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Live from fMC: Facebook Courts Big Brands, Positions Itself to Secure Share of TV Spend

Facebook’s much anticipated and first ever Facebook Marketing Conference, fMC, kicked off at 1PM this afternoon in New York City. We were excited to have been invited to the event, and take a first look at new Facebook products aimed at courting large businesses looking for an online media channel with the scale currently offered by television. With 845 million users across the globe who are spending an increasingly larger portion of their time on the social network, Facebook certainly fits the bill.

The Keynote: Facebook’s Impact on Society, through Storytelling.

The keynote began with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg eloquently outlining the internet’s impact on society, and Facebook’s role in introducing a platform where individuals are connected to other people and entities — ultimately providing them a voice on the web.

“When the internet happened, it changed our lives. It changed our lives around the provision of information,” she shared. “Technology is powering us; it’s powering who we are. This is a shift – a shift to the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends. … History is filled with examples of when individuals had a voice and made a difference. The difference now is that people can have this voice at scale.”

She set this stage to then outline how the Facebook platform is helping marketers forge deeper connections with individuals.

Sandberg first spoke to the gaming industry, and how social completely transformed how people experience games and how that industry monetized. She moved to music next, stating how putting people at the center of the listening experience is transforming the industry.

She then handed the stage off to Chris Cox, VP Product at Facebook. Continuing in Sandberg’s storytelling, he admitted he was skeptical of Facebook’s ability when he initially interviewed.

“There was no media, Like buttons or farms,” he joked. “If you think of Facebook as a blue and white college dating site, you’re wrong.”

After walking people through why he bought into the Facebook vision, he spoke to the opportunities to make the world more social. Television was his first example, outlining how strange it is that we each go home to individually sort through channels to find something good to watch, when your neighbors, friends, families and colleagues are doing the same. What instead if you turned your TV on and saw that 15 of your friends are watching Always Sunny, your Mom recorded 60 Minutes for you, and that you missed Meryl Streep’s speech at The Oscars that everyone is talking about.

After painting a picture of the future of social, he introduced Mike Hoefflinger, Director of Global Business Marketing. Hofflinger spoke to the notion of how messaging people is changing from traditional ads into story-centric ads.

“Ads are good. But stories, it turns out, are better,” he stated. “One little story at a time brands are reaching consumers at scale [on Facebook].”

He then outlined Facebook’s three new announcements for marketers:

Pages are now rich, customizable Timeline experiences.

As Facebook reiterated throughout the afternoon, a brand’s Facebook Page is “mission control” for their identity, marketing and advertising on Facebook. The big announcement today was the release of Timeline for brands — functionality users currently enjoy on Facebook. Timelines offer a much more rich, and customizable canvas through which brands can communicate stories with their Fans. This is also the central point for turning post stories on a brand’s Page into ads (read on).

Reach Generator ensures a majority of your Fans see your Page posts.

Right now people see 16% of the engagement happening between people and other entities through their Facebook News Feeds; meaning, only a fraction of the posts brands make to their Pages actually get seen by their Fans. In order to ensure a majority of your Fans see your Page posts, Facebook has introduced Reach Generator. Facebook touts that Reach Generator will help brands reach 50% of their Fans in a week and 75% in a month.

What ensures this reach? A new ad format and placement. The content and creative of the ad product is generated from a post on a brand’s Page. This story post is sponsored into an ad format — larger than what is currently available — and featured:

  1. On the right side of the News Feed (available before)
  2. Within the News Feed (new)
  3. Within the mobile News Feed (new)
  4. On logout screens (new, to be released in April)

These story posts could be any type of content: videos, links, photos, offers — you name it. Facebook will help brands determine which message is best for them to amplify into the four featured placements above, and reporting will occur post-campaign. Facebook touts the ads receive 5-10 times the clickthrough rates of their current ad offerings. As for success stories, Facebook shared that the premium placement helped Ben & Jerry’s reach 97% of their Fans and increased sales by a 3-to-1 ROI ratio.

Premium allows you to go mass market, beyond Fans.

But what about mass market — those who aren’t your Fans? Enter Facebook’s new premium offering, which takes a page post and promotes it (in the above  placements) to a much broader audience, including those users who are not currently your Fans. Collectively these new premium Facebook capabilities allow big brands with large budgets the opportunity to benefit from the mass scale currently generated through television broadcast online, on Facebook.

After a fireside chat between Sheryl Sandberg and Ken Chenault of American Express about leadership and innovation within large companies, VP Sales Carolyn Everson took the stage and concluded the conference by getting back to Facebook’s vision for marketing:

“Our vision for marketing is that its content is as good as the content you see from a family or friend member … Let your Fans become the biggest, best advocates you have.”

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