Saying that it's been a busy few weeks over at Facebook almost feels like saying it's been a loud few weeks at the dog pound – do they ever have quiet ones? Last month, Facebook announced a suite of new tools geared specifically towards marketers, and as someone who works closely with Emma's agency partners, this announcement really grabbed my attention. Even though Facebook has climbed to the #3 position in online ad revenue (just behind Google and Yahoo), they've largely done so without any overtures of friendship to the advertising world. But now they're inviting marketers to get involved — in a specially moderated online community and a series of live interactive sessions — and it might just change how you think about positioning your agency online.
"Create a new group:" An online community for advertisers
First, we got Facebook Studio. Launched just over a month ago, it's a communal space for advertisers to share their best work and draw inspiration and insight from the work of others. Barely one month later, it's grown into a lively marketplace of ideas whose currency is popularity — agencies can share the Facebook-oriented creative work they're most proud of, and the most-liked campaigns move from the "Gallery" area into the "Spotlight," where they enjoy prominent placement and full multimedia treatment. For those agencies still lingering in the shallow area of Facebook's marketing tool pool, there's the "Learning Lab," a collection of educational resources geared towards social marketing beginners and journeymen. Although each campaign boasts its own comments section (in a startlingly MySpace-like arrangement, no less), Facebook Studio requires no login to access — you can browse their offerings any time at www.facebook-studio.com.
"RSVP to this event:" Facebook interactive sessions for marketers
In conjunction with Facebook Studio's release, Facebook announced a series of interactive sessions titled, conveniently enough, Facebook Studio Live. The very first Facebook Studio Live event was held in Toronto in March to a crowd of roughly 80 participants, and last week saw the very first stateside Studio Live event in New York City. Playing to a smallish crowd of roughly 200 marketers, it was by all accounts a tightly focused session that centered around creating quality content for social media. Reviews were generally positive for their first New York Studio Live session. Ad Age writer Kunur Patella liked the event, which gave advertisers an opportunity to hear from Facebook higher-ups like Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Sales, and Paul Adams, Facebook product manager. But, as Christopher Heine of ClickZ reports, there's still a healthy thread of skepticism to be found in the feedback. While it's generally agreed that Facebook opening its doors to agencies and inviting them to join the conversation will yield some great opportunities, some are concerned about the intellectual property implications of a Facebook-moderated online community.
Mark Zuckerberg would like to be your friend. Accept?
So what do we think? Well, it's a little early to say, really. Facebook Studio is a pleasantly uncluttered and easily navigable experience that we'd heartily recommend to any agency partner who wants to learn from the best, and the conversations that are a part of virtually every page seem, for the most part, lively and informed. For now, though, its roster comes mostly from the international hubs like New York, San Francisco, London and Paris, and most of the spotlighted campaigns come from powerhouse brands like HBO and Skittles. Just as "the Facebook" started in the Ivy Leagues, though, there's room for this network to kick into high gear when it expands into smaller, regional markets. And its growing list of agencies with approved submissions is becoming increasingly dotted with "Kansas City" and "Lexington" entries.
In light of Facebook's past transgressions, one is always inclined to look for their "angle" in any new offering. Fortunately, in this case, they've not only hidden their angle in plain sight, but they're also broadcasting it to the advertising world. Facebook clearly wants to grow their advertising dollar revenue in some major ways, and by bringing themselves closer to advertising agencies, they can build a worldwide network of marketers who will gladly do a good deal of legwork for them. While it remains to be seen just how Facebook's new overtures to advertising agencies will play out in the long run, their newfound sense of camaraderie with marketers brings with it a host of case studies and resources that will no doubt be a huge help to agencies in any stage of the social marketing game — from small, regional firms who need a video tutorial on how Facebook "pages" work to heavy hitters on the coasts who have the capacity to build sophisticated mobile apps to tie into their social strategy. It's hard to say if a Facebook Studio presence for agencies will ever become as important as a Facebook presence for brands, but since any Facebook-marketer partnership is based on mutual self interest, the opportunity for growth seems limitless.