Vince Sider, BBC Worldwide: Facebook is the best place to launch apps

8th Aug 2012

BBC Worldwide’s Vince Sider talks Facebook advertising, why the platform is a great launchpad for applications and the rumoured new Facebook ‘want’ button. 

Facebook is having a tough time of it. Doubts surrounding the effectiveness of its advertising offerings have been circling in the marketing industry for some time, with high profile brands such as General Motors cutting their Facebook advertising spend, while the BBC VirtualBagel experiment has only served to ramp up the pressure.

BBC Worldwide – the commercial arm of the BBC delivering media and entertainment– is another brand happy to admit that it no longer spends money advertising on the platform. The two times the brand spent money advertising on the platform was through self-serve and on the marketplace for the mid-frequent £5,000, equalling 15,000 likes.

“For brands like us this isn't meaningful," explains BBC Worldwide's VP of social media Vince Sider. "We manage something like 25m likes so 15,000 likes incremental doesn't provide any value for us."

But despite this, by no means is Sider sounding the death knell for Facebook. BBC Worldwide has embraced Facebook most in terms of social channels, developing a network of branded pages to reach new audiences and deepen engagement with its existing fans. The organisation’s 2012 annual review showed BBC Worldwide’s key brands - Top Gear, Top Gear USA and The Stig – together amassed a 9% increase in engagement from fans between May and June, taking the total number of fans across all three profiles to 17.6m. Additionally, Facebook is also responsible for driving an estimated 40% of traffic to its sites, including, and


Speaking at the Our Social Times Facebook Marketing event in London, the social media guru explained that the platform is not just relevant because it’s the dominant platform but because it provides the best social space to launch new applications. “This is what Facebook want. They want brands to build more and more applications, whether web-based or mobile-based, and for us, this aligns with out strategy,” he says.

The commercial brand has experienced success over the past year with its paid for, freemium and ad supported apps with 12.5m downloaded over the past year, taking the total to date to 25m. The BBC news app added to the success after receiving an additional 10.3m downloads in June alone. Sider explains that this year BBC Worldwide has a target of delivering at least two “remarkable” apps globally on Facebook. One is likened to a social viewer – exposing the brand’s 50 years of archived content that will tap into users’ open graph and inform peers what content you’re watching.

“I’ve very much into peer-to-peer apps that not only showcase our content but let people interact with other people do stuff with that content and get value by interacting with people within the app. We’re going to explore more tapping into other platform API to create apps that will sit within Facebook. An example would be tapping into the Spotify API to create a Top Gear playlist that you will access from Facebook, and within Spotify be able to see which of your friends is using the playlist. Cross-brand platform apps is the way forward for us and will sit very well on Facebook,” he says.

Facebook ‘Want’

Sider adds that BBC Worldwide is also keen to capitalise on the new rumoured ‘want’ button, should it become confirmed. According to reports, the social network intends to enable brands to add products to a virtual wish list which users can share with others in their network, similar to Pinterest.

“If Facebook implements the want action then it seems to be the high way for ecommerce experimentation within Facebook,” he says. “Setting up a Facebook store is waste of time and a waste of money, and people have learned that the hard way. To tie the want function within your page may be the way for them to crack that. You can imagine a world where you build a gift by using this want action and then share that gift with your friends, that makes sense."

The ‘love index’

Engagement will always be top of mind when it comes to the BBC's activity on social platforms, and so it is no surprise then when it comes to social media measurement, the metric that matters most is engagement. “Given that Facebook is moving towards an application platform, for me the one that matters is the monthly active users” he says. “And it’s very easy to link to your traditional web metrics. It’s a true metric – if people are active, they're active. It’s not like people can then share likes.”

BBC Worldwide has gone one step further in determining its Facebook marketing ROI by creating its own metric, dubbed “the love index”. “Monthly active users is the one that matters because of the nature of the platform moving towards applications but you should cross this with your engagement metrics, shared metrics and other metrics, and all of this should cross your platform.

“We call it the love index – we're giving love and chasing love. Likes are not really important.”

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