Bringing Brands to the Facebook Platform: Federated Media Helps Brands Join the Conversation

Federated Media FacebookDuring this week’s “Bringing Brands to the Facebook Platform” series, Inside Facebook has explored different ways brands are reaching users on the Facebook Platform. Today, we conclude our series with Federated Media. Traditionally known for representing blogs, Federated Media is expanding its reach into the social networking world and representing application developers that are enabling conversations inside Facebook.

We sat down with Chas Edwards, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer at FM, to learn more about the company’s Facebook practice. (Disclosure: Federated Media represents Watercooler, where I work.)

Chas, how does FM view publishers creating Facebook applications?

Chas EdwardsWe’re really in the early stages of this process, but some developers are doing some really interesting things. I see the world of social networking applications falling into 3 buckets:

1) The biggest bucket is “poke” apps. Most are very simple and fun – one comes across your radar and you think it’s hilarious. But what they don’t do is become a publication, a media brand – something a marketer wants to associate with. Poke apps are fun for consumers, but are not as interesting to marketers who want to tap into an engaged conversation.

2) A lot of companies will see the success that some developers are having and try to build apps themselves. However, usually only relatively edgy young male brands are able to gain much traction. Beyond those, most of the branded applications have failed.

3) The magic middle ground is developers that build an app to help users enhance their community experience over time – to connect more deeply with friends and share content together. When an app can do that, it no longer looks like a one trick pony to a marketer. It looks like a conversation, like a media brand like a Vanity Fair or an Oprah that marketers want to join into and speak the same language. Marketers want to join those conversations so that people in those conversations think better about them and want to tell their friends about them.

So what kind of deals are you putting together for app developers?

Paramount Studios Movie Poster ContestAt FM, we’re trying to figure out monetization opportunities for social networking apps that are founded on something other than direct response marketing. I look at what we’ve done on Graffiti with Paramount Studios (Movie Poster Contest), BMW (What Drives You campaign), Dell (Regeneration eco-friendly campaign), or Haagen Dazs (Graffi-bee Contest), and these kinds of campaigns really resonate with the brand marketer. It’s not just about clicking through to my website and buying a pint of ice cream, it’s about getting hundreds of thousands of people to know more about this bee situation – and if they know more about it they might care more about it, want to learn more about it, and want to learn more about Haagen Dazs’s role in it. When you do that you’re likely to have a more emotional experience with the Haagen Dazs brand – creating brand equity that will lead you to make different purchasing decisions when you go to the grocery store. This is really hard to do on the internet, which is just awash in banner ads.

Applications on social networks like Facebook seem like a context where deep brand equity could be created.

Yes. If you take a look at the history of the media business and of companies building brands through PR and other tactics – for example, taking a look at radio (the internet of our grandparents’ day), people listened to news clips and radio plays. If you go back and listen to advertising during radio plays, the ad is a mini version of a radio play. You didn’t get a blinking light on your radio or something that created cognitive dissonance. And when things moved onto television, the ad didn’t contain two guys sitting around microphones doing radio plays – commercials changed as well. They got beautiful people, got a good soundtrack, and took advantage of all the visuals.

If you bring that forward to social network environments, it’s largely about the conversation.  As a Facebook user, I have a relationship with a couple hundred people, and my News Feed is where the conversations between my friends and me are happening.  Marketers can’t just come in there and insert a radio play and hope that you will pay attention. The format that we’re engaging in is an online conversation, and the advertiser that wants to be a part of that needs to mimic what users are doing: join the conversation, not throw in a banner ad that disrupts that experience.

So what does that look like?

It doesn’t really matter what the ad unit is, as long as it starts to mimic the environment that you’re already in. For example, word games – are there examples that advertisers can tap into and create a campaign around playing word games with friends?  Marketers like high engagement, but if you just broadcast a message people may ignore it. You want to be transparent and acknowledge what the community is there for.

Thanks a lot Chas. Any final thoughts?

In the end, advertising ALWAYS eventually follows audiences, though there is a lag. What can help ad dollars follow the audience more quickly is helping advertisers understand what’s unique about social networking products. That will help them shape their messages to work well within this environment.

There’s not a lot of money in throwing sheep right now – we’re probably still in the hype cycle with some of the valuations we’re seeing. Pets.com distracted us from seeing some of the important revolutions that were happening in 1999 – like Amazon and GoTo and Google. There are some real businesses being created right now that aren’t necessarily getting all the hype.