Two of Facebook's top ad executives made the case for brands to expand their marketing activities on the social network beyond building up "likes" during a Tuesday industry presentation in New York.
David Fischer, head of global advertising and operations at Facebook, emphasized that new features will boost sharing activity and create new opportunities for advertisers.
In particular, he highlighted the new Timeline feature on the redesigned profile page, plus the rollout of a new generation of Facebook applications that allow users to tell friends what they're "reading," "watching," and "listening to," in addition to what they "like."
Eventually, brands will be able to customize other verbs such as "cooking" or "running" for a particular app. All those actions will show up in the Timeline and other Facebook feeds.
"This is going to generate a huge amount more of sharing and engagement on Facebook," said Fischer, who noted that each day 100 million connections are made between users and brands on the site. That's double the amount from a year ago. He also pointed out that 51% of those who "like" a brand are more likely to buy from it.
Fischer also discussednew ad unit and ad analytics that Facebook introduced on Monday. These include an expanded ad format that combines a friend's endorsement with a separate brand message, and a new metric that tracks various types of social actions (comments, Wall posts) that a brand post generates over a week.
The updated analytics dashboard for page owners on Facebook also shows the total number of "friends of fans" of a brand (excluding overlap) and overall reach -- the total audience exposed to a brand's content on the site, including earned and paid media.
In relation to the new ad unit, Fischer pointed out that Facebook users are two to three times more likely to engage with ads that include a friend's endorsement. Furthermore, people are twice as likely to remember the message of the ad and four times as likely to make a purchase.
Facebook has worked closely with Nielsen to produce research demonstrating the effectiveness of advertising delivered in a social context online. "A lot of the targeting you think you're getting online doesn't bear out," said Fischer, alluding to a Nielsen study released Monday that shows campaigns with high impressions are still only reaching a fraction of the intended audience.
By contrast, broadly targeted campaigns on Facebook reached 95% of the intended audience, compared to an industry average of 72%. Narrowly targeted campaigns were even more effective, reaching the right audience 90% of the time versus the online average of 35%, said Fischer, citing Nielsen data.
Analytics aside, advertisers and agencies have long grumbled about the lack of creative opportunities on Facebook because the site does not feature the kind of eye-catching, rich media banners of traditional sites.
But Mark D'Arcy, Facebook's director of global creative solutions, explained that the brand page and applications are where creative energies should be focused on the social network. The display ads running on the right side of a page "are no more than a ticket to the show," said D'Arcy, who joined Facebook five months ago from Time Warner.
Earlier this year, the company launched Facebook Studio to showcase some of the most successful brand applications and creative campaigns on the site. D'Arcy highlighted several of those efforts, including a Nike Facebook app that allowed running enthusiasts in Amsterdam to create digital graffiti by manipulating satellite maps with their chosen running routes.
A separate effort by Huggies diapers in Hong Kong encouraged mothers to post baby photos on the brand's Facebook page for a contest in which the 60 most popular photos were featured in two different outdoor bus ads.
In addition to creativity, D'Arcy also underscored the importance of building utility into Facebook apps and pages. "If you do nothing else, be useful," he said. In that vein, he showed a brief demo of a Facebook app built by Flair magazine that lets users tag the clothing worn by friends in photos to learn more about their fashion choices. The resulting information was gathered on the magazine's Facebook page to help foster a sense of community.