When a tab isn’t a Tab


Every industry has its own vocabulary.

“ANFO” was lingo I learned in my first PR agency job, writing a monthly column called “Shot Rock” for Pit & Quarry magazine.  My account was a commercial explosives business that had been spun off from DuPont, and ammonium nitrate was a mainstay for blasters.

At UPI, articles we promised to write for newspapers were called “skedders,” because they were scheduled ahead of time.

PR Newswire loved to refer to its clients’  heifers.  It was newsroom lingo for “HFR — Hold for Call.”  Nothing to do with cows.

So when I took on my first operating role since leaving PRN, I expected that I’d have to learn a new vernacular.  Context Optional, where I’m vice president, strategic accounts, has developed many of the most popular branded applications on Facebook. Clients include Clinique, Target, OpenTable, Microsoft and the U.S. Census Bureau.

I’m no newbie to Facebook. But it isn’t until you look beyond your “wall,” “news feed” and “live feed” that you realize how damn confusing the platform can be for anyone — let alone a brand — trying to harness the power of the medium as a way to attract and engage fans.

Facebook does have a sales team to work with deep-pocketed consumer brands.  Often, though, CMOs want to do more than advertise to create a tighter bond with online consumers.

That thirst for engaging content has created a nice business for the select few who understand the always-changing technical underpinnings of Facebook and the rules concerning user privacy and best practices.

The fact that Context Optional has earned the coveted “Facebook preferred developer” label is just a starting point.  It’s my job to bring my new colleagues’ API-driven creativity to those marketing and PR pros charged with attracting and retaining fans and followers, and to do it in a manner that achieves business goals and is culturally acceptable on Facebook.

So I’m learning about the differences between canvas applications and apps that live on tabs.  I’m diving into Facebook “boxes” and trying to understand why they are about to be discontinued.  And just when I was starting to forget about the investor relations profession’s nightmare transition to the financial reporting language XBRL, I am told that Facebook code is written in FBML.

Luckily, the fans of Einstein Bros Bagels don’t have to worry about any of that to get a coupon for a free bagel and schmear.  All they have to do is click on the “free bagel” tab.  My new employer has handled the back end integration with Facebook to make this special offer work.  My guess is that the fan base will soon be well north of today’s 22,000.

The 548,000 fans of Chanel were awarded this week with the option to download screensavers that display the time with two vividly recreated J12 timepieces.  Budget-wary teens were given a fun set of viral “Stop Me From Spending” tools.  Still other soon-to-launch apps are aimed at Valentine’s Day, the Vancouver Winter Olympics and even a mobile phone texting competition.

Needless to say, I am having a ball working with brands to creatively earn the right to have a relationship with consumers on the Facebook platform and beyond.  Just forgive me if I don’t yet know the difference between a poke and a nudge.

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