Facebook’s Philosophy for Building Advertising Solutions

by Matthew Idema

Whenever Facebook launches a new feature or service, I’m often asked when an advertising opportunity will be available for it. As the ad product marketing lead at Facebook, I expect this question and am happy to answer it. But it has a longer answer than I think most people expect.

Mark got this question during our latest earnings call in January and, in response, shared our philosophy for building advertising solutions: “First, you build a great consumer experience…that helps people share in a new way that’s really important. Then, after that, you can start to introduce organic ways that people can interact with businesses…Only once you have that ramped up to a good scale can you really start dialing up advertising, having that feel good and be a good part of the experience.”

Mark’s points are even more important today as platforms like Messenger and Oculus, and products like 360 Video and Live video gain traction. So, as our advertising partners wonder when new opportunities will be available on our platforms, it’s worth sharing more on our philosophy for building ad products.

Facebook 360. (2)

Facebook 360 Video

In short, our focus is on value. Value for people and value for businesses. And we’ve learned that when we create value for people, we create value for businesses. Our ads team’s mission is to create meaningful connections between people and businesses, and we try to do that by making people’s interactions with businesses additive to their experience on the platform.

So, in a few steps, this is how we develop advertising solutions:

  1. Build great experiences for people
  2. Study people’s behaviors on the platform
  3. Help businesses connect with people organically
  4. Introduce a new advertising solution

Steps 4 through 98? Those are pivots, backtracks, failures and sometimes big leaps forward. They are focus groups with people and conversations with advertisers. They are A/B tests, polls and studies to determine if the product is delivering real business value for different advertisers with different goals in different verticals in every corner of the world.

Only after we’ve proven to ourselves and our partners that the new ad product improves people’s experiences, rather than hinders them, do we introduce that product.

And then there’s figuring out how to offer the right ads to the right people at the right time. When ads are highly relevant they’re not only more effective for businesses but they’re also more valuable to the people who see them. So we don’t just invest in building ad solutions that are both suitable to the platform and the way people use it. We invest in building the technology that powers ad relevance too.

This philosophy guides us through every platform and product we build. We launched News Feed in 2006 but didn’t introduce ads in News Feed until 2012. We launched ads on Instagram slowly and methodically, taking the time to gauge people’s responses and the effect for advertisers. We made auto-play video available to advertisers only after product usage and survey responses told us that people enjoyed the auto-play experience. Overall, we choose sustainability over immediacy, and both the people who use our services and the marketers who advertise in them have better experiences because of that choice. And we’re never really “done” with a product, because we’re always working to make them better for people and for advertisers.

This isn’t the fastest way to build products, nor is it the best way to maximize revenue in the short term. But with over 1.59 billion people using Facebook every month, we think it’s worth the investment.

Matthew Idema is the Vice President of Monetization Product Marketing at Facebook. He was former VP, Local at Yahoo and VP, Business & Corporate Development at Yoodle, Inc.

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