Rex Briggs talks to Brad Smallwood of Facebook.

RB: Tell us about your experience before you joined Facebook.
BS: I was responsible for the pricing and display marketplace team at Yahoo! Prior to that I was running market research companies – I’ve always been an analytics guy: my dad started and ran a market research company for 30 years or so.

What kind of research is useful in measuring how value is created on Facebook?
There are three key components of understanding the value that a message creates, and different renderings to do that. There’s who are you hitting, how accurate you are at hitting that person, reach consistency, those kinds of measures. That’s similar to the focus for TV – understanding the audience that marketing actually delivers to.

The second thing is how is the message resonating for users. Do they recall the advert after a certain period of time, is it making them aware of product attributes, changing their intent to purchase or their likelihood to recommend?

The third component is around ROI. People don’t always recognise the influence that ads have upon them, so they can’t always state what changed. But the last component is understanding, for people who are exposed to ads versus people who are not exposed to ads, how is it moving product off the shelves. We have to build measurement techniques around all three aspects.

Are there areas you’d like the research industry to rethink in what they’re doing?
The focus tends to be on the media platform, but we should be looking at the consumer – the medium is just a mechanism for delivering a message to that consumer. The individual media are doing a pretty good job on measuring TV but this is separately from online, mobile, newspapers, outdoor etc, and increasingly we need to look at cross-media measures. You want all of those pieced together, because the consumer – across all the media they’re consuming – is ultimately the person you care about.

A recent study showed that marketers are leaning towards thinking about brand awareness and accumulating fans but is it more how social media influences attitudes that impact behaviour?  When you connect social to purchase, what are you finding from your research?
It’s not always easy, but when we’ve done that attribution, ROI studies are proving that when you look in the controlled experiments and look for models, groups, or you use medium-mixed modelling or do Homescan, comparing people exposed to ads versus those not exposed to ads, you can see incremental actual purchase behaviour in store change – not just as a result of the fans, but the actual message is changing their behaviour. Fans represent a portion of that, but the largest portion of the total value is coming from non-fans, the unconverted components of your user base. There’s a lot more opportunity there than someone who’s already buying your product regularly.

Should we be counseling marketers to think that fans are a part of that amplification, but it’s really about getting the message to the non-fans?
Absolutely. There’s many reasons why you want to connect with your fans, your most valuable consumers. One is as a CRM platform, talking to them on a regular basis. But the reason why you’re staying engaged with them, is not only to drive incremental sales but also retention. So, connect to these fans, stay engaged with them and keep talking to them. But that shouldn’t be your only goal.

So now I’ve got a bunch of fans. What do I want to do? Well, they have a massive opportunity to influence the people around them. There are many studies that show that word of mouth works and how much people are using information from friends to make product decisions. That’s the real value of a fan, not just the CRM aspect.

Is the idea of the momentum effect difficult for marketers to embrace?
I think change is a barrier in and of itself. If you’ve been comfortable doing one thing, it is a difficult process to make a change and deal with the unknown. Marketing has a tendency to change its behaviour relatively slowly, but when it does so, it completely embraces that change.

I think we’re on the cusp of that. As we turn out more ROI studies, advertisers are more comfortable that that shifted dollar is a good investment. We run the studies and show them the value that’s getting created, and then they test, they move a little bit, and eventually they feel comfortable that this is where they need to be spending a fairly large portion of their media buy.

Some brands are moving faster. If you look at the P&G ‘Thank you, Mom’ campaign – that is, at its core, a social campaign that is executed on Facebook marketing, but they’re actually making their TV campaign social as well. It’s a great example of really leveraging a social strategy, and knowing that’s how people want to be connected to the brand – through personal relationships.

It’s a matter of a brand finding its voice. Years ago, I remember having a conversation about whether anyone would want to see a social ad for a CPG like diapers. Well, it’s not the diaper, it’s actually what’s in the diaper – it’s the baby, one of the most social things that exists. Every product that people use is social, but the creative challenge is figuring out what is social about that brand that says it in a way that is true to the brand’s voice.

