Ed Couchman (Facebook): break out of the “social jail” #SMWldn

Ed Couchman (Facebook): break out of the “social jail” #SMWldn

24th September 2013

Ed Couchman, Head of Sales at Facebook UK, gave a keynote speech for Social Media Week London’s first day.

Scene setting:

Facebook, claims Couchman, has 1.1 billion users, accessing Facebook an average of 14 times a day. Facebook knows who each of them are. And it is betting its future on mobile.

Couchman shared several case studies, including Pimms, whose Facebook ad campaign delivered an impressive sales ROI of 5 times their ad spend  – 15 thousand new customers.

His oft repeated message was advertisers needing to get “creative at the speed of culture”.

Lookalike audiences:

photo, Ed CouchmanCouchman pushed hard Facebook’s capability for people wanting to break out of “social jail” – his term for the siloed approach to social media which means social doesn’t integrate with everything else. Facebook’s ‘Lookalike’ audience function, repeatedly mentioned in the presentation and therefore obviously something that Facebook would really like us to sit up and pay attention to, means that if you have the email addresses of your current customers, Facebook can find them, aggregate their behavioural patterns and find other people who match their profile.  (As an aside, I foresee some data protection issues raising their head here!)


Facebook can help amplify messages from the real world. The Cadburys case study offered was using Facebook to drive ‘off the shelf’, impromptu sales with a relatively young audience. Couchman asserts that the Facebook advertising made people four times more likely to buy cream eggs than through other channels.

Brands should test and learn: over time, you’ll get it right.

Ad partners:

The importance of ad partners was stressed. Secret Escapes was presented almost as a case of how not to do it until their ad partner helped them – they doubled conversions by being on news feed instead of using adverts.

During the Q&A session, there was some comment from the floor about some advertisers being wary of the ability to comment on ads. Facebook is, applaudably, not going to eliminate commenting – advertisers and Facebook should work on relevance instead.

There was comment from the floor that Facebook ‘Partner Categories’ are doing well, but only available in the US. Facebook partners are unable to access this in the UK, which was noted as very unfair on UK partners who can’t, consequently, advertise in the US.  Couchman responded that we would love to be able to sell the product here too. Since there is evidently demand, if the audience was anything to go by, and he’s a salesman, who can blame him?


With Christmas just around the corner, in retail terms at least, Facebook has made the shocking discovery that at the heart of the gathering is mum: 48% of mums start shopping in October, and only 6% are still doing it on Christmas Eve. The reverse applies to men.

Women spend around three times more time on mobile over the Christmas period, mainly at weekends. Couchman suggested increasing advertising at the weekends. I suspect that clever campaigners will be using discounts and offers as customer conversion tools rather than advertising to someone who is already in a shop. He also, very sensibly, suggested advertising to catch the last minute rush.

And in the middle of it all, Couchman dropped into the conversation that 1 in 10 people go out and buy something on the basis of Facebook newsfeed. That’s big!

As the conversation evolved, Couchman offered some clear warnings to advertisers about not ruining the space People do want ads, just not the wrong ones. He quite rightly stressed this as a responsibility.

Other Q&A topics

Couchman was vague when asked about B2B advertising, suggesting that it is an ‘untapped space’.

He said that Facebook is close to naming a partnership with a big supermarket tracking real life activity happening as a result of Facebook activity.

He also noted that Facebook is monitoring sentiment and engagement, but the figures he gave were for Facebook mobile use rather than ads.

There was some consensus around the need to educate users to ‘X’ out ads that they don’t want.
Asked about the youth market, based on the whole ‘youths leaving Facebook in droves, Couchman sensibly talked about the law of networks – if their friends are there, ‘youth’ will be too.

When asked about the Facebook purchase of, and plans for Instagram, he defined it as a “significant mobile play”. He unsurprisingly gave a somewhat vague, woolly response around development plans (this wasn’t the place to be breaking news like that) other than confirming that there will be ads on Instagram within a year.


Written By
Claire Thompson has has 15 years PR experience and runs Waves PR, which she founded. She has great taste in wine and lousy taste in music. The two are not unconnected!
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