Meet Gokul Rajaram, Product Director of the Facebook ads product. He is one of the smarter people I've worked with at Facebook, and by extension, ever.
At F8 he walked developers through where the Facebook ad product is going. I now see the light clearer than I've ever seen it. And it's bright. And big. And very, very exciting.
There are three things you need to be thinking about as a marketer on Facebook:
1. Building for connections
Gokul made a very elegant point. You don't want to just build connections. It's not about the number of fans you have. It's about what you offer them and it's clear that the company's focus has shifted from growth to engagement.
You need to publish content and experiences that people care about. Don't build around your business. Build around your customers' interests. If you sell cameras, focus on pictures and not your products. If you sell stoves, focus on the food and not your steel products.
Put content out there that becomes a part of users' identity. The question you need to ask is : how can you build experiences and publish content that consumers will put into their Timelines and make their own? Focus on stuff that adds meaning to people's lives and not distract their lives.
Think lighter versions of the Nike + running application. The app focuses on running and not shoes but Nike gets the credit for adding value.
The key metric going forward will be closer to how many people added your content or application to their timeline than how many connections you have. This is a radical shift to actions and engagement and away from reach and impressions, though they are tightly aligned.
2. Letting users tell your story
Building for connections basically means publishing content that people will share, either directly or indirectly. Letting users tell your story deals with a new language you need to incorporate in all that you do on Facebook.
What does this mean? It means you NO LONGER NEED TO USE THE WORD 'LIKE' IN ALL THAT YOU DO ON FACEBOOK! Let's be honest, people. 'Like' was a blunt instrument. We used it because it was all that was given to us.
You will now be able to build language that expresses the stories being created by the connections you are building, for that is more closely aligned with the action itself.
This new expressive language means you will be able to add whatever verb you so choose. You can start to use words like read, watch, listen, buy and more in the stories that get shown to friends of your "engagers." You no longer have to just use 'Like'.
If someone signs up for a test drive on your Facebook Page or website, you will be able to tell that to their friends. Using "custom verbs" more closely aligned with how consumers interact with you, which will make your business more personal, open and user friendly.
3. Unlocking business value through consumer value, or people value
Lastly, how do people find out about all the actions consumers are taking with you? There are now four primary ways: News Feed, Ticker, Timeline and Sponsored Stories.
The first three are great for social discovery. They are to Facebook's ad ecosystem what organic search is to Google's paid search product. They're free and based on user engagement. The better the content, the more engagement. The more engagement, the higher you will appear in each user's Graph Rank.
If you like the organic channels, which we all do as they are free, you will LOVE the new Sponsored Stories framework. It's all the greatness of organic discovery with massive tonnage – the reach and frequency we love as marketers. Basically, don't wait for your content to be discovered. Buy and accelerate the discovery.
Very simply, any action that users take with content (or "objects," in the Facebook developer world) that you own across your Facebook Pages, applications and Facebook-connected web sites can be bought. And more importantly, if you own the objects, you can buy them actions generated by the objects even if you don't own the applications that generate the actions.
A model for Phish AND Spotify
OK, that 's confusing. So let's use a simple example. Spotify is a music service integrated with Facebook's new platform. I listen to a Phish song. Spotify can buy that story as a Sponsored Story in the Facebook ad platform. Friends of mine will see an organic story that says "Mike listened to Phish on Spotify." They will also see an ad on the right-hand side of the site that says the same thing. The first is organic and based on the Graph Rank of each individual. The second is paid and distribution is guaranteed if we pay enough.
Now let's take the second scenario. I listen to a Phish song on Spotify. Even though Phish doesn't own Spotify, the band can buy ads about the action. So Phish can run an ad that says "Mike listened to Phish on Spotify" and send them to Spotify. Or the band can run an ad that sells me tickets.
This lets advertisers use all the stories people are creating from the content and applications to better target their ads.
Gokul made the point that a well-targeted ad based on real actions to the right person will be a much more effective way to advertise. This is now called "Graph Targeting" by Facebook.
Say there was an "I WANT" button on an electronics retailer (this is a fictional button, Gokul pointed out). Using Graph Targeting, brands can target ads to people who clicked that button.
The News Feed and Sponsored Stories are now tightly aligned. So everything you do on Facebook must take into account what you will get for free and what you want to buy to fully optimize your marketing on Facebook. Facebook has expanded the actions and given you the permissions needed as the owner of content and "objects" to execute paid word of mouth marketing at scale.
My team and I have not had the time to get under the hood of the technology. So my outline is more of a directional guide to where they are going rather than a tactical action plan. The technology and strategies to make this happen will be developed over the next few days, weeks and months.
Many of you may have noticed that Buddy Media, my company, evolved our positioning to "Power Your Connections" from "Facebook Power Tools " earlier this week. This is exactly what Mark and Gokul were talking about today. It's not longer acceptable to just build a large set of connections. You need to build for them. You need to power them up.
Companies that create the most shareholder value will be ones that put the consumer in the center and build their products, services and marketing plans for them. Companies that fail to power up their connections and tap into those connections in a meaningful way will fail to grow.