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Facebook Develops Tech Solutions to Meet Client Challenges

Gene Alston (J.D./MBA ’97) and his team help businesses grow by building new communities and attracting new customers.

Gene Alston (J.D./MBA '97) says 1997 was "an ironic time given how the market has transformed" for those graduating with business degrees. Hardware and software developers like Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems were among the companies vying for MBA talent, while then-new ventures like eBay and Yahoo! were still, for the most part, hiring developers.

Facebook's creation was seven years away.

Today, Alston serves as VP of marketing partnerships at Facebook, focused on business growth for the social media and networking giant. "One of the core goals of our company is enabling economic opportunity. We have 7 million businesses that advertise on Facebook, and more than 90 million that are using our free tools like Pages," says Alston. "We try to help all of the businesses on Facebook grow either by building a community or reaching new customers. We have technologies that help businesses start, grow and hire, and my team helps facilitate connections between our partners and businesses to help them get the most out of Facebook."

“the development that will provide advertisers with fraud and viewability measurement across Facebook Stories' video inventory.”

The company continually adds new partnerships to its offerings. For example, Facebook announced a new partnership with DoubleVerify in December 2018. According to Adweek, it is "the development that will provide advertisers with fraud and viewability measurement across Facebook Stories' video inventory." Previously, in October, the company disclosed a new set of initiatives during its Global Partner Summit 2018. Among the programs announced was a training program for freelance consultants called Facebook Marketing Consultants.

Overall, the solutions run the gamut, offering different services to different clients, depending on need. Some just want to run ads on the Facebook platform, while others need creative help writing ad copy. Still others need to integrate technology into Facebook in order to create an ad. Facebook also assists clients in making advertising more effective. "Someone sees an ad, and a big thing that clients want to understand is what was the impact on their business. What outcomes did it drive? Did it drive a sale? Did it drive a store visit?" Alston says. "So our latest partnerships really help people understand how their ads have been seen on our platform. Companies can verify on a third-party basis whether ads have been seen by the audience that the clients are looking to reach. And then that allows them to better measure the impact on their business."

Alston says Facebook's - and specifically his group's - relationship to its customers is a dynamic one and that technological developments start with client challenges that the company tries to help solve. The goal is to help marketers connect with consumers. Facebook offers a set of tools that allows both automation and customization.

"There is a whole set of tools that we offer, and our partners really make those tools easier to use," Alston says. "Many clients - like the ride-sharing and hospitality services of the world - they're really trying to reach people at scale. Their operations are highly automated and highly sophisticated, so they leverage partners to help create an efficient platform to run advertising on Facebook. One example is just unlocking efficiency. The other is unlocking new features and capabilities that our platform may not offer. But each partner really understands a specific vertical need - whether it's travel, e-commerce or retail - and they can build a custom solution that addresses that client's specific needs."

For the typical user of Facebook, Alston says he's focused on enabling meaningful interactions.

"This is the place where you share moments with your friends and family, and make connections," says Alston, who served in the U.S. Navy before attending business school. "I'm a veteran, so on Veterans Day, I was able to reconnect with all the folks that served on my ship over 20 years ago. For me, that was a meaningful moment. Facebook builds on that and creates communities. Those are moments that we're building into the product."

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