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The Tricky Use of Facebook Marketing in a Mobile Startup

Best Practices

The Tricky Use of Facebook Marketing in a Mobile Startup

Ben Roodman September 11, 2013

As a Marketing Manager responsible for your mobile startup, there are still advantages to leveraging Facebook as a platform. Should your company be dependent solely on Facebook for mobile marketing distribution? No.

When launching a new product, the key to building an initial audience is to start developing a customer base long before you create your Facebook page. Facebook and content marketing require more than asking your closest friends and coworkers to like your latest venture. Being located here in Silicon Valley though, your former coworkers at previous companies may become investors in your next venture startup and have influential social media pull on Facebook.

To partner directly with Facebook to try and slingshot your startup out of the bubble ecosystem, it helps to have:

A) Traction
B) A personal history with an employee of Facebook.

Business Development at Facebook is actually a lightweight organization. A single trusted biz dev representative, legal involvement, and senior internal sign off is all that is required to seal a deal with Facebook. Of course you have to be a large enough entity or have stellar connections to ink a direct integration deal. Even as Sean Parker, former Facebook president and personal advisor to Mark Zuckerberg, began integrating his investment company Spotify, Facebook wouldn’t grant him an exclusive relationship as Facebook Music. Sean Parker’s next startup Airtime did get early access to Facebook video chat invites as a potential Facebook product feature.

There are hidden, secret benefits of launching on Facebook when you share investors though. Early Facebook employee Dave Morin, who left to found Path, is an Angel Investor in Lulu. While it’s debatable if Lulu is outside the boundaries of Facebook’s online harassment policies, other similar applications have been locked out of Facebook in the past.

Y Combinator and Facebook previously partnered together to provide YC funded startups “priority access to our technologies and programs such as Facebook Credits, Instant Personalization and upcoming beta features.” Being a well known startup also grants you priority access to some of Facebook’s new technologies. Fab.com beta tested Facebook’s new mobile attribution method of tying mobile web purchases back to Facebook IDs and Facebook Advertising. Separately, Facebook’s Ad Organization, which has a preferred advertising partner program, has exclusive access to new Ads API products along with a lightweight company recommendation.

The real doubts though are if Facebook is still viable as a dependable, viral growth platform. As Zynga can attest, the tides can quickly change as a developer. Facebook often changes it’s development requirements and has severely limited feed access for user acquisition. When launching a mobile app startup, being dependent on Facebook for logins and new app install invites is a dangerous game. Facebook ad technology preferred partners are paid big bucks (but with low margins) by brands to market their content to Liked Facebook fans and generate mobile app installs. If your open graph startup growth hack interferes with the feed quality and on-site Facebook user engagement, you can find yourself  shut out of the mobile Facebook feed completely. YC backed video startup SocialCam had a stellar acquisition exit with AutoDesk, but nearly immediately afterwards, Facebook changed their feed algorithm content posting policy. Where are they now?

The major risks as a budding mobile app startup at the top of Facebook is after exponential early growth, your API access is immediately terminated without warning and your users can’t login. No one can use your app for 24-48 hours causing a complete stall out in viral growth. As a Facebook preferred partner, Y Combinator startup, or with an inside personal connection at Facebook, you can have your Facebook API Keys and App ID whitelisted. The hidden whitelisting benefit by Facebook grants your company unlimited viral growth and data rate access – a distinct key advantage as Internet companies are nearly always a fasting moving, winner-take-all market.

When considering Facebook as your mobile marketing partner and as a growth channel, the cost of reaching new customers can be considerably less expensive with the right Facebook connections.

Ben Roodman

Benjamin Roodman
Senior Contributing Editor
Benjamin Roodman is an advocate for getting to the truth of what converts in mobile. Well versed in mobile advertising platforms with a notable aptitude and passion for analytics, he's currently putting deals together as head of partnerships at a mobile data startup. Benjamin has previously held Business Development positions at AOL Advertising and helped establish several funded location-based consumer startups.
Follow me on twitter @BRoodman

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