It’s Up to Us to Make Facebook Better

After all of the negative media coverage of Facebook as of late – privacy, IPO, mobile development, etc. – I didn’t know what to expect at the Cannes Lions Facebook session. I know that others might not agree, but I appreciated hearing a nervous (but brilliantly recovered) Paul Adams, Facebook’s Global Head of Brand Design, talking about why people talk, what they talk about and with whom they are talking.

Paul started his presentation with a history of technological development, showing how we got every big development wrong at first by focusing our energies in applying existing media to new media. (Check out the first-ever TV commercial, for Bulova, which was basically a radio script read over a print ad.) The same thing is happening now with Facebook, which is currently treated as a media combination that mixes elements from TV, print and billboards – All. Done. Wrong.

Then how do we make sure we’re doing it right? Paul shared four principles with us:

1. Make social interaction a fundamental part of the creative brief. Engagement can’t be an add-on – it has to be fully embedded from the beginning to the end.

2. Base your creative ideas on real insights about social interaction. Technology can give us insights not only about what people share, but why they share and how the things they share influence their perceptions, attitudes and behavior. And the technology is changing must faster than our patterns of social interaction, giving us enduring insight at a rapid pace. For instance, Paul says the idea of the online influencer is just a myth – most interaction and sharing happens between small groups of friends, in order to build our personal identities, build relationships and help people out within our circles.

3. Think of Facebook as a new type of creative canvas. Paul urged us to play with Facebook’s technical features by creating engaging games (like Fanta), using great photos to tell the brand’s story (like Burberry), thinking mobile – yes, they are making some steps – and taking inspiration from AT&T’s  “Ring your Dad” ad. Paul says, “borrow” Facebook’s platform and build something from it, like Pinterest did.   

4. Start by designing the news feed stories FIRST! Oh, man! I was so happy hearing him say this. Facebook is all about storytelling – therefore, we have to design the story first and the page (cover photo, profile photo, etc.) afterward in order to see if a separate application is really needed.

It all sounds simple to me, but refreshing. But, as Paul also concluded: This is not going to happen without us – the marketers and companies with the vision to make Facebook come into its own as a medium. Are we up for the challenge?