Launching and scaling a business into the multi-millions requires planning, confidence and a fair amount of luck especially with marketing on Facebook. Niket was privileged to be a part of that journey with some fantastic companies and he wants to share some of that experience from inside Facebook with budding entrepreneurs.
Niket will discuss the decisions and factors that helped him scale and grow the Facebook Performance Marketing and Content Publishing teams, and how that same knowledge has helped him grow several other businesses since. He’ll share tidbits of information on how and why Facebook cares about certain types of offers, and what separates the shining stars from the rest of the pack.
While many people in the audience may be running offers successfully today, they need to pay attention to several factors on an offer when looking to scale in the future. Ensuring that you are both protecting your brand, your clients and the overall ecosystem.
Speech by Niket Shah | Founder, Acceler8 Labs
Niket Shah Speech Transcript
Thanks Eric for that great introduction, I appreciate that.
So hi everyone, thank you so much for joining. My name again is Niket Shah.
As Eric mentioned, I was lucky enough to spend the last 5 years of my career working at Facebook.
And since we had so many great speakers already talk about buying and optimisation on the platform, they thought it’d be interesting for me to talk a little bit about some other lessons that I’ve learned from buying on the platform.
From working at Facebook to now buying on the platform as well as an affiliate.
So before we get into it, quick disclaimer, this is all now me talking not Facebook. This is completely my experience and my personal beliefs on what I went through at Facebook.
So first things first, I leave Facebook. I’m ready to get going.
Facebook Marketing: Buying Your First Ad
I’m ready to buy my first ad.
So I set up my business manager. set up an ad account. Get a credit card.
And I find a really good offer that I know is white hat and I have no problems to run it.
So within the first 3 days, I get one of these.
I as well get an email from Facebook to say that my ad account has been disabled for a policy violation. I know some of you were chuckling because a lot of you have had this same email come to your inbox.
For me, it was kind of unbelievable. For me, I helped write some of these policies. I helped understand or help Facebook understand what works, what doesn’t work, what this affiliate industry is doing and why things are right.
So for me, I was pretty flabbergasted.
But anyway, this is all to show I now empathise a lot more with you people to understand why things are getting shut down and why it’s not working properly.
Thankfully for me, this was a false positive. I got my account back in a couple of days, not the easiest of the process but again I was a little lucky that I was able to get this up and running a little bit quicker,
But let’s step back a little bit, so I’m gonna take you back to a little bit about Facebook, about the campus, about the culture. And then going on to some lessons that I’ve learned.
The Sun Microsystems
So on your first day of Facebook when you first arrive, you see this giant logo at the campus in Menlo Park.
It stands for a lot of things.
It stands for growth, it stands for scale, it stands for a company that’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. And it also stands for the massive campus that’s behind it.
But a lot of people don’t know is that this sign also has a second meaning.
When you step behind the sign, every employee leaves every single day, you see this, which is the Sun Microsystems logo.
It’s not there because Facebook’s lazy. And they didn’t want to take it down or they didn’t want to spend money on the back of a sign.
It’s there as a reminder. A reminder that no matter how great something can be, it can be taken away.
For those that remember Sun Microsystems in the 90s and early 2000s was one of the biggest tech companies in the world. And very few people saw that or thought that it could be taken down or go away.
So for us, this was a humbling approach to the business. It was never take anything for granted, keep evolving, keep innovating.
There are examples like this today. The example of Blackberry thinking that Apple, no one’s gonna want a phone that doesn’t have a keyboard, so Apple is not a threat, it’s a hobby.
There are other reminders of this all throughout the campus internally at Menlo Park, there are old meeting rooms with the Sun Microsystems logo half scratched off or filing cabinets and desks with the Sun Microsystems there.
Hack Is Not A Negative Word
All as a reminder that all this greatness can be taken away if you don’t plan and continue to innovate your business.
As you continue to walk around the campus, you’ll see other signs. This one is probably the most famous, the word hack.
Hack is part of the Facebook culture. And for most people hack is seen as a negative word.
