And, there’s also the blue branding of the Facebook preferred developer program, which the company has been a part of since 2010 according to partner and VP of product Abby Ross.
Ross joined Smith when the company was only five or six people. Today, it has 18 in-house employees, and after first building custom applications for Amway, the PGA and others, Blueye has since built out a platform product with the help of the Facebook “Apps” and “Ads” APIs.
AdExchanger talked to Ross about Blueye Creative and the company’s platform.
AdExchanger: Regarding your experience with the Ads API, and Facebook APIs in general, what is the opportunity that you think agencies might not be getting?
ABBY ROSS: The question is very relevant to what we're doing today. We launched our platform in Q1 of this year, and since then we've been talking to agencies about how they can leverage Open Graph. Our platform is all about Open Graph and leveraging the power of actions, and then retargeting through the Ads API.
When we go into agencies, where we really see their eyes light up is talking to the power of building a long‑term evergreen solution for social rather than just tacking it on as a campaign extension. Deploying an application and then monetizing with ads that put the user at the center gives the user ‘utility,’ which is something they're going to want to come back to over and over. So ‘social by design’ - and that's what Open Graph is great for.
Then on the ad side of the house, what that does for the agency long‑term is gives them the ability to understand their user base.
What we really tell them is, step one, deploy an app that puts the user at the center, gives them utility.
Step two, collect data for relevant retargeting through the Ads API so that you can drive down your CPA. That's our overall thesis statement with agencies. It's not just a quick initiative. It's something that puts social in the mix with digital marketing.
So, how does this play out in terms of a revenue model for Blueye?
We can work on a campaign level with agencies. But, the concept is that we deploy an application that can be extended past any particular campaign. [Step one,] Blueye works through a setup fee for an application. Though we believe in the importance of customization, we have four core applications that we can deploy in a day. We also have the ability to customize from the ground-level or use our baseline framework for an application.
After setup, step two is licensing such as app‑level and page‑level analytics. It shows clients the value of how users are engaging with an application.
Then, when we get into the ad side of things is, we're part of the Ads API program so that we can drive traffic to the application and make sure that it's successful by using Open Graph sponsored stories. We do a percentage of media spend there with either managed service or self‑service.
Finally, the long‑term play for us is ongoing media dollars with that data collection. For example - we know who's donated to what, how powerful they are, and how many friends they recruited. We then go back and do Action-Spec Targeting.
What is Action-Spec Targeting?
This is our main value proposition to the industry and why we've become an Ads API partner. With Open Graph and its action object, “Abby Ross” is not just a female from Chicago who likes yoga. It's - I'm a female, I'm from Chicago, I like yoga, and want to buy a tank top. Then, what we do through the Ads API is go back and retarget anyone with a relevant message based on what they've published to Open Graph. So - what I've donated to, what I've listened to, where I want to go, things like that.
"Action spec" is that part of the Open Graph terminology and what we call behavioral retargeting at the end of the day. We deploy an app that collects behavioral intent. Step two is run media around to make sure that we're hitting the right people with the right message.
Facebook is known as more of an awareness and brand opportunity - and top-of-funnel. I'm curious if you're seeing any evolution with targeting “the funnel” on Facebook.
We are mainly CPA‑driven and not necessarily about general awareness. Still, there are awareness parts to it. You think about the funnel when it comes to deploying an Open Graph application.
To give you some background, Open Graph is an application where the user - instead of just liking a page or entering a contest, so to speak - it publishes to their ticker, timeline, and newsfeed the action they took or on what object.
For example, there's a national yoga chain called Core Power Yoga, and we deployed a virtual tour for them where you can take a virtual tour of a studio and find out tips about how to get into dancer's pose, why do they have the temperature at 103 degrees, etc. When I take a virtual tour inside of that app, it publishes to my newsfeed, ticker, and timeline, "Abby Ross just took a virtual tour of Core Power Yoga studio."
The cool thing about that is that my friends see that information, and they're like, "Oh, I want to see what the studio looks like." They click on it, so there’s the benefit of that viral action. We think this is so much of a better user experience than “Abby Ross likes Core Power Yoga."
It's that story that's worth publishing and worth putting dollars behind, because it actually shows a friend's affiliation with a brand or there's a call to action embedded in it. That's the top part of the funnel. Let's get people to engage with the brand, take a virtual tour, see the studio and what it looks like, and then retarget anyone who did with the message of "Try a free week."
We can measure that CPA. We can measure how many people tried that free week. And we know they're a much warmer lead because they've seen what the inside of a studio looks like and learned about it. We have a few case studies around this, and we've actually lowered CPAs - email signups, purchases, etc. - by 4x, just by using this idea of retargeting.
“We ask for two clicks” is what we say to brands. The first click is that engagement, that awareness. Let's get them to engage with the app in a cool way, to point out that people are actually going to want to use it. The second click is the retarget and conversion.
Thinking 12 to 18 months out there, what are the milestones that you guys want to accomplish with Blueye?
Because we just launched this platform and there has been a lot of activity in the social platform space, we're excited that we have an ROI story that ties back to a CPA. We're hitting the ground with that and proving out the value of Open Graph and the value of retargeting based on behavioral intent inside of Facebook's ecosystem. That's one underlying goal.
The second goal is, the way we built our business model, our platform and the value proposition to brands is that mobile's a huge component for us. Most of the ads that we run come from sponsored stories and through the mobile platform there's such opportunity for growth there because we're not just limited to dollars through ad units.
Along with that is, all of the applications that we build can have a mobile extension and tap into Facebook Connect through a native mobile app. Using native mobile apps that have Facebook Connect is a way to collect data, which sits in line with the idea of an Evergreen app - utility at the center. Build something that users want to use, cross‑channel, multi‑platform.
Given the fact that you’re speaking to clients or potential clients, have you been hearing any of the "my Facebook ads don't work” stories?
For us, it all comes down to expectation. What expectations do the clients have? This is where it was difficult in the beginning - where we would get RFPs to run ads to garner “likes”. That's difficult when advertisers spend a lot of money driving “likes” and then expect the "Where is the ROI on this?"
I believe in the benefit of building a community on Facebook, for sure. However when it comes to Facebook ads, that expectation of, "I'm going to buy a like and it's going to hit my bottom line," is a little bit harder to show for us, which is why when we go into a client and have a conversation around, "Here's the budget, here's what we're going to measure from a KPI perspective.” It could start with app acquisition, how many app users you're going to have, how many are engaging with your brand and then step to a hard CPA that we can prove to you, whether it's collecting an email address, et cetera."
Whether it's a purchase or signing up a lead gen form, that for us is a lot easier to go back and say, "This is what's working. Here are the people that are responding, and here is a bucket of data points that we have to retarget on in the future"- that’s a lot easier for showing why Facebook ads work.
Does Facebook Exchange fit in your plans?
It's definitely on our roadmap. For us, I would say the perks and challenges of being a startup is that right now the story that we're telling is to brands, we have to stay focused on it. Our story is a little complex. But this idea of retargeting based on Open Graph actions is so upstream that we're focusing on it. When we get into the ad exchange, when we integrate that into our buying process, is when we'll really blow it up.
It's on the roadmap. But right now it’s, "Let's tell the behavioral retargeting story so that we can amplify it."