By Joe Pulizzi published July 7, 2014

The One Change Facebook Made that Led to $1 Billion

official line judge-measuringI’ve spent a lot of time recently with this Fast Company article on the future of Facebook (I highly recommend the read in its entirety). But there is one particularly critical part of this article that, if followed, could make all the difference for your content marketing plan.

After Facebook’s IPO in 2012, the stock dipped by over 50 percent, down to less than 20 dollars per share. Since that point, Facebook’s value has quadrupled. The major reason, according to the article, is a revision Facebook made to its management and performance structure.

Prior to this period, Facebook’s ad team had been responsible for revenue, while the product team was focused on user engagement. After months of lackluster results, and a clear lack of a unified team effort, Facebook decided to reward all its employees on their performance against a single metric: revenue. It was argued that, “the enterprise would get a whole lot more ideas, and they would be better, more creative, more diverse.”

And boy did this change work. In November of that year, App Ads came out, representing a true collaboration between the ad team and the product team. It was a game changer and, according to Fast Company, added over $1 billion in revenue.

Goal-driven measurement vs. the content marketing plan

One of the top challenges enterprise organizations experience in developing successful content marketing programs is a lack of alignment around employee goals. Take this example: Just recently, one of our clients put in months of work creating a new blog for one of its key audiences. It was a great effort, but then they discovered they couldn’t get any promotion for the blog on the company’s own website. Why? The web team’s performance was measured on page traffic only. Since the blog wouldn’t help in that initiative, the request for blog promotion fell on deaf ears.

You’d be surprised how often this shortsightedness happens in large companies.

We can all dream of increasing revenues from our content by billions of dollars, but let’s be realistic here. What do we know for sure about a content marketing program? It needs to drive revenue in some way. It either needs to create new revenue opportunities or it needs to drive more revenue from current customers. It’s that simple.

Most likely, this is easier for Facebook to do than your company. Facebook is trying to drive ad revenue through every change it makes, but your indicators-to-revenue equation may be a bit different, depending on your business and your goals. For example, if measuring direct sales (a primary metric) is a challenge with your content marketing initiatives, you may be better served by looking at some secondary indicators, such as:

  • An increase in lead quality
  • An increase in lead quantity
  • Customer turnover rates
  • Changes in the spending patterns of customers who consume your content
  • Shorter sales cycles

pyramid-content marketing indicators

When you are putting a plan together to figure out which goals make the most sense to pursue, the best way to start is to clearly run through questions that lead to our most reliable indicators of content marketing success:

  • What is the goal of the content initiative (a primary indicator, a sales metric, a cost-savings metric, etc.)?
  • What are the user indicators (i.e., web traffic or SEO rankings) that will drive secondary indicators (i.e., leads, shorter sales cycles)?
  • How can we develop a unified metric that will help us hit our goals and drive all team members to excel?

While there is no silver-bullet metric, since all content programs behave differently, the majority of our larger enterprise clients seem to rely on subscriber analysis; basically, they look to answer the question:

What is the difference between people who subscribe and engage in our content and those who don’t?

From there, you have many options on how to create a singular focus. You may want to compensate your team based on increasing net subscriber rates, or perhaps on net qualified leads. Or perhaps your goal should be to increase the number of subscribers who take an agreed-upon secondary action (like signing up to receive an additional piece of content, like a weekly newsletter, or a white paper).

It comes down to this: If compensation for your content team is based on different goals than those of other teams in your enterprise, you’ll never be as successful as you can or should be.  It may not be easy to bring everyone’s goals into alignment, but it’s absolutely essential. Take a page from Facebook: Finding the right metrics for gauging content success is just as important as any other business decision you will ever make.

For more great ideas, insights, and examples for advancing your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi.

Cover image by Peter Griffin via

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Anders Borg

    I’m not sure how Facebook’s ads for apps (that close to 100 other companies provided before Facebook did, which the author of the FC article seems to have completely forgotten) has anything to do with content marketing. As far as I understand those ads are just links to app store pages. Right/wrong?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Anders…it was the fact that the two teams (revenue and content) worked together to make this happen. In most publishing and corporate content teams, these two groups tend not to work with each other, hence the reason why we don’t see progress.

      • Anders Borg

        I understand that, but I don’t see what this has to do with content (marketing). It was a collaboration between ad sales (no content there) and development (no content there either). What I’m trying to figure out is whether a company like Facebook is at all doing content marketing. They simply serve banner ads, like everyone else has done for the last 15 years. They “happen” to have tons of users and have been surprisingly successful at retaining them, hence hugely attractive for advertisers. I don’t mean to slander content marketing as a phenomenon (I’m in that business myself), but sometimes (just sometimes) “1 + 2” is not “orangutang”.

        • Joe Pulizzi

          Hi Anders…specifically, this is not about content marketing and Facebook. It’s about how Facebook structured and what content marketers can learn about it. In most enterprises, there is a big disconnect between sales (revenue) and the marketing folks (content marketing). A big reason for this disconnect is that those folks are compensated differently.

          The FB example shows that if you can get those two groups focused on the same end goal, great things can happen.

          Does that make sense?

          • Anders Borg

            Absolutely, but there’s certainly more to it than compensation. Culture/priority-wise both sides can be against such a collaboration, a la “not my call”.

  • Emeric

    Great post Joe! I don’t run a big company, but I do see benefits in aligning everyone on the same goals!

  • clemmie

    A little change in Facebook leads to the profit for the developers of the Facebook, as they made the interface of Facebook more efficient and provide more sticker Options for there users definitely lead to profit for them.