Contacting Facebook is almost impossible. Imagine being one of thousands trying to make human contact every day with The Social Network. One sure way we discovered, however, was to go in person. It was a priceless, fascinating trip. And we returned with a deeper understanding of Facebook beyond expectation.
Our goal for the Seattle F8 Developer Conference was to network and make valuable contacts for the new company I’ve co-founded (exciting announcements to come). Sought after connections included business owners and representatives, but mainly developers that would want to join a new exciting venture - how naive! Almost every developer there was part of a big company; some of the developers we met were from Amazon, MSN, and Lululemon (the only other Canadian company in attendance).
While we may have not found any developers for the new company, we left with an amazing understanding of Facebook from a developer’s point of view. We left with invaluable nuggets of information for our social technology developments and social media and business campaigns. And we left with the Holy Grail, Facebook contacts (real ones).
The customary way of contacting Facebook is through one of over 120 contact forms (broken down wonderfully by Mari Smith in How To Contact Facebook: A Directory of 120+ Forms). These forms require information regarding your challenges or concerns and provide a no-reply email with standardized answers in return. Standardizing the Q&A process makes things easier for Facebook, but you are never sure if there is actually someone on the other side of the curtain. So we are obviously very grateful for our new direct contacts within Facebook (and no we can’t share them with you; they were given in trust and will remain closely guarded secrets).
As magical and serendipitous as our trip may sound, we ended up contacting Facebook in person without even realizing it. During the delay of our clipper from Victoria to Seattle, we had brainstormed the signs for identifying developers attending the event so we could begin networking right away. The first one we spotted was a young man behind us during our hotel check-in.
With excitement, I approached him and asked, “Are you attending the Facebook conference?” He nodded naturally in return. I continued, “So are we, who are you with?” “Facebook” he replied with confidence and more than a little surprise. The only response that came to my mind was to say, “Cool!” and then turn around. It felt awkward like it was outside of my plan, or I should have known who he was. Thankfully, the front desk clerk called our turn.
The next morning, we checked into the Seattle F8 Developer Conference, got our Facebook Ads credits, and entered the conference room. Justin, who we had met the night before, gave us a very warm welcome, and we proceeded to our seats. Every single person had a laptop except Bob, the man sitting next to us. Bob was looking to hire some developers for his Geo-fenced Gaming Company. We joked about having to convince talented developers to decide between our two “amazing” offers.
The background music faded out. Justin, who we had met last night, stepped up and was introduced as the keynote speaker. He gave a great introduction and review of the agenda in the characteristic tone and voice inflections of Mark Zuckerberg. It was as if the same people at the same workshops trained the younger circles in Facebook’s management team.
After Justin, Eddie O. took us through a powerful tour of the foundations to the Open Graph and Social Plugins, and then explained how to get started. At this point, a good number of attendees started writing code while following the presentation while I was busy trying to get an internet connection through a very busy Wi-Fi network.
Not having the internet turned out to be a wonderful thing. I was able to focus and take many great notes that I am excited to share with you in upcoming posts (subscribe to the blog or connect with us socially to stay tuned). Eddie’s talk took me back to my engineering school days and reminded me of learning C++ code, functions, pointers and other things forgotten.
After lunch and meeting Justin #2 (from Amazon) and other developers we couldn’t afford, Facebook’s Daniel S. reminded the audience about the main rule of developing: keep your user in mind. He walked us through integrating some of the functions used in Virtual World games. As a programmer, you can integrate your apps with the Facebook API platform and design games with the user in mind. Facebook offers clear instruction on how to enhance the social interaction function and virality of your apps, mobile apps, games, and marketing campaigns.
Vikas F. and Christine A. presented on the power and advantages of integrating mobile apps and went through integrating a mobile app live. Christine introduced her presentation and hands-on exercise by saying “An app for this, an app for that, an app for escaping every awkward moment in life.” I thought, “Darn, we all do that but I didn’t do it last night.”
Naturally, my favourite part (although it had the least amount of takers during Q&A) was the Marketing APIs. This fantastic presentation on the foundations for increasing distribution and engagement was lead by Justin #3 from the Seattle Facebook team. This was extremely valuable for me as a marketer technologist. In particular, I learned how Facebook has come to understand users and the social marketing of today. The following are just some of the subjects touched (they all deserve blog posts of their own):
- Word of mouth at a scale, user stories
- Engagement and re-engagement
- Canvas apps
- Marketing success variables (from the marketing APIs perspective)
- Virality for games, apps, and Facebook Ads
- Automation and Targeting
- Reporting with all the info available through Marketing APIs
- Best practices to launching campaigns and apps
- Developing your Use Case
By the end of the conference, we had experienced an ROI of 400% for our new project, our clients, investors, and the world (I know, a bit hyperbolic). And just as we were celebrating and ready to go Mano-a-Mano against Bob in the recruiting mission, Facebook’s HR person stood up and announced the most obvious reason for having a F8 event on the road: they are looking for the most talented developers. Bob and I just looked at each other with the celebratory laughter of defeat.