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Former head of Facebook marketing speaks to Econ Club in Grand Rapids

December 6, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, a packed house attended a luncheon talk at the JW Marriot, by former Facebook advertising guru, Kevin Colleran.

Colleran was hired by Sean Parker and took over for Eduardo Saverin, people whom Colleran referred to sometimes by the actors name, which played these individuals in the Hollywood film The Social Network. In fact, Colleran referenced the film quiet often when speaking about his former employer. Colleran eventually spoke about the evolution of the company in the era of social media.

In 2006, Facebook launched what was called News-feed, which was overwhelmingly opposed by one million members on Facebook. Despite the opposition, Zuckerburg refused to give in to public pressure and kept the new look up, which Colleran says made Facebook even more “popular.”

The next major change was to make Facebook accessible in multiple languages. Colleran shows a video that presents this service as multi-cultural and inclusive, which in some sense it does. However, it ignores the overwhelming market-focused and culturally hegemonic approach to what they do. The beauty of the effort to “translate’ the site was that it was done by members of Facebook, where no one was paid for their labor.

Colleran then talked about the next step in the evolution of Facebook, which was the expansion of applications, such as Farmville. The former Facebook marketer said this created numerous jobs in the US for people who were creating applications, but did not mention how such games have become a huge time-suck for people.

The next point that Colleran presented was that Facebook created forums that created new directions for the company, such as Hackathon. When Hackathon was announced, thousands of people posted video as an application outgrowth from the Hackathon “project.” The guy who led the Hackathon project had actually hacked into Facebook, since it didn’t at the time allow the kind of applications that MySpace did. He was contacted by Facebook and was flown to California, where he was offered a job. The ultimate co-opting of dissident culture, when a hacker goes to work for a corporate behemoth like Facebook.

Colleran then said the next shift with social media was instead of people looking independently at and for content, people now tend to go to content that their “friends” like or recommend. Colleran said the TV/cable industry is working on is to make the TV menu operate like Facebook, where instead of searching the menu it will direct you to shows/channels that your “friends” are watching.

The speaker when on to argue for the social benefits of Facebook, such as how people are creating organ donors on Facebook. He also mentions how Facebook was the mechanism that got Betty White on Saturday Night Live.  Colleran showed the SNL clip with Betty White who actually says, “Facebook is a big waste of time.”

Colleran then talked about the use of Facebook in the Arab Spring and showed a video of Egyptians protesting the Mubarak regime. One Egyptian on CNN discussed how social media was one of the mechanisms that allowed people to communicate in the resistance campaign. It is now widely known that social media played a significant role in the Arab Spring uprisings, but what usually omitted from such comments is that it was only effective because people have been organizing for years for revolution and it was their organizing at the grassroots that made the difference.

Facebook and the Profit Motive

The promotional material for Colleran’s talk was centered around the idea of how Facebook and other social media can be used brand your business. Colleran only spent about 10 minutes on this theme.

Colleran said that marketing has always been a mix of three kinds of branding – paid, owned and earned. Getting corporations to create fan pages and have people “like” them on Facebook has been huge. Colleran cites Starbucks and Coca Cola as good examples of how the corporate fan page has been successful. “Liking” a fan page gets people to go to sites that some of their friends are “liking.” People utilize this application because they are being marketed to with very sophisticated PR campaigns.

Another way to market your products/brands on Facebook is to publish in the News Feed. Colleran referred to this as the “conversational calendar,” where people post in the News Feed as an additional mechanism to direct people to individual fan pages and engaging consumers on a regular basis to “build relationships” with them. One example was what Coca Cola did every Tuesday, which was tattoo Tuesday. This was a way to communicate with coke consumers that helped to develop brand loyalty, according to Colleran.

The former Facebook marketer speaks from experience on these matters. While at Facebook, Colleran helped guide major corporations—including such Fortune 100 companies as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, and Coca-Cola—through the process of becoming present and engaged in the online space. In fact, Colleran was one of the main forces behind monetizing the site, which is the primary function of Facebook……to make tons of money.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 7:12 pm

    That hits the target dead center! Great aenwsr!

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