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Storytelling, mobile & future of communication: Carolyn Everson, Dan Neary on FB’s 2015 focus areas

Much like the thought process that ‘digital marketing’ is archaic, there is a movement questioning the relevance of phrases such as ‘social media marketing’ or ‘mobile marketing’. After all, everything is digital, social media commands unprecedented scale & everyone is on mobile… Courtesy the milestones that companies such as Facebook have achieved, these are not words anymore. At the heart of the ‘digital-marketing argument’ is the point that marketers should encourage media plans that recognise the mass nature of digital instead of siloing it as a separate layer. This also means that the onus is on digital to begin speaking the same language that marketers are accustomed to, including measurement and impact on business objectives.

Through its various initiatives, Facebook is amongst those technology companies that have been able to successfully deliver on all of these counts, leading to the kind of advertising revenues that the company commands at present. The fact that nearly 70 per cent of which is from mobile, makes it interesting and enviable.

The year 2015 will see Facebook push the boundaries further on these counts, doing what it has been doing with more focus and depth in offer. In a conversation with Digital Market Asia, Carolyn Everson, Vice President, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook reiterated that everything on Facebook is built for people. “We want to provide the best possible experience for each person who uses our platform. In every region around the world, it is important for us to understand how people engage, so that we can best work with marketers to ensure that the content they deliver is relevant to the people with whom they want to connect,” she explained.

The future of communication
Facebook thinks about innovation in three ways – its key pillar, News Feed; the multi-app strategy that led to the creation of Groups and Messenger, and acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram prior to that, and the future of communication, where the platform has been investing in constantly evolving technology, eyeing the next big platform – one example being virtual reality.

In that framework, mobile and videos have become keywords to any conversation that Facebook has – internally and/ or externally. “We don’t just think about improving how people with internet access connect but also expanding access to those who are not yet connected, through initiatives like Internet.org,” Ms Everson pointed out, and added, “People around the world are most often connecting on mobile devices, and this is impacting marketing tremendously. We watch consumer behaviour closely, and we base our product and advertising strategies in what we see, country by country. The rapid rise of mobile is amongst the themes we see emerging across Asia right now. People are connecting at an unprecedented pace, sometimes for the very first time, via mobile. This is a trend across the entire region, and we expect that markets in Southeast Asia and India will see a rapid shift from feature phone to smartphones in the near future.”

Southeast Asia, in fact, has been dubbed as the first region to be mobile-first. Dan Neary, Vice President, APAC, Facebook, explained, “In a region like Southeast Asia where mobile usage is high, our endeavour is to deliver the best Facebook experience that people can have on mobile – whether it’s the smartphone or the feature phone. In addition, online video is a powerful storytelling medium. As we welcome 2015, our priorities are going to be the same. We will continue to work with brands so that they can deliver the best mobile campaigns on the platform, and also new ways to create deeper engagement with people.”

The rise & rise of videos
From the static banners that once accounted for advertising on Facebook, today the platform sees some of most visually engaging solutions. Facebook has seen storytelling evolve towards more visual content, especially with videos. “Brand marketers recognise that it is a format that is an emotionally resonant way to connect with people. We know that the best stories from advertisers are the ones that are told in the same way people prefer to create and consume content,” Ms Everson stated.

Some facts on FB videos
In one year (Nov 2013 – Nov 2014), 75% more video posts have been created on Facebook in comparison to previous year
There are more than 3 billion video views on FB every day
Nearly 2/3rds of these are on mobile
As of Sept 2014, on average, more than 50% of people on FB in Korea, Singapore & Hong Kong watched a video every day
Brands’ experience with FB videos
In Taiwan, Estée Lauder’s FB campaign was more than 40 times more effective at reaching desired audiences in comparison to TV ads
Coca-Cola‘s video ads on FB in Indonesia created a measurable lift in both ad recall and message association. The campaign delivered a 7% lift in ad recall among 13–29 year-old Indonesians, according to Nielsen Brand Effect
Tourism Queensland in Australia achieved a 13-point lift in intent and consideration through a Premium Video buy
In Thailand, DTAC achieved a 36x return on ad spend for its branding campaign focused on raising awareness of its ‘happy’ positioning

Beyond video, Facebook has the tools in place to help marketers improve campaigns and create content that is relevant and rewarding for people. “Our priorities for video are to build a world-class infrastructure; to attract amazing content; and to generally make watching videos a delightful experience for people. We have the largest, most engaged audience in the world – with one billion searches every day on Facebook and around two billion photos shared across our apps,” she added.

