Building an Ad Network Inside Facebook: Q&A with SocialCash CEO Rob Jewell

Since the Facebook Platform launched two years ago, Facebook has taken a relatively open approach to third parties interested in building advertising networks on the Platform. One of the companies that has been active on Facebook ever since the Platform launched is Washington, DC-based SocialCash, which has now entirely focused its efforts on Facebook. We recently spoke with SocialCash CEO Rob Jewell about the current state of the market, the recent Facebook policy enforcement actions that were taken against other Facebook Platform ad networks, and SocialCash’s plans going forward.

Inside Facebook: SocialCash got its start on Facebook building both an advertising network and an offer network, but now you’re focused just on your ad network. Why?

Rob Jewell: When we looked at the macro picture of all social networking inventory and all the available social information, we just saw a bigger opportunity over existing ad networks to use the social information across all inventory. We had to choose – it’s a massive opportunity, but it takes a lot of focus.

What products are working best for you right now?

Our main product is the headliners unit, which can be integrated in any Facebook app. From a technical perspective, it’s built more like a developer tool than an ad. We’re leveraging CPA advertiser relationships that we’ve had for a long time to create innovative ads, using dynamic social information to increase performance.

What are some good examples where you’ve seen performance increases?

Zoosk is a good example – it’s the biggest dating app on Facebook. We can do things like, “Tired of being a bridesmaid?” in ads, and show the person all their friends who are married, and that creates a pretty relevant and eganging ad that gets them thinking they should add Zoosk. We can also choose the best same-sex friends and put them in the ad. It really brings it home that it’s relevant and higher engagement.

We can also do stuff with education – for example, we can show you any of your friends that have jobs listed, show you what they are doing, and ask you if you want to advance in your career. We do this with the University of Phoenix. We can also see what students’ concentrations are, so for example if you recently changed your degree, we can show you what your friends are studying. It creates that sense of engagement around, “Why am I going down the path of being a lawyer?” As we get the targeting down, we can do more things like pulling in your favorite movies, and giving you the opportunity to stream now with Netflix. Some of these are in production now.

How many publishers are in your network?

We’ve got about 100 active ones across a variety of types of applications – gaming, gifting, quizzes, dating. Some of the largest are LivingSocial, FamilyLink, and Zwigglers.

How do things split out internationally?

70% of our impressions and 50% of our revenues are international. A lot of the efforts in the space now are focused on agencies and brands, but typically those dollars trickle in on a massive amount of inventory, and our efforts are to take the rest of that inventory and maximize it. We have infrastructure in all countries.

Is most banner advertising inventory CPA at this point?

I think CPA is majority of the banner advertising on the platform, but I think overall it’s probably less than the total virtual currency market. There’s still a lot of innovation happening, and things change significantly every month, especially due to regulations Facebook could put in as well.

How have Facebook’s recent suspensions of SocialReach and SocialHour affected you?