Facebook gets personal

02 March 2011

PALO ALTO: Facebook, the social network, is seeking to provide solutions helping brand owners forge substantive "associations around people."

Speaking to AdAge, David Fischer, Facebook's vp, advertising and global operations, suggested its core strength lies in offering an intrinsically interactive experience.

"The web can be the best branding opportunity if you think about creating associations around people," he said.

"Part of what's so exciting about Facebook, it's clear that what drives change and motivates people to act is other people … It's about how you tell stories through people."

"People, really, is the operating system that drives all of our behaviors. It's the organising principal that drives us. I'm seeing that come to life via Facebook."

Having previously worked for Google, Fischer argued the rapid rise of Web 2.0 platforms across the globe constitutes the next stage in the internet's development.

"Search has been an incredible advancement, but the opportunity for brands that the web has always represented - there's an opportunity to fulfill that through Facebook that you hadn't had before," he said.

Among the most successful firms here at present are soft drinks giant Coca-Cola, boasting 22.7m fans, and coffee house chain Starbucks, with 19.8m.

"Those millions of connections are not the end. It's just the start. Those millions are the means to the end," said Fischer.

"It's a way to build relationships with those people, and then to tap into all those people's friends. It's an opportunity to do word-of-mouth marketing at scale."

Indeed, Facebook is empowering companies as much as consumers, thus meeting a range of traditional needs in new ways.

"As we build out the social graph, there's an opportunity for brands to rebuild their businesses themselves," said Fischer.

"Marketing is key to that, and so is customer acquisitions and customer relationships."

Another essential strategy takes the form of an "always on" approach, from setting up pages to handing insider status to their followers, stimulating viral traction.

Ford, the carmaker, launched the latest version of the Focus in this way, demonstrating such a process in action.

Nike's 'Write the Future' video, for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, also attracted 3m Facebook members, delivering considerable WOM.

"In the world of marketing, we think about paid media, owned media and earned media - all three exist on Facebook," Fischer said.

"As you build up more connections, each thing you publish, you can build more and more ongoing connections."

"Sponsored stories", which determines when netizens choose to "like" a brand, creates an ad featuring the names of the relevant person and product, and then displays it to their contacts, have also proved effective.

"That impact of having a name will increase brand awareness by 68%, and it has a four-times increase in purchase intent," Fischer said.

"That really is the power. And that's the kind of brand associations we're trying to build for companies. Branding should happen around people."

Although Facebook has rapidly become one of the biggest sources for display ads in nations like the UK and US, it only hosts a single homepage ad at any given time, and encourages clients to target specific demographics.

"We do want the messaging to pop. At the same time, we're careful to avoid an intrusive experience," said Fischer.

"We do what we think will be appealing to markers and be useful to our users. That's why we don't sell home page takeover for an entire day."

"Marketers have to understand the opportunity goes far beyond the particular box on the home page.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff