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Facebook Faces: Meet Sarah Personette

  |  June 16, 2011   |  Comments

Exclusive Q&A with the head of the social giant's new global agency relations team.

Facebook has a collection of marketing executives like Sheryl Sandberg, David Fischer, Carolyn Everson, and Blake Chandlee who get plenty of ink. But the social media giant has been poaching other advertising players who are quietly playing significant roles.

sarah-personetteMeet Sarah Personette, for instance, head of Facebook's three-month-old Global Agency Relations team. She's a Chicago area native who attended nearby Northwestern University before getting her start with Starcom in the Windy City 10 years ago. Personette also served in top roles at Starcom subsidiary Mediavest from 2006 through 2010.

"I actually am not a traditional digital marketer by trade," she told ClickZ News. "I started out in broadcast buying….I moved over to strategic planning [for Starcom], where I was working on the Minute Maid part of the Coca-Cola portfolio. At the initial stages of my career, I focused on, 'How do we create holistic marketing campaigns?'"

As agencies and brands look to home in on how Facebook's marketing opportunities - Ads, Pages, Places, Deals, etc. - fit into their integrated campaigns, Personette stands as a key figure in how quickly they hit their marks. We recently chatted with her about landing at Facebook, what marketers should understand about Pages, and more.

Here are excerpts from the Q&A:

ClickZ: What experiences were important for you before ending up with Facebook?

Sarah Personette: While at Mediavest, I eventually ran the buying and the planning for the overall Mars/Wrigley account. That's where I started working with Facebook about four years ago and the New York office. We did our first campaign with Skittles gum. At that point, Facebook was a much smaller user base, but we wanted to find out why consumers were spending so much time there. The Skittles gum campaign was targeted toward teens, and on Facebook at that time teens and young adults were the concentrated element….We really started to think about how we could use Facebook as the underpinning of the campaigns we were building out across the board.

CZ: Why was the Global Agency Relations division created?

SP: Agencies are poised to be the architects of effective social marketing. And we have an opportunity from Facebook's perspective….to help elevate the understanding about the capabilities to designing holistic campaigns. With that, we internally often really felt like there was so much more we could do with agencies. The culmination of that was David Fischer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Blake Chandlee saying this is the future of our business.

CZ: What are your daily tasks?

SP: We are new and very much in a "build stage." So developing the business plan, resourcing the business, interviewing the right talent to come in, and [filling] holding company management positions have been really critical. That's the internal day-to-day. Externally, it's been going out to a lot of agencies and saying, "Hey, we're here. We want to help you and be a partner." It's been a listening tour to a certain extent.

CZ: What from your agency experience is proving to be most valuable in this new role? Is it as simple as speaking their language or something more?

SP: My first reaction to the question is - checking your ego. In my past life, I collaborated with multiple agencies in order to have a brand-first focus and deliver results for that client…And I think that [ego-free attitude] is even more important today working for Facebook. That's because marketing that is truly social by design hasn't reached its full potential, and it's because a cross-functional agency team is the critical element to crafting that brand experience.

CZ: What role does your team play with Facebook Studio?

SP: I work really closely with a [Facebook] group called Agency Marketing. It's collaboration between the two [divisions]. One of the things during the listening tour that came out loud and clear was agencies want access to more case studies that are in real-time and relevant to the product changes being made on a constant basis [to Facebook's platform]. And Facebook Studio allows that to happen.

CZ: During the listening tour, did your team get feedback about Facebook Ads that it has since been trying to implement in upgrades?

SP: We're always accepting feedback from agencies on Ads, on research and insights…We are constantly renovating. It's not anything new or different than what we've done in the past. Now, we just happen to have a team that's dedicated to agency relationships.

CZ: What advice do you give agencies on leveraging Facebook Pages?

SP: Pages are one part of an effective social marketing campaign. You need to think through as an agency how you rev the engine of the entire Facebook ecosystem. You need to use platform tools on not only Pages, but also things like Places, to create social stories about brand interactions. They go through the newsfeeds and can be amplified through media and Sponsored Stories, which ultimately facilitates a stories engine that creates great interaction with a brand. That's word of mouth and social advocacy at scale. Taking a step back and understanding these elements and how they work together is mission critical.

CZ: What brands are doing the best job of tailoring global campaigns on Facebook across country, language, and customs?

SP: The one that came to mind is Starbucks. They are doing a lot of localization and driving a lot of relevancy in market.

CZ: Last question: What social site do you personally find value in as a user outside of Facebook?

SP: My first thought is Amazon, which isn't a social site by nature. But, it has made the shopping experience socialized and customized for the user.


Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

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