Just when it seemed that Twitter had appropriated instant updates on public and TV content discussions, Facebook stepped up efforts to drive real-time engagement and beef up its public content. Justin Osofsky, vice-president of media partnerships and global operations, explains to Sayantani Kar why exclusive content from partners, a result of such efforts, will ensure people do not leave its platforms, an intention that has made Facebook acquire companies such as Instagram and Whatsapp as well, according to experts. Edited excerpts:
What are media partnerships?
Our media partnership strategy is around bringing great content and creating ways for people to engage with it. It also lets us learn from our partners.
In India, specifically, we are focused on a number of areas. First, we are focused on sports, ranging from cricket, tennis to badminton. The second area is that with actors and actresses, across regional cinema. The third area would be politics, and we are doing a lot of work around the elections.
These don't involve any commercial agreements.
How do celebrities become your partners?
Our goal in working with celebrities and other partners is for them to connect authentically with fans. So, David Beckham used it to sign digital copies of his book for fans from New York to Hyderabad, while Beyonce did an exclusive behind-the-scenes when launching her album on Facebook. In India, we have had Q&As with Saina Nehwal on her page, so also with Rahul Dravid. In India, people are interested in sports, more than other countries.
You also aim for exclusive content from the partners?
Yes. Among others, we have worked with Shemaroo and their digital agency (EveryMedia) to release the trailer of the movie Dedh Ishqiya exclusively on Facebook for a day and had five major live chats including one with Hrithik Roshan to launch Krrish 3.
Why do you need such exclusive content? How do you gain from such partnerships?
Driving engagement on Facebook is good for our business over time. Partnerships are very important to Facebook because at the end, we are trying to make Facebook the place where people have great conversations about the world around them. Exclusive content helps drive engagement.
Why did you strike a partnership with Star (broadcaster) in media partnerships?
There are all sorts of topics for people to engage in. So, we work with partners who are relevant to those specific topics. Even for sports, whether cricket, badminton or tennis, we want to work with TV partners that are showing these great experiences. If you take the kind of regional cinema, we want to work with celebrities from Tollywood, for example.
How do partners benefit?
Different partners benefit differently. Publishers, for example, are interested in driving traffic to their websites and mobile apps. Referral traffic from Facebook is up a 180 per cent year on year for such media partners.
TV broadcasters tend to be interested in a few things. One is to grow their audience on Facebook, because a larger audience drives more tune-ins and ratings which they can monetise. But they also look to create engaging experience with viewers for the second screen. We are creating a 360-degree loop for TV producers to take conversations about their shows on Facebook and integrate it on air.
What analytics come in handy?
The public feed APIs and the keyword APIs (as being shared with Star India) give a complete picture of the conversation on Facebook, enabling partners to create experiences. The former shows the public commentary on what is going on and the latter dives deeper to break down that info by demographics like gender, location or age. These can help them make content more relevant.
The other aspect of measurement is we give really robust insights tools to pages to understand who is most active in interacting with your page, who follows content, how they engage with your content, and from that get insights - what content would be most relevant to your audience. A Trendrr study, last May, found that the conversation about TV on Facebook was five times larger than other social networks combined, for example.
Have your Indian partners seen definite results, especially media partners like Star?
We are in the early days of measurement and understanding of the relationship between conversations on Facebook and tuning in on TV.
But events like the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) and Global Indian Music Awards are indicative of the ways the platform can be leveraged to grow a fanbase. We had six broadcast integrations where users were directed to the award shows page to engage with exclusive content. It grew from 100,000 followers to 350,000 followers. While for CCL, we had 30 broadcaster integrations and it has used our polling products to feel the audience's pulse.
For the US, UK and Australia, we have tied up with SecondSync to provide findings on TV-related chatter that showed 80 per cent of it generated from mobile devices.
You had previously worked on monetising games and building social plug-ins. Any lessons drawn from those stints?
I have had a number of different roles. What ties them together is the need for three things to happen. First, deliver a great experience. So, for public content, when a user shows up on Facebook, she should see something interesting. Second, whether the partners get value from investing in Facebook, as they then invest more. Third, whether Facebook gets value out of a move. That is the ecosystem that works for us. So, King Digital has built a business on top of its Candy Crush game, and we are sharing the value-creation through sustainable payments system.
Apart from exclusive content, how else do partners invest?
Partners are investing in building teams that really understand how to engage with a Facebook audience. For example, our work with American Idol in the US, that had an on-air integration of which contestant to vote for, saw a lot of people on their team working with us to ideate.
What have you done to make Facebook more real-time with updates of more than that of personal friends?
In the past year, we have launched hashtags to organise conversations. Trending topics give a real-time but relevant view, ie. things you care most about. We are addressing the need for immediacy through our 'trending topics' that show a real-time view of what is most interesting in the world. It has been launched on the desktop version in six countries, including India and we are working on a mobile version too. What differentiates Facebook is its unprecedented scale and its basis in real identities, giving you a vantage point.
Which kinds of media partnerships give you more relevant content for users?
We have 1.2 billion users, with 93 million in India. They all have different interests. Some partners give a glimpse of a global conversation such as the BBC. But we need local partners too such as NDTV that offered Facebook Live recently.
What are you planning around the elections?
In the next two months, people are going to be talking about the elections. And, we want to give them the ability to talk with their friends in a rich way. Besides Facebook Live, we have trackers for people to vote on issues in real-time, a 'register to vote' button to tell your friends if you have. And, we are working on some other initiatives as well. After all, there is a new voting block of 18-31 year-olds who would be first-time voters and are ardent Facebookers.