Facebook VP Talks Ads, News Feed, Graph Search, Algorithm At SMX West Conference

By Justin Lafferty 

At the SMX West 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif., Marketing Land Founding Editor Danny Sullivan sat down with Grady Burnett, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, to talk about several topics. Burnett discussed ads within the redesigned News Feed, the controversial algorithm many know as EdgeRank, and Facebook’s relationship with Bing (it is not buying the search engine).

Marketing Land contributed a live blog of the event, paraphrasing the points made by Burnett.

Burnett said the average user has become much more engaged on the site, but Facebook is trying to increase value for advertisers. When Sullivan asked if Facebook was coming up with some kind of Google AdSense competitor, Burnett said the social network did do a similar test last year, where advertising showed up on other sites, and the company would be open to doing that again in the future.

Sullivan then asked Burnett how the redesigned News Feed will affect advertising (these are not direct quotes):

DS: Asks how many have the new News Feed — very few raise hands.

GB: Reception has been great so far, but it’s only out to a very small percentage of users. It takes a lot of the mobile principles we have — larger images, less clutter — that means higher engagement. It’s a visual redesign. The mobile-first mindset has made us think how to use the screen more effectively.

DS: Does that mean you can deliver more ads?

GB: That shouldn’t change. We’ll still show the same amount of ads, but it should mean more engagement. The bigger canvas, bigger images has been good for advertisers in our tests.

DS: Mentions the Nick Bilton article about page administrators thinking they have to pay now to get fans to see their posts.

GB: Our News Feed algorithm continually looks at relevance — what are the most likely things that each user will want to see? We’re constantly changing the algorithm, but there’s no effort to force people to buy ads so their posts can be seen.

DS: Mentions that our Facebook stats (for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land) saw a drop in September, but have rebounded to where they were before. Would Facebook ever start announcing updates to changes in the News Feed algorithm, like Google does with things like Panda and other updates.

GB: We can certainly do a better job of communicating and offering clarity on things.

Burnett also shot down rumors that Facebook was planning to buy Bing, which has heavily integrated Facebook into its interface, and discussed Google Plus as a competitor:

DS: What are your thoughts on what Google is doing with social? Big threat? Interesting diversion?

GB: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. But the world is a social place — every business should have a social element. So Google taking steps in that direction is a positive thing. I’ve not used their products enough to have a sense of how they’re doing.

Readers: How do you think the redesigned News Feed will change advertising?