“There’s never been a better time to have a good idea.”
This simple notion came early in Hope Cowan’s talk. Facebook’s Director of Creative Agency Partnerships backed this idealistic statement with hard facts: 33 companies founded within the last 10 years have already reached $100 billion in revenue, and some reached it in as little as four years. The hyperconnected world in which we live has played a role in that; the advent and rapid rise of Facebook has played a role in that.
But most of what Cowan chose to focus on in her talk “People First: Building Ideas That Thrive in a Connected World” was about much smaller connections – and how marketers can capitalize on creating and supporting them.
Stage One: Pitch the Idea
With 1 billion stories being created across Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger daily, there’s no shortage of idea generation and sharing happening on these platforms. Anyone can have an idea, and increasingly anyone can share that idea with the world. So, Cowan posits, it’s worth asking: “what separates good ideas that work, from ones that are forgotten?”
The answer often lies in the communities that are established and growing on the platform. Users have the power to build community around things that matter most to them, Cowan said, and companies who seek to interact in these spaces must do so within the norms that the group has set. And as Facebook moves toward the development of a more private experience, brands and marketers who can play by these rules will succeed the best.
Stage Two: Play Content
This second part of the process, playing content, is all about creating content that elaborates upon the original idea. One of Cowan’s four factors shaping our evolving reality online is that of curation. Given how easy it is for users to customize their own experience online, the brands that can best fit their aims and benefits into their user’s aesthetic will win out. There’s enough information available to be able to do this thoughtfully, and we have the tools available to divine what they want and need and respond in kind.
It takes multiple touches to do this well, in what Cowan referred to as “multi-asset campaigns.” The metrics of success for this strategy are impressive: multi-asset campaigns drove better ad recall (by 1.2x), message association (by 1.3x), familiarity (by 1.8x) and affinity (1.9x). The last two measures are the ones that drive long–term connections, the stuff brand evangelists could eventually be made of. “The context of content is profound,” Cowan said, emphasizing the imperative “to build for discovery.”
Stage Three: Plunge Them Into Experiences
Once people have been engaged by your content, you have an opportunity to bring them into more immersive experiences. “People have never been better informed, or more empowered to choose, the products and services they buy.” Cowan illustrated this by sharing the statistic about “cord-cutters”: by 2021, the number of cord-cutters will rival those who never had a traditional package from which to disengage before. Offering an experience which feels personal “drives better breakthrough and deeper connection for brands.”
Going back to the power of building community, building Groups of your own and creating an experience out of being a fan of your brand can change the way customers feel about you – and how they connect with one another. One example? Peloton. The fitness brand has a vibrant community across a number of media, but has been helped immeasurably by its Facebook Group. Interactions there feel authentic and attuned to the needs of its members. And by designing these spaces to inspire, celebrate, empower, or entertain – rather than sell – brands have the opportunity to create experiences by using Groups “as a muse, to identify and astound users with their ideas.”
“A Safe Community is a Vibrant Community”
With all these aims and advice shared, Cowan did acknowledge how it might look for Facebook to espouse these values. “People deserve a trusted and safe environment to connect and share things that matter most to them,” she said near the close of her talk. And as she outlined the power that the platform has had to equalize the selling field for small businesses, and its ability to connect people around common interests and identities, she also acknowledged the responsibility it had to keep those businesses and people safe – and how efforts for greater data privacy, security around election integrity, and decreasing the spread of fake news could contribute to that sense of safety.
The talk opened with the note, “over the last fifteen years, we’ve learned a lot about people and what they want from our products and services.” And as she closed, Cowan admitted that fixes to these significant challenges are among those wants. There was a note of hope as she encouraged attendees to explore the coverage of F8 (happening at the same time as Social Media Week New York), for assurance that Facebook can and should be a part of that thriving and connected world for the next fifteen years.
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