Diana Bradley
Jul 7, 2017

Facebook's CMO dishes on fake news and the social network's latest mission

Gary Briggs talks about how Facebook is connecting the world, engaging Generation Z and fighting fake news.

Facebook's CMO dishes on fake news and the social network's latest mission

What’s your biggest focus?
We just announced a new company mission that is focused on bringing the world closer together. We have been focused for a long time on connecting the world. There is a perception in the developed world that we are all online already. The majority of the world is actually not on the internet. We are trying to get people connected through Internet.org. As more people are getting connected, there are lots of benefits to that. On Facebook groups, we see people around the world are connecting on topics of interest, but we also recognize there is a lot of work to be done in the world to have the benefits of connection and get people to understand one another in a way that is more peaceful and caring. By the work we are starting to do, we can highlight that, encourage that, and nurture people.

Studies suggest that younger social media users, specifically generation Z, are choosing other platforms over Facebook. What is your strategy to appeal to that generation?
That is a particularly U.S.-oriented view. Snapchat has had really good progress in the U.S. and is good with iPhone users. But most of the world is on Android and starting to use the internet relative to markets like the U.S. In the U.S., we find people have evolved from texts to photos to video. We have introduced products in the area of how people can use their cameras on our platform as a way to communicate.

Late last year, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that the social network is a media company, just not a "traditional media company." Do you think Facebook has acted quickly enough to combat fake news?
At our core, we are a technology company, so we are focused on building tech. The majority of the company is focused on that, whether they be engineers or product managers. We do sell advertising. This is a bit of a red herring. Whether we are a tech company or a media company, you have to understand the full focus of what the company is doing, how we’ve built it, and our ability to operate at a high rate of speed has a lot to do with the focus we’ve had as a tech-focused company. Fake news is something we have been addressing in the last few months. We’ve been working with third parties to look at fact checking. [On June 30] wemade an announcement regarding work we are doing to look at particular users who are sharing content that is low quality. As a result, whether it is in the U.S. or other markets, or broadly looking at what people are sharing, we are making sure [content shared on our site] is the best it can be.

How can marketers use Facebook to build their brands?
We have a product called Lookalike Audiences. With that, based on the core followers you have, we can help you find people that kind of look like those folks based on the idea that birds of a feather flock together. Through the extensive reach of our services, we can help to find additional people who will be interested in you. We also target based on sub interests. Within segmentation, we can help you find people who are specifically interested or focused on a particular part of your brand. There may be people who play tennis or basketball or who are avid runners; we can help a brand such as Nike find people who have those kinds of profiles through a product called Custom Audiences.

How much is Facebook competing against PR agencies? Facebook Live, for example, works with brands to put on events.
We work with a lot of brands, PR folks, and agencies. We have found in our own experience that word of mouth and the ability to communicate in more informal ways has been a big part of what has made Facebook [successful] over the years, and that is essential to what PR does. We see the whole industry as one that is fascinating, needed, and is complementary to the work we do.

What did you get out of Cannes?
I enjoyed it and found that a lot of the industry is open to talking about meaningful questions about how advertising as a medium is evolving, and how advertising as a service business is evolving. I came away optimistic that, with some of the main challenges folks are facing right now, there is a lot of courage to address them.

What is the biggest challenge for you as CMO?
The awareness of Facebook is quite high, but something surprising to folks who don’t work inside our four walls is that there is a different level of understanding about how the product works. We work on communicating that through segmentation and targeted campaigns around the world.


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