How to Build a Business on Facebook: Brand Networks, Nanigans, & More

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Facebook’s advertising strategy is being unified around the notion of storytelling. He says Brand Networks is dedicated to “the creation and amplification of stories through advertising,” so that seems to dovetail with Facebook’s philosophy.

Tedford sees this philosophy—together with new advertising features Facebook has announced, such as the inclusion of ads within news feeds both on the Web and mobile devices—as a watershed moment for the social giant. “On the development side, there have been bigger changes to the platform,” he says. “This for me is the biggest advertising innovation I’ve seen in our years of working on the platform.”

But he insisted that he has no special insights into the company’s broader strategy. “Our biggest challenge is keeping up with Facebook,” Tedford says. “It’s such an innovation-driven company. It’s not like we have a roadmap more than anyone else does.” That said, it’s clear that “mobile is the next frontier. We’re all anticipating that there will be a mobile advertising product coming soon,” he says.

On that front, Brand Networks is certainly not alone. Just around Boston, several other firms are watching Facebook’s developments closely. One of them is Nanigans, a Boston startup that helps brands such as Gilt Groupe and T-Mobile track and optimize their ads on Facebook. The two-year-old company has been growing fast and says it helped run more than 700 large-scale Facebook ad campaigns last year. In a statement in January, Nanigans CEO Ric Calvillo called 2011 a “year of validation” for Facebook’s ad marketplace as well as Nanigan’s software platform.

Meanwhile, Boston-based tech shop Bocoup Labs worked with Facebook to develop a new mobile Web browser testing suite, called Ringmark. The idea is to give developers ways to test mobile browsers for the apps they’re building—things like whether the orientation of the device (horizontal or vertical) is locked for games, and how the camera works for social apps. Bocoup has done consulting and development work for lots of big companies, including Microsoft, Google, eBay, and Walmart.

It remains to be seen how Facebook’s fortunes will affect its ecosystem of partners and developers. Lest we breathlessly proclaim a new dawn of social advertising, for instance, plenty of challenges remain there. And the battle for mobile-ad supremacy is only in its infancy. It seems the company that started at Harvard but moved westward to seek its fortune must continue to evolve, even as businesses around its birthplace bet their future on its success.

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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