You joined Facebook India in 2010 as its first employee. What made you take up this post and shift base from US to here?
There are three things that attracted me to this company. Firstly, its mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected — it’s inspiring, big and bold, and it’s a key part of what drives me and every Facebooker to come and give our best every single day. Secondly, India, where it’s all happening. To set up Facebook in India and build the business and organisation here is a big deal. Three, the people I met. Every single person I met through the interview process, who told me about Facebook, is the best at what they do, and they want to be around inspiring people. I look at each one and can’t believe I have the opportunity to work with them. I actually have a Facebook album that says ‘Each week is the best week yet’ and I truly believe that.
What have been the most important learning experiences since you joined Facebook?
If I look at the last three and a half years, we went from this phase of people saying ‘Really, Facebook has ads? Where are they?’ to a place now where honestly the key message that I want to give you is that Facebook is not just social media, it’s actually mass media.
Look at the number of people who connect and engage on our site, and draw the comparison with the numbers for the leading English daily. Millions of people are on Facebook every day. This is the base of change and the tremendous transformation we have undergone as a marketing and advertising community.
The other phenomenon, which has been constant, is the sense of it has only just begun. Also, we stress on the importance of building the right culture. We spend a lot of time on Facebook, thinking about our five values: focus on impact, move fast, be bold, be open and build social value. We actively spend time building teams and organisations that are consistent with the global culture.
Facebook can be called a model for collecting ‘Big Data’. What are your thoughts on Big Data and how can it be beneficial to advertisers?
The way I think about it is ‘innovation from information’. I can give you two examples. If you used Facebook way back in 2003, the profile page was very static, like a resume. Even the pictures were meant to be occasional uploads like birthdays. Then we saw how users were changing their photos several times a day…we realised people wanted to use this platform to share their photographs, and it’s an important part of how they want to express themselves. We saw that interaction at scale, and that was our big impetus to launch our photo-enabled product. Another example is a wonderful Indian organisation called SocialBlood.org, which, with the help of Facebook, forms groups for people with different blood types. There are many case studies of how you use such data of a large population to drive your business objectives.
What extra efforts are you taking to connect better with advertisers and agencies?
We spend a lot of time meeting with the largest advertisers and agencies in the country. The biggest and the most common question they have is how can we help them make the most of this medium? For agencies, we have a lot of online tools, like the StudioEdge certification programme, where they can get to know how they can make the best use of this the platform. Apart from that, we also do CMO dinners and build case studies.
What are your thoughts on brands’ buying likes? Where should they draw the line?
For sure, we hear a lot of conversation about fans, and all we have to say is, think about the reach instead. Often brands come to us and ask, ‘My competitors have one million fans. How can I get to one million and one?’ Then the question we ask them is ‘What is your business objective?’ Then we are able to direct them to right use of Facebook as a platform.
What’s the most ridiculous question that you’ve been asked about Facebook’s capabilities?
We do have people who ask us, if we can change the colour of the page to their brand colour on a particular day, or change the comment or share button to say something related to their brand message. So we explain that our users are particular about how we interact with them, and honestly, it is not in the brand’s best interest to do something like this, because we get negative reactions from our users. At the end of the day, those are the people you want to reach and you don’t want to alienate them.
Catch the rest of this interview in the latest issue of IMPACT ‘With Facebook, it’s prime time, all the time’