Joanna Shields, Facebook’s Vice President and Managing Director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has played an important role in Europe’s Internet scene for over a decade.After moving to the UK in 2000 to run Real Networks International, she served as Google’s Managing Director of Syndication and Partnerships for EMEA. She left Google to become Chief Executive at European social networking site, Bebo, and spearheaded its successful acquisition by AOL-Time Warner for $850 million in March 2008. Shields agreed to share some of her insights about social and mobile with Informilo Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Schenker.
Q: How does Facebook see its mobile strategy evolving?
A: Over 350 million people use Facebook on mobile, from native iOS and Android apps to our mobile interface (m.facebook.com) and our Java application. We are expanding our platform to support richer mobile experiences so that the viral discovery and distribution we see on the web can be replicated on native and mobile web applications.
Q: Facebook has just launched a new mobile app to bring the service to more basic phones, giving easy access to users in emerging markets who don’t have computers, tablets or advanced phones. Is this part of a larger or a new strategy for mobile devices?
A: In the developing world in particular, many countries have skipped fixed line Internet altogether and gone straight to mobile. We believe that they should be able to access the same rich social experiences as users in the developed world. We want to ensure that Facebook is not just available to those using expensive high-end devices, hence our focus on improving the experience on lower-end specified feature phones.
Q: We are beginning to see the growth of social shopping, with companies like eBay announcing plans for Facebook integration. How do you see this evolving?
A: Making shopping social is a natural next step for retail. We’re now seeing companies building Facebook into their business models. Everyone from large physical retailers like Walmart to online companies such as Etsy and eBay are focusing on the social experience, and that is enabling them to respond directly to the needs and wants of their customers. Facebook can do so much for retailers, from building brand identity, to customer engagement, to driving demand through social discovery of their products.
The role of mobile will be particularly interesting as people take that powerful online tool with them into real-world retail outlets.
Q: Big brands have been racing to get as many “likes” and “fans” as possible on Facebook. How does this impact sales?
A: Some brands have more fans on Facebook than all their other web presences combined. But what matters is not just how many “likes” you have but what you do with these relationships. Engagement with a brand doesn’t begin or end with a purchase. It is an ongoing relationship, and one that is inherently social. The most popular luxury brand on Facebook today is Burberry, with over 10 million fans. Three years ago they had less than 300,000. They are using that connection to rebuild their business around the customer. It started with how they market their products, and now it is impacting how they sell their products. In the future it will determine which products they make to begin with, and how they introduce those to the market. It will also affect how they recruit talent to join the company. Burberry is one of the thought leaders in its market, but what they’ve discovered is applicable and can be done by any company, large or small.
Q: How can start-ups leverage Facebook to expand their businesses?
A: Facebook has enabled European startups to expand their reach and establish a global footprint, often in a matter of weeks.Nordeus, a game developer from Belgrade, has over a million paying customers from 140 different countries. Five years ago they would have had to raise millions of euros and strike expensive distribution agreements with retailers to get that kind of access. Yet they were able to scale their business from zero to one million customers in less than two years, with three employees and no external investment.Diamond Dash, a game released by our partner Wooga, is benefitting from widespread social discovery on Facebook and also on Facebook mobile. One of the best ways to help those startups is to give them a means of generating revenue. Facebook Credits simplifies the process of payment for both users and developers.