What Can Facebook Teach Product Managers About Reaching Customers?

by drjim on June 22, 2015

Product Managers need to be smart about how they reach customers

Product Managers need to be smart about how they reach customers
Image Credit: David Fulmer

I’m pretty sure that by now just about everyone out there has heard about Facebook. Facebook is the largest social networking platform going these days. What a lot of us may not know about is the fact Facebook employs a lot of product managers whose job it is to help customers advertise on Facebook. This job is a little bit different from the typical product manager job, but perhaps we can all learn something from them…

What Makes Facebook Advertising So Popular?

Let’s be frank here – Facebook is very, very popular. Facebook is the world’s largest social network – they currently have 1.3 billion users. In the U.S., 1 out of ever 6 minutes spent online was spent on Facebook. 1 out of every 5 minutes of mobile usage was spent on Facebook. Clearly the Facebook product managers have got their product development definition right and have a real winner on their hands.

However, Facebook is now attempting to make their product more appealing to advertisers. Facebook first started selling ads on its site 10 years ago. Facebook is competing with Google who delivers ads that match what people are currently looking for and TV which can reach a mass audience. Facebook product managers claim that they can both reach exactly the right audience and then measure what they do once they’ve gotten the message.

No, Facebook is not going to be replacing TV advertising. However, it is starting to look like there might be a role for it to help advertisers to achieve their goals. Not only is Facebook really, really big, but they also have the ability to achieve a very personal engagement with the people that the advertisers are trying to sell to.

How Are Facebook Ads Created?

The Facebook product managers understand that their advertiser’s customers, Facebook users, are being overwhelmed with ads already. In order for a Facebook ad to be effective, it’s going to have to be able to capture the attention of the end user when they see it. If the product managers can figure out how to do this correctly, then they’ll something else to add to their product manager resume.

This kind of product creation process is very hard to do. The Facebook product managers realize it and so they bring together a lot of people in what they call “publishing garages”. These are multi-day meetings in which ideas are kicked around and the goals for an advertising campaign are hashed out. The final outcome of one of these meetings will be the ads that will be run on Facebook.

In order to successfully create a product that will achieve the client’s results, the Facebook product managers create model customers in order to understand what they are looking for. Using Facebook’s immense collection of user data, they can then display the ads only for people who have shown an interest in products or topics that are similar to what is being sold. The final step is to agree with the customer on exactly what subset of Facebook’s users the new ad(s) should be matched with.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

The product managers at Facebook have a real challenge on their hands. They are part of a very popular company; however, they now need to convince advertisers that spending money to advertise on Facebook is worth their time. I’m willing to bet that this was never a part of their product manager job description. As with all such new things, this can be a real challenge.

The one thing that Facebook can offer to advertisers that really seems to capture their attention is the ability to target their ads. TV is a great way to reach the masses, but Facebook allows advertisers to become a lot more selective. Facebook creates ads by having their product managers assemble “publishing garages” where all of the customer’s and Facebook’s players can come together to plan out how to create just the right advertisement.

As product managers we can learn from what the Facebook product managers are trying to accomplish. When we are faced with customers who are interested in our product, but who may be doubtful that it can solve their problem, we should take the time to relate it to what they do know.

Facebook does this by comparing themselves to television. When it comes time to determine how our customers can use our product, we need to take the time to meet with all of the right players. Only by designing a solution that works for them will we be able to make sure that they’ll have the best product experience. Perhaps if we can do all of this, we’ll be as successful as Facebook is!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should limit the number of people who come together to plan out how to deploy your prouduct at the customer?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Product manager just imagine that you find yourself in the following position: your company creates a great product development definition that it uses to make a new product that a large group of people want, in fact they might even need. Then you have the issue of what price you should sell your product at. Generally speaking, you’d want to set your price as high as possible, right? Is there any way that this could cause a problem? Is this going to be the kind of thing that you can put on your product manager resume?

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