Expert Outlook: Facebook's Carolyn Everson

Carolyn Everson, vice president for global marketing solutions at Facebook
Carolyn Everson, vice president for global marketing solutions at Facebook Photograph by Monica Schipper/Getty Images

What changes are on your radar for the year ahead in digital advertising?
I think the biggest shift we are going to see, which is not just a shift for 2015, is to people-based marketing. Until we had mobile, marketing was very much based on reaching mass audiences. Now people are in control of their content experience on their mobile device. They can choose which apps to download. They can choose where they get their news and their entertainment. And the amount of time people are spending on their mobile device is going to allow marketers to be much more focused on reaching actual people instead of just large swaths of audiences.

People are spending about 25 percent of their day on mobile devices, checking them over 100 times a day. And that is going to change not only marketing, but business completely. So if you’re an e-commerce company that starts today, I would submit that you’d start as a mobile e-commerce company. If you were to start a financial institution today, you’d start completely thinking about mobile.

Doesn’t that mean new advertising units of what’s bought and sold?
Yes. Marketing is going to be measured on what it should be, which is, Does it drive actual business results? For decades the whole industry has operated on what I would call marketing metrics. You serve up a number of impressions, or you measure things on click-through rates or on cost per views. Now the opportunity is actually to measure business outcomes. Are we moving the needle on sales? As an industry, we’re going to be held much more accountable. We don’t use a lot of the traditional marketing language at Facebook. We don’t sit and talk about the online display advertising market. We don’t think about the ad units as a display unit or even a video unit. We think about them in the spirit of what is the business problem we’re trying to solve. Are we trying to help brands create awareness? Are we trying to drive online sales? Are we trying to drive more people into offline, brick-and-mortar retail?

How do you move from there to placing ads?
With our self-serve tool, you have the ability to actually just tell us what your objectives are. You might have an objective that says, “I just need a lot of people to see my video.” Then we can optimize to make sure that we’re driving video use. Or maybe the objective is to very quickly work people down the funnel. So I want to launch with a video, but I need to drive them through to sign up for a service. All the marketers and agencies need to do is tell us what their business objective is, and then we make recommendations on the products that can service those. That’s a very big shift. Two years ago we were just asking people to pick the product.

Can this new process be entirely automated?
We have very sophisticated teams supporting our larger clients. They expect us to act as business advisers on how to best leverage Facebook.

And smaller businesses?
It’s interesting. When I get asked which clients really understand our tools, often it’s the small businesses, because it’s their lifeblood. If you have $100 a month or $1,000 a month as a small business, and that’s your only budget, and you are depending on that to drive new customers, to bring people back into your store, you are extremely focused on the measurement, because you need to know what’s working.

What makes a mobile ad work?
We have a saying that we use quite a lot with clients: “You need to think about thumb-stopping creative.” What is going to make you stop and engage with that ad, be it a video or text or photograph? That makes the lightbulbs go on for clients. For example, when you do a creative review, are you watching the video on a big flatscreen TV in a conference room? Or does everybody have their mobile device out?

So what stops thumbs?
No. 1 is the creative. If you think about what works in any medium—print, TV, etc.—the creative is of utmost importance. It’s arguably even more important in mobile, because of the intimacy in which people are experiencing it. No. 2 is really understanding your audience. The answer to the question “What is the best ad on Facebook?” is “For whom?” Because every news feed is different for everybody around the world at every millisecond. We might put something in front of you that you didn’t even know you were looking for. I had one appear on my news feed a few weeks ago that was for this service that sends fresh food to your home once a week with full recipes. No. 1, I didn’t even know that service existed. No. 2, I am in desperate need of help for planning out meals, because of my crazy travel schedule. So I didn’t even know I was looking for that, but it stopped me in my tracks.

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