News & Views

Cannes Lions / Debrief / Facebook: The psychology and creativity of sharing

by Contagious Team

Paul Adams, global head of brand design at Facebook, talks about the death of the term 'social' and why we're all going to have to get to grips with network theory

Social web, social media, social business, social search: today's marketing landscape is all about the social. But Paul Adams, Facebook's global head of brand design, argues that within a few years, the social prefix will disappear. That's because social shouldn't be bolted on to them; it's there anyway. 

During his presentation in the Debussy Theatre on Tuesday 19 June, Adams outlined what he described as an 'amazing creative opportunity': the biggest transformational shift for society since the industrial revolution, that has been brought about by the creation of the web. 

But for that opportunity to be grasped, people need to understand 'social' (and Facebook) on its own terms, rather than simply the evolution of other media. Speaking of the challenge that Facebook faces, he said: 'A lot of people think of TV, print and billboards and try to apply that to Facebook.' This isn't a problem unique to Facebook though - throughout history new communication technologies have experienced similar bedding in problems; for example, the telephone was initially presented to the world by Alexander Graham Bell as a tool best used for broadcasting religious sermons to large numbers of people. 

With the internet, the first version was built around content; but was has emerged now is one that is built around people, their interests and their friends. By way of example he showed Etsy, the popular online handicrafts store, and its 'gift idea box'. By logging in to the site through Facebook, the site generates personalised gift ideas for friends. 'So building stuff around people rather than content offers a better experience,' said Adams. 

Networks and Identity 

Understanding the theory of 'social' and 'networks' is to some extent going to become a part of every marketer's job according to Adams. As we create more and more data - through reviews, updates, and other expressions of our behaviour (such as what we're listening to, what we're purchasing and so on) - aggregating updates, reviews, purchases is an interesting opportunity for brands. 'We're hardwired to turn to our friends for advice and information - not technology,' said Adams. 'So aggregating that information is an interesting opportunity.' 

That kind of data, as well as the groups we identify with and are a part of, is what makes up our identity, explained Adams. Humans tend to associate with groups of individuals that are similar to them, a behaviour known as homophily. So, rather than targeting content to influencers, brands should simply target the right content to the right groups, and from there it will spread. In fact, Adams went as far as to say: 'Our research indicates that this theory of "influence and influencers", is false.' 

He then ended with four key principles for marketers, in grasping the creative opportunity that lies ahead of them. 

i) Make social interaction a fundamental part of the creative brief

Don't add social on at the end of a campaign. Ensure it's baked in from the very start 

ii) Base creative ideas on real insight about social interaction 

That people want tools to help them build their identity amongst others, to control how people might perceive them 

iii) Think of Facebook as a new type of creative medium 

That means avoiding simply repurposing print or TV to fit on the network

iv) Design the newsfeed story first, then worry about the tools you need to deliver it  

To illustrate the point he showed P&G's 'Thank you Mum' Facebook page featuring content that invites emotional engagement and motivates people to share to help build their identity.