What are the things that tell you you’re doing the right things?
The most important measure is reach and the accuracy of that reach: how good am I at reaching the people I want to reach and controlling frequency to hit the same person on a regular basis but not a hundred times? You want to build basic awareness and then constantly remind people who you are. So accurate targeting, reach and frequency is important, and redirecting messages to stay in front of the people who are important. Reach across your key target is key, and our page insight product tells you how you’re doing on both your earned media and paid media.

Resonance is how good am I at changing the awareness of my product and understanding the stories you create around those products. If you’re not an online or e-commerce or online-executing company, you need to see how you tie into the conversion tracking kinds of measures, so you’re going to have to rely on case studies and also understand whether, for instance, it is leading to more people coming into the store.

We have a best practice document that describes how to construct your creative and get the message across. Like traditional marketing, you want a message that’s easy for people to take away, the right tone in the message that’s consistent with the brand, all those types of things. We measure it using traditional measures like Nielsen Brand Effect, comScore, those kinds of tools to measure attitudinal changes.

Are there pros and cons when it comes to sentiment measurement?
Stated sentiment tends to happen relatively rarely and in a biased way. For example, a story comes out about a particular politician in the news, and I see a massive change in sentiment. Now, if they happen to be advertising online, I may attribute that change to the ad, but stated sentiment tends to be driven by behaviour other than just ads. In general, we see sentiment as more of a type of brand-tracking measure than trying to attribute it directly to ads.

Most people look at the number of stories that are created and sentiment is a good measure. If you see the buzz about your brand changing significantly there’s something happening with your brand. But what was the change that led to that and can you attribute it to one particular thing. How do you incorporate it into media-mix models? Its not just the number of stories told, what matters is their reach and frequency and resonance and if they impact people’s behaviour.

As consumers become more knowledgeable about the commercial value of their data, do you foresee privacy issues growing?
Privacy is obviously a sticky issue for consumers. We’re trying to be very up-front about the way that privacy works on Facebook and get users increasingly to really understand privacy. I know from my kids, who use Facebook – they know the privacy settings very well, and I think that we’ll see more and more that people are going to embrace the understanding and the use of privacy. This is not about Facebook, this is overall – privacy is something they’re going to understand and take more control of themselves.

Do you believe social media usage will continue to grow?
One way to think about growth is the number of people that engage with a social media site – that’s growing. The amount of time people spend on Facebook continues to grow as well. But what’s more important is how people are finding information.

People are using social for more things in their daily lives. When people look for information, they can use Facebook and social media to help inform more of the decisions that they’re making. It’s really about how people find information, discover new products and what their friends are doing – that’s what’s going to drive the growth.

What do you need from the research industry to be a better partner with this emerging social world?
The key piece is to focus on understanding the total consumer experience, as opposed to justifying an individual media channel one at a time – improving cross-media-channel understanding. I think the measurement industry has a responsibility there to really step up its game.

With the massive increase of mobile to do a variety of different things, this is going to become an increasingly hard problem. Market research on the mobile platform is so much harder to execute than it is online that it actually makes offline look easy. So we’re actually going to have to figure this out.

Research companies should focus on understanding the way in which people are trying to discover and find information is evolving and what that means to people’s daily lives, and then how to use that for marketers or product design. How do people find the vehicle they want to find information, and from a research perspective, accurately describe that change in the user’s behaviour? And then being able to package that up, to say, ‘given that this is how people find it, this is how you should build up your marketing,’ or ‘Here’s how you should be doing your product design, because people are going to find things in very different ways and you should be launching things in different ways too.’

I think often they’re doing research looking at the way things are now, not the way things are evolving. And that’s going to be increasingly difficult, because the world is evolving faster. Research companies are going to have to get ahead, instead of measuring the way people are doing stuff today.

Rex Briggs is CEO of Marketing Evolution and Brad Smallwood is head of measurement and insights at Facebook.