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This article was published on June 10, 2014

As Asia becomes key for Facebook, it’s going all out to simplify marketing for brands there

As Asia becomes key for Facebook, it’s going all out to simplify marketing for brands there

Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) scheme started in the US as an attempt to build a community of developers who are experts at social marketing. The aim is to help connect brands and advertisers with developers who build tools on top or alongside Facebook’s native tools, which can help to make their marketing campaigns more engaging and comprehensive.

Badges are awarded to firms that develop the “highest quality products” that build on top of the social network. What these developers provide to various firms depend on what is required.


Now, Facebook is increasing its efforts to push the PMD scheme in Asia-Pacific. Kiran Raghavan, Facebook’s head of APAC market development for the PMD program, told TNW in an interview that the company is “committed” to growing the program in the region, primarily because Asia-Pacific represents the largest growth potential for Facebook. The company just passed 1.23 billion monthly active users, but recent stats compiled by We Are Social show there is plenty of room for growth. Raghavan said:

While the growth potential is significant, there are also different levels of sophistication in different markets when it comes to understanding how to use Facebook…

As a result, we believed this was the absolutely right time to make investments in growing the (PMD) program and balancing representation of the program through its international cohort as well as domestic companies that represent Asia-Pacific.

Essentially, seeing Asian marketers struggle with getting effective results via Facebook marketing was probably the driving force behind the company’s push into this region. According to the Digital Knowledge Survey 2014 conducted by digital training company The Knowledge Engineers, only one-third of marketers in the region said they feel completely confident in delivering digital marketing activity.

Many have also questioned how Facebook would adapt its money-making strategy to its userbase in Asia’s emerging markets, given that advertisers in the region are often more cautious and digital budgets are smaller than those in the West.

The PMD program is thus meant to help companies save time and headcount by giving them access to technology that builds on top of Facebook’s native tools. Raghavan explained:

Our native tools can answer those questions as well (for effective marketing), but that’s a knowledge question.

That particular sort of gap can be addressed by better understanding, so it’s working with tools where that learning is made easier… easier for (marketers) to understand and grasp so maybe they can go back to use Facebook just as they’ve done.

But where people have seen the maximum benefit is that the tools make it simple, the tools have high level of automation and they deliver consistent performance. So it’s savings in people and savings in money, and the business benefits because you’re driving really high value conversions — sales for these businesses that fit their objectives from a revenue standpoint.


So far, Facebook has brought in 12 PMDs in Singapore alone, with 20 across the Asia-Pacific region. Raghavan told us that Facebook wanted to bring in international expertise to the region, but at the same time nurture a domestic group that can eventually represent Asia-Pacific with various different nuances including culture, language and commercial context.

For the first 12 to 24 months of the PMD program’s expansion into Asia-Pacific, Facebook is focusing on three regions: Australia and New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Greater China.

What’s interesting is that the export opportunity in mainland China is presenting enough positive signs of potential growth for Facebook to zoom in there. Raghavan revealed that Chinese firms are increasingly seeking out Facebook to advertise to audiences not only in the rest of Asia, but also the rest of the world. (Read: Facebook has a ‘rapidly growing’ business in China)

In the meantime, Facebook has to contend with a growing threat from messaging apps in Asia-Pacific — which leads to the question of whether hiving off Facebook Messenger as a separate product could eventually lead to marketing opportunities on both grounds at once. Raghavan said he can’t say too much now but it would be a wait-and-watch story.

I’ll just safely say right now that when we’ve taken a decision to do this, we’re doing it to test whether our initial hypothesis and assumptions are proven right…

We’re not optimizing every time for the revenue but we’re optimizing for people’s experiences on the platform. When a company decides to invest in a longer term philosophy like that, what it means is that in some cases you’re willing to sacrifice the shorter term financial gains for a longer term community that is willing to use and take the benefits of the product.

This is a hint that Facebook could probably start experimenting with marketing in its various spin-off apps, which may also be a contributing factor to the presence of multiple Facebook-branded apps.


In any case, mobile is no doubt the most important issue that Facebook has to address in Asia-Pacific. Raghavan said mobile is the predominant method of accessing Facebook in the region, so “all of the content and all of the types of messages are optimized towards that screen size.”

With the multiple challenges facing Facebook’s revenue making plans in Asia-Pacific, it is no wonder the company is stepping up marketing efforts at this point in time as it seeks to capture advertising budgets from traditional media or other digital avenues such as messaging apps. The PMD program is a first step towards persuading marketers in Asia that they can find enough value in Facebook to justify the spending — by letting them carry out their campaigns in an easier way.

Headline image via Stephen Lam/Getty Images, second image via Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images