Facebook wants us to break out of ‘social jail’

facebookPerhaps suitably Social Media Week kicked off with a servant of the King of social in the form of Ed Couchman Head of UK sales for Facebook. Couchman who used the soapbox (sorry Keynote) to spread the word that (his words) “Facebook is one of the most effective marketing platforms on the planet” clearly Couchman was here to sell but the message he delivered was considered, and whilst self-serving, responsible.

His premise was that Facebook is now an accepted (although still to some not acceptable) part of our lives and not only delivers REACH (2.5x the combined sales of newspapers in UK and more than combined reach of broadcast channels) but also creates the opportunity for enhanced SPEED TO MARKET across multiple devices in a manner that is FLEXIBLE and allows brands to be “creative at the speed of culture”. He encouraged brands break out of “social jail” by not adopting a siloed approach that more traditional brands (and agencies) use but rather become part of the conversation in a way that is relevant, non intrusive and respectful.Couchman kicked off by staring the elephant in many a Client’s boardroom – the 1.1 billion people who use Facebook accessing it on average 14 times a day don’t matter – what matters is whether, how and in what way they interact with you and this is driven mostly by ‘brand love’.

One of the biggest considerations in all of this is that mobile is now the driver of these interactions – indeed he acknowledged that this is what has driven Facebook’s success. In the UK alone 24 million people use Facebook everyday of which 20 million are accessing it through mobile (47% access it on mobile alone), sadly we seem to have lost the ability to talk to each directly and now 1 in every 4 minutes on mobile is now spent on Facebook or Instagram –“Mobile first, Mobile Best” is now the company mantra – in short mobile is not a trend, it is the future and they are betting the future of the company on it ! –

To demonstrate the huge reach and opportunity of the platform Couchman shared some case studies, including Pimms, whose Facebook ad campaign used customer and lookalike audiences to reach 20% of the online adult population of people delivering 15,000 new customers at an ROI of 5 times their ad spend on top of this he said people who saw the ads spent 14% more on Pimm’s.

Indeed the ‘Lookalike’ audience function that allows advertisers to use email addresses of current customers to find them, aggregate their behavioural patterns and find other people who match their profile was mentioned repeatedly through the presentation so no guesses as to what the future focus may be! Interestingly he later indicated that Facebook is close to naming a partnership with a big supermarket tracking real life activity happening as a result of Facebook activity.

Couchman also showed using a case study from Cadbury how Facebook can be used to create scale and targeted reach – he shared how the campaign made people four times more likely to buy cream eggs than through other channels by amplifying messages from the real World to help drive ‘off the shelf’, impromptu sales with a relatively young audience.
The importance of ad partners (such as Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon) who place adverts in people’s newsfeed in a manner that is (apparently) transparent and offers control back to the consumer was also discussed. As people spend most of their time in Facebook on their newsfeed (Comscore recently reported 40% of the time spent on Facebook is in the News Feed and only 12% is spent on profile and brand page) this is an important development. Later there was some debate about how much people really do know about the ability to use the ‘X’ button on newsfeed ads to feedback as to why they don’t want to see the ad and the consensus was the need to educate.

Secret Escapes was used as a case study to demonstrate how via help from ad partner they managed to double conversions by being on news feed instead of using adverts and deliver an 85% increase in CTR. He did stress the importance of relevance in this respect and that they were not going to turn off the ability to comment on ads.
The apparent success of Facebook ‘Partner Categories’ (a packaged targeting option to reach the kinds of people advertisers want to find on Facebook, based on these people’s off-Facebook activity.) was questioned and when it was coming to the UK – watch this space….

Finally Couchman used the stage to tell us all 2 blinding facts – Christmas is just around the corner #festivefacebook and that Mum is at the heart of this gathering – they spend 3 times more time on mobiles over this period a lot of which is at w/e so advertisers need to consider plus that fact that 48% of mums start shopping in October, and only 6% are still doing it on Christmas Eve – I think you can guess how that works for men!

Overall the session left me with a sense that dancing with the devil is not too bad as long as you know the steps, the etiquette and how to learn more moves from the experience. The key point was that Clients and agencies need to be ‘creative at the speed of culture’ and this means creating platforms and carefully considering elements such as tone of voice and visual indicators that allow you to use the tools at your disposal and become a credible and relevant part of the conversation in a manner that is sensitive to the environment. This has huge implications for agencies and impresses the importance of agility and quick thinking as well as a strategic backbone and creativity – if you can crack that the future is bright – if not then you are destined to die in ‘social jail’.

Andrew Roberts, Gravity Thinking