Facebook lures brands

02 March 2012

PALO ALTO: Facebook, the social network, has launched a range of new tools for brand owners, as it seeks to drive up revenues and "make marketing truly social".

The company, which currently derives just over $3bn per year from advertising, has introduced a number of features at an event for leading advertisers and agencies, in recognition of the fact these organisations have a vital role in its future.

"It's not us, it's we," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said, according to the Financial Times. "If we're going to make marketing truly social, it won't be us, it's going to be you."

Among the options now available to brands are "Premium on Facebook" ads, letting them insert videos, coupons and other marketing messages in newsfeeds, on user homepages and at log-out stage.

This programme is also being extended to mobile phones, albeit in a slightly restricted way, as corporate communications will only appear in newsfeeds on this channel.

"Premium and mobile ads will help Facebook generate more revenue, particularly from big brand advertisers," Debra Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, said.

"Premium will enable advertisers to have a broader reach on Facebook, but they will have to pay for that."

Further additional tools include an enhanced "Timeline" function, allowing brands to create increasingly individualised pages within Facebook, and to tell clearer "stories" through rich media.

Macy's, Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Wal-Mart Stores have all already updated their brand pages on the social network to take advantage of the greater flexibility that is on offer.

A wider implication for brand owners and agencies is that the variety of services provided by Facebook is expanding rapidly, making coordination and management more complicated.

"The complexity is hard for marketers to get their arms around," said Reggie Bradford, CEO of Vitrue, the social media software specialist. "We're seeing a really strong uptick in adoption and growth."

Moreover, unlike companies such as Zynga, the games developer, which has an obvious status for Facebook users, the activity of advertising agencies and brand managers is more behind-the-scenes.

"This isn't like Zynga," Brad Reback, managing director at Oppenheimer, the investment firm, said. "You don't know who's powering the Coca Cola Facebook page or the McDonald's Facebook page, and you don't really care."

Data sourced from Financial Times/Reuters; additional content by Warc staff