the internet really stands for – openness. According to comScore, 9.9 per cent of online time is spent on Facebook, meaning there is still a colossal opportunity to target the remaining 90.1 per cent of the online audience.

It shows that advertisers’ stampede towards Facebook is somewhat misguided – they need to look at the open web and consumers’ meaningful connections outside of this network for a more representative and accurate description of the audience they’re trying to reach.

By understanding the internet is less about content and more about connections, advertisers can scale their approach to the right audience while targeting them with a truly relevant message. Advertisers not only need the option to target everyone available online, but also the ability to scale their audiences if they so desire, as opposed to just implementing a quantitative approach and pretty much flying blind.

The combination of evaluating social interactions through connections and being able to scale audience then means relevant brand messages can be delivered at optimum times. As a result they are able to achieve the fundamental objective in any online advertising campaign – generate higher conversion rates and improved financial returns.

The web is now a myriad of social communication and transaction, which is increasingly at the control of consumers’ fingertips across a multitude of electronic devices, from PCs to mobiles and tablets. Understandably, customers determine what befits their needs and desires anytime, anywhere, and this must be reflected in businesses’ advertising practices.

Appreciating that the internet has significantly evolved, and putting foundations in place which are capable of adapting to different models that emerge, will put brands in the best possible position to glean optimum ROI from their online campaigns. Being able to target the entire web for the first time will be a game changer for advertisers. Not only will it prove to be a real differentiator in online marketing campaigns, it will shake web advertising to its very core. Will you be one of the disrupters or one of the disrupted?