Digital West

Facebook Wants to Share Media, Improve Mobile and Fuel Commerce

Social Network Also Keen to Send Marketers More Mobile Traffic

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Facebook is focused on enabling media sharing, getting more mobile and using social connections to fuel more commerce, according to Ethan Beard, Facebook's director of platform partnerships, who spoke Tuesday at Ad Age 's first Digital West conference at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Arts Center.

Facebook's Ethan Beard speaks with reporter Kunur Patel during Ad Age 's Digital West Conference in San Francisco Tuesday.
Facebook's Ethan Beard speaks with reporter Kunur Patel during Ad Age 's Digital West Conference in San Francisco Tuesday.

It's impossible to mention Facebook this week without talking about f8, the company's developer conference taking place in San Francisco on Thursday. Facebook is expected to make a major announcement about media sharing, or the Facebook music platform, as it's been dubbed by tech blogs. While he did not confirm reports of the possible launch -- including stories by The New York Times and TechCrunch -- Mr. Beard spoke at length about his admiration of how Spotify, which will appear at f8, allows users share and consume music.

"When we look at music, we think social media, and platforms like Facebook are good at injecting social back into the experience," Mr. Beard said, reminiscing about shopping for records with his friends in brick-and-mortar record stores. "Look at Spotify -- they've organized consumption. Not only have Spotify put social into their product, but also into their business plan," Mr. Beard said, adding that the key functionality of Spotify is that users can see what their friends are listening to and then buy that music.

As part of Facebook's "social by design" mantra, adding a way for users to see what their friends are watching, reading and listening to is an essential next step. "The more social you can make the experience -- the more you can engage with your friends before, during and after consuming the media -- the more successful it is and the more Facebook users gravitate towards it," Mr. Beard said.

For those 250 million users of Facebook's mobile app, Mr. Beard's admission that mobile hasn't been Facebook's main focus is no surprise. Mobile-only Facebook products such as Places and Deals have recently been scaled back. "Facebook is probably the most popular mobile app out there, but that being said, we still are a web-first company," Mr. Beard said. "We are moving to designing for mobile first, making sure that mobile is the canonical experience."

While this "mobile first" move isn't imminent, Mr. Beard said it's an ultimate goal for Facebook, whose mobile-only user base is expanding -- especially internationally in places such as India, where PC usage is dropping while mobile usage is growing.

Right now it's difficult for Facebook to send traffic to its marketers from the mobile app, Mr. Beard said. "You as a marketer can't get traffic from us very effectively because it's kind of challenging to link from our iPhone app to your iPhone app," Mr. Beard said, adding that while Apple knows the inherent value of that link, they make it difficult to construct.

"One of our goals is to drive traffic to our marketing partners," Mr. Beard said.

While shopping on Facebook is not a reality today, marketers such as Delta and Amazon are experimenting with what commerce on Facebook will ultimately look like. The idea is that a recommendation or a share from a friend is much more valuable than Google search results, which often include shallow or spammy information sites.

A recent partnership with Ticketmaster seemed to bear that out, Mr. Beard said, showing that if a Facebook user shares his or her ticket purchase with friends, that 's worth $5 to Ticketmaster. "We really see the world shifting from a world focused around information to one focused on people," he said, "which leads to an entirely different way to design a product."

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