GraphEffect CEO Borow Sees Facebook Sponsored Stories As Opportunity - And A Shift In Advertising

GraphEffectJames Borow is CEO of Santa Monica-based GraphEffect, a social advertising platform focused on driving a customer’s paid, owned and earned media.  The company recently announced an update to its core product, GraphEffect 2.0, which it says, "enables marketers to integrate their social advertising and conversational marketing initiatives..."  Read the release.

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AdExchanger: GraphEffect has deep experience with the Facebook Ad API. Can you talk about how the API has grown or evolved for your company?

JB: At a very high level, Facebook has done a phenomenal job of building up its ecosystem and developing an API that is very robust in its capabilities. The interesting thing for us is how we've integrated four of their APIs - the Insights API, the Ads API, the Pages API and the Open Graph API.

The real challenge is how can one create a cross‑API experience that lets marketers get the most out of Facebook? If you think about paid, earned and owned media, the Ads API  cannot leverage the full capability of a Sponsored Story, because you have no context to the pages. Or without the Insights API, you have a very hard time understanding how your “earned” is coming along. It's really about trying to step back and think about how to make a holistic product.

What's your "take" on Facebook's latest iteration of sponsored ads – known as Sponsored Stories. Why is this so exciting?

Sponsored sStories are exciting for several reasons, but primarily because they are so, I would say, honest.  I’ve been on Facebook since it launched, and as someone who is, frankly, too tired of advertisers just talking at me, this represents a big shift in the way that marketing is done. If you think about how you can have success on Facebook, it’s through building up a fan base, engaging them with phenomenal content and then leveraging the scale of that engagement to create a niche. Sponsored Stories perform extremely well. Facebook is now putting a lot of Sponsored Stories in the news feed, too.

That is a very exciting first step because Facebook basically is saying, "Listen, our killer ad unit is actually content that you already should have seen.” An advertiser is just going to highlight it. And, that’s how we look at it at GraphEffect... it is the farthest thing away from traditional advertising - it's so organic.

Whether it's something that the user would have seen earlier in the feed or not, an advertiser should highlight it.

How do you differentiate GraphEffect from other companies in the ecosystem like Vitrue, Epic or Buddy Media?

We're focused on making this simple, social and scientific. So for us, the core mission is how do we make a product that is that easy to use? How do we make sure that all the people who are involved in these initiatives can work together on it? Then how can we go ahead and leverage data across the platform to help scale and retain efficiency? If we can do those things and continue to iterate on top of that, we feel like we're in a very strong position.

When you look at GraphEffect, one of the key parts of our product offering is the SmartBoost technologies. Between AudienceBoost, ViralBoost and StoryBoost, we are able to do things that others can’t.

From the AudienceBoost side of things, you run into an issue in social where it's hard to scale. Because there are explicitly no cookies allowed within social. What we had to do is literally build a Netflix for audience targeting on Facebook. That's what AudienceBoost is. It allows us to scale, and instead of having to manually identify groups of people to target, our system actually is learning on the spot. It's very useful when trying to deploy large sums of money onto the platform and still retaining efficiency.

Then ViralBoost is something from an ad tech perspective, is something that's really cool and very useful. We can now actually optimize boost technology not just for someone who actually converts after the click. But we can actually go ahead and track and see its Likes and Shares lead to conversions.

The value in that is that we can actually stop looking at this in a traditional lens. And we can optimize, not just for the audiences that convert directly after the click, but the audiences that convert and actually get their friends involved.

That's where the social ROI component becomes very interesting and exciting because we can leverage the graph to go ahead and make these optimizations.

Then the last piece being StoryBoost, is the way that StoryBoost works. I'm happy to send over screenshots of the product itself. What we literally do is we've tied in the Insights API and our proprietary data to every single post that you create on Facebook. We based on your goals, will dynamically identify the posts that we think should get turned into ads. That the concept of really embracing sponsored stories and page post ads becomes much clearer. Because we're helping you identify what type of content should get turned into an ad and actually help you create better content as a result. Those three things together really create a very powerful offering for brands and agencies to really get the most out of social.

Can you break your target market down into verticals? Are you focused more on brand or DR?

The target market is anyone who's committed to social. That could be a big brand. It could be a DR advertising agency. We've worked with clients across almost all verticals. If you think about the breakdown between brand and DR clients, we're trying to articulate that they're both very much aligned in social. Ultimately, there are brand components that are going to allow you to scale and generate stories. Then, we should look at all these things from a very DR perspective in the sense that we want to go ahead and help you hit your goals.

It's a bit of a hybrid, but that's one of the most exciting things about social - it requires you to take a brand approach while still being attribution focused.

Is there an angle for publishers with GraphEffect other than Facebook?

Right now, we are explicitly focused on Facebook on the roadmap, but we are very excited about other platforms - in particular Twitter. From a publisher's standpoint, though, we think that the more and more publishers continue to integrate into the graph, that we can provide more and more value with GraphEffect.

What would you say is the biggest misconception right now around a solution like yours?

The thing that we want people to understand the most is about Sponsored Stories as a means of advertising. It is not something traditional. Facebook is truly disrupting the way marketing is done and if advertisers commit to creating great content, they are going to have success on Facebook. This is the message that Facebook gave at its recent Facebook Marketing Conference - the shift from ads to stories. The scale that can be achieved on social is something that I don't think anyone has ever seen.

How do you think the industry is doing with attribution today?

Things are moving in the right direction. We talked earlier about ViralBoost – this is our first step in nailing attribution. The fact of the matter is that we can now optimize and measure not based off just a click, but based off what we refer to as the connections to the graphs.

It’s the tip of the iceberg in what we're going to be able to do. If you're willing to go ahead and integrate full graph objects into your website, and create great content - by doing those things you open up the attribution visibility.

What can you about revenues and momentum for GraphEffect? And where  does the company stand with financing?

I can share that Q4 was our best quarter ever. We're just trying to keep our head down and keep pumping out a great product.  From a financing standpoint, we're in a very good position. We're continuing to grow the business and focus on creating the best product we can create.

Finally, in the next 12 to 18 months, what are some of the milestones that you'd like your company to accomplish?

We’d like to work with a very high percentage of the leading Fortune 500 brands out there on Facebook and, most likely, other social platforms, too. The team will be focused on the same thing which is... We think there's an unbelievable amount of opportunity and, frankly, code to write. We really, really are just making sure that we build the simplest and most effective social marketing software out there.

By John Ebbert

Follow James Borow (@jamesborow), GraphEffect (@grapheffect) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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