Clutching a Starbucks coffee, Carolyn Everson looks remarkably intact for someone who has just stepped off a delayed red-eye from New York.
Sporting a designer denim jacket and bleached blonde hair, Facebook's 40 year-old global vice-president of marketing solutions is on a fleeting 24-hour visit of the UK, but has made time to talk to Marketing about the opportunities the site now offers intrepid brands - and those responsible for driving them.
"The thing about Facebook and the reason why it’s a board level conversation, and the chief marketing officer is in such a fantastic position to shine here, is because at first we think of Facebook as a new marketing platform," she says.
As the world’s largest social network, with more than 900 million users, the ability for marketers to harness the scale and interactivity of the site represents, Everson believes, nothing short of an industry revolution.
"It’s changing fundamentally the way consumers are discovering content, and therefore the marketer can utilise that in really interesting ways," she says. "What’s even more interesting is that the CMO can then advocate how to use Facebook as a business transformation platform. [It then becomes] how do we fundamentally change the way we are doing business?"
Relaxed and engaging, the one-time ad sales specialist exudes conviction. Facebook is credited with being able to "put CMOs at a board level conversation in a very different way then they otherwise might have been".
Drawing on her time spent working in print, TV and digital at Primedia, MTV Networks and Microsoft, she adds: "When I look at my career, I’ve been in the marketing industry for 18+ years, I did not have [these] board level conversations [with brands] at other media companies, I just didn’t."
On a mission to engage
Everson joined Facebook a year ago with the remit to improve and build relationships with its marketing partners, meaning both advertisers and agencies, and to help drive the commercialisation of the business. One of her first moves was to create the Facebook Client Council (see below).
In her global bird's-eye view, and through working closely with regional leaders like EMEA’s Joanna Shields, Everson has noticed "a substantive shift starting mid-last year", with marketers switching from asking why they should advertise on the site, to focusing on how they can get the best out it.
She says: "They really want to understand how to build a brand on Facebook. We have some excellent case studies now in the market where brands are really starting to learn how to use Facebook."
It’s no coincide that last month Facebook hosted fMC, its first conference just for marketers. A series of new developments have been centred around enabling brands to better engage with their customers through developing their social graph.
In the UK, Everson highlights Burberry and O2 as two leading lights. The Facebook marketer attributes the site’s ability to develop one-to-one relationships with repositioning Burberry from a relatively closed brand, mostly associated with high-end fashion magazines, to becoming the fourth-fastest growing brand in the world today.
"They’ve basically changed their whole model now to being an accessible brand, but still a prestige one… accessible to well over 10 million people," she says. "They’ve built an extraordinary fan-base. They publish excellent content; if you look at their Timeline page it’s visually engaging."
Burberry is said to have understood the benefits in giving people reasons to be fans. From photos of new products to videos from the fashion runways. Among the innovative things the brand did was to launch a fragrance last year to their Facebook fans first.
More than half a million people took part in the sampling activity, and when Burberry’s new fragrance went out, sales are reported to have gone through the roof - up 96% in that category. Everson attributes Burberry’s success to board level involvement, led by chief executive Angela Ahrendts.
"When we see that level of interest and passion from the CEO, the CMO and chief creative officer, you really have a great recipe for how to really take advantage of Facebook as a brand building platform," says Everson. "They have also directly tied it into sales, which is a bit of the Holy Grail."
Amplifying core brand messages
O2 meanwhile, is credited with using Facebook to boost customer acquisition by taking advantage of its premium product, as well as the Reach Generator packaged advertising solution, launched at fMC. It enables advertisers to pay Facebook on an ongoing basis, as opposed to a CPC or CPM basis, by sponsoring one page post every day.
Reach Generator guarantees a 75% reach of the page’s fanbase during a month, and campaigns by test partner Ben & Jerry’s reached 98% of their total fans, a substantial lift over the 16% reached without any paid activity.
This ability for brands to boost or, as Everson puts it, "amplify", how many people view their messages beyond organic search is a key cornerstone to Facebook’s business model going forward.
O2 has also moved the discussion on from merely counting the number of fans to accessing how engaged they are.
"They’re seeing significant increases in what we call Ptat, people talking about this," explains Everson, a new site metric. "That’s a really important measure. You can have a million fans, but it can’t just be about fan acquisition."
For Facebook’s global marketer, such early success stories represent only the tip of Facebook’s potential. "As we all learn more, the more progressive brands are realising gosh these fans are actually quite valuable," she says.
"They shop more and spend more on average when they visit the retail environment, they are better brand advocates than non fans, which makes sense, these are your best customers."
She adds: "Intuitively, as a marketer, if you have an opportunity to have a one-to-one relationship with your best customers, it’s hard for anybody to say no."
And it’s these personal instincts within marketers that Everson, a Harvard Business School graduate and juggling mother of two, is really trying to tap into. Her charm offensive at Facebook’s embryonic commercial stage is really focused on the people behind the brands.
"They would be rewarded for being bold," she assures. "We have seen marketers around the world whose careers have been accelerated at an incredible rate because they have been willing to think differently and to question the status quo.
"This is a very unique opportunity that I don’t think marketers have had over the last several decades, and we will be right there holding their hand every step of the way to make sure they are successful.
"If they make a bet on us, we will absolutely make a bet on them. To be tactical about it, we have limited resources, and everyday we have make limited bets on people.
"I am looking for the most innovative marketers around the world and those are the people we want to work with, because if they do it others will follow, it just makes sense."
The $1bn acquisition of Instagram: We are very excited about the acquisition. We think it’s a very important strategic move for us. Photos are incredibly important to Facebook, with 250 million uploaded every day.
The Facebook Client Council: On the Client Council that I started a year ago there are eight CMOs and six agency CEOs. I mix them up. I wanted all the perspectives at the table. I think it’s probably the most important piece of my role, to make sure that people understand how to build a brand on Facebook
Mobile: We reported 425 million users on mobile in the public filing, so it is absolutely an essential part of our experience. From a monetisation standpoint, really understanding how to make the marketing message relevant in the mobile environment is something we spent a lot of time thinking about, and that’s why the decision was made to put it in the news feed.
Sponsored stories: The adoption continues to increase week over week globally, and I think you’re going to see more and more marketers take advantage of that opportunity now that they are understanding it. We also have distribution in the news feed and they can boost it with Reach Generator, if it’s appropriate to where they are in their business.
Follow Arif Durrani on Twitter: @DurraniMix
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