Facebook recently released its auto-play functionality internationally. For advertisers, the platform enhanced the video offer at many levels including video retargeting, call to action and video metrics and a public display of video views. “A range of brands have leveraged Facebook, and our video product, to create personalised experiences that have helped brand marketers drive important metrics, including awareness, consideration and, ultimately, sales. You can expect increased focus in propelling our current offering, as well as introducing new features, to help our advertisers tell their stories to people around the world,” Mr Everson informed.

The APAC growth story
It is widely known that Asia Pacific is one of the most important regions for Facebook. The recent visit of CEO Mark Zuckerberg to India and Indonesia in context to Internet.org further drove the point home. As APAC continues to register strong growth, Mr Neary explained that Facebook will continue to focus on two of key marketer segments in 2015 – small business and brand marketers.

“With over 30 million active small business Pages on Facebook, we believe that personalised marketing at scale can drive results for all types of marketers. As we work with brand marketers across the region, we will focus on how they can leverage our platform to build their brands through creative storytelling. In fact, Creative Shop APAC was established earlier this year so we have a team of creative strategists who are tasked with creating and building ideas that transform how the region’s largest and most innovative marketers use Facebook to drive business growth,” Mr Neary explained.

Ms Everson also stated here that APAC had begun playing a role in exporting ad formats. Bandwidth targeting on Facebook, now a global product, was built based on insight garnered from consumers in several countries, including Indonesia. Another example is the ‘Missed Call‘ ad format that was released in India last July.

Of measurement & business metrics
Facebook has also worked in setting up metrics that will encourage marketers to spend more on the platform. “At Facebook, we are in the business to help grow businesses. Our teams use a scientific approach to help marketers determine the additional business driven from people as a result of Facebook ads. We want advertisers to know what ad campaigns drive real business lift and we provide insights they need to effectively allocate ad spend,” Mr Neary informed.

Facebook recently expanded its conversion lift measurement capabilities to help advertisers determine exactly how Facebook ads impact their bottom line. The company said that this is just the beginning of a much larger initiative at Facebook. The teams will work to build a suite of lift capabilities to allow advertisers to determine the true impact Facebook has on real people for any business objective, from brand awareness to sales.

The rebuilding of ad-serving and measurement platform, Atlas, is a also a step in that direction. By using Facebook data, Atlas can deliver relevant ads, regardless of device. “Measurement is a challenge for advertisers in high-growth countries like Indonesia and India. With many people in these countries accessing the internet on mobile devices, we’ve partnered with Nielsen to serve polls to people on feature phones. Our new measurement solution provides advertisers with greater tools to measure brand sentiment, purchase intent and ad recall for the first time on mobile as well as desktop,” said Mr Neary.

The road ahead
The world has shifted to mobile. More than a billion people accessed Facebook using only a mobile device. Mobile is an important channel for businesses and brands to engage and connect with people. Mobile consumption and usage will naturally grow at breakneck speed along with mobile penetration. People will continue to add to the total time they spend with media as they leverage the power of mobile to remain connected throughout the day to the people and things they care about. “This means that brands need to consider a mobile strategy as central and integral to their overall strategy,” Mr Neary remarked as one of the focus areas of 2015.

At the same time, growth of video views on mobile is creating a big opportunity for brands. “Despite the evolution of technology, marketing still has to be driven by great creative, great storytelling – and video is one of the most engaging and immersive ways to tell your story. More people than ever before are sharing, discovering and engaging with videos that they care about. This fundamental shift in the way people consume video content means there is a greater opportunity than ever for marketers to leverage a rich storytelling format in order to target people across devices and deepen engagement with them,” Mr Neary summed up.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.