But in our business, hack is solving problems in ways that weren’t thought of before. It is finding unique solutions to problems that people didn’t even know existed.
You can see hack from the top of the building to inside offices on paintings. And even in the middle of the square of the campus, called Hacker Square and that can be seen flying overhead from a plane.
The other humbling thing about working at Facebook for that long was that everyone coming there has a very type A personality. But when I worked at a previous company in an enterprise role, a type A personality meant I was different.
I was taken in a different light. I often was someone I would speak up a lot in meeting rooms because I had the opportunity to speak up in meeting rooms.
The Impostor Syndrome
At Facebook, you almost get impostor syndrome. Everyone there is a type A personality and really smart and you have to get comfortable with often not being the smartest person in the room anymore.
And sometimes that was okay. It was okay for me to just sit in a meeting room and not say something.
But the feeling of being an impostor was something that definitely stood out for me.
When I left Facebook, as great as Facebook was, there are some things that I wish it did teach me or some things that I wish it did learn about this industry and about what we’re doing on affiliate marketing.
One of those things is the grass is always greener on the other side.
Working At Facebook
At Facebook, I had the opportunity to work at one of the greatest companies that I’ve ever had a chance to and one of the biggest tech companies in the world.
But for me, when I started managing the performance marketing vertical for Facebook and seeing all these clients, a lot of the people in the room today, I was like well, I’m doing great at this company but that person’s over there making millions of dollars a year, that sounds great, I want to be doing that.
And this person is making $20,000 a day or $10,000 a day.
For me, I was thinking that the outside world seemed a lot more attractive.
But what you don’t realise is that people don’t always talk about their worst days. They only share their greatest days.
They share their greatest stories, they share the best things that happen to them. And that’s the perception that they want to portray.
So it was definitely a reality check when I started buying media on my own but that that’s not as easy as it’s made to seem.
The other is that it’s extremely demotivating to keep seeing all these Facebook posts. I joined every single Facebook group there is, I think.
And everyone’s posting on there. My $100,000 a day, my million dollar Shopify store, this great app, this great technology.
And I’m like “well how are they doing it, I can’t. I should know this stuff better I have a competitive advantage.”
And you quickly realise that again, it’s all smoke and mirrors and a lot of people only share their best stories. They don’t tell you about the trials and tribulations.
And you really don’t often get to hear about the people that went through those struggles.
Scale Is Hard
The next, scale is really hard.
When I was at Facebook, scale came easy.
We would work really hard, we go to sleep, we’d wake up, hey there be another million users on the platform.
We keep making more money. Everyone kept using the platform. It was like a snowball effect in a positive way.
So naturally, I’m like, “Scale should be easy. I’m gonna wake up, I’m gonna run some ads, they’re gonna work really hard and scale is gonna come, I should be able to do anything, I can get this to a $10,000 ad set.”
It’s obviously not that easy.
It’s one of the things I definitely wish I learned and I’ve made some mistakes on that as well.
The next thing is distraction.
One of the things I took for granted at Facebook was definitely the fact that I was put in a role that gave me all the support in the world that I was able to scale and grow my business or in Facebook to the way I wanted it to, without any other distraction. I had one thing to focus on.
But when I left, there were so many distractions. The world essentially became my oyster,
I could do anything I wanted to do.
And then I’m like, “Well this guy over here is making 100k a month on a Shopify store, I’m gonna go do that. But this affiliate over here is running this offer and it’s going really, really great. And someone back there is running email traffic and it’s doing really, really well, maybe I should do that.”
And what I found really quickly was that I’m doing a little bit of everything but I’m not doing anything really good.
I don’t have $100,000 Shopify store. I’m not getting that offer to work and I have no idea how to do email.
So coming back down and getting to focus was one of the biggest things that I had to learn after I left Facebook.
But all these things are great. I did learn some good things on Facebook that I took with me to help me scale and grow my current business.
Posters Are Helpful Too
As you walk around the Facebook campus, you see posters like this all throughout the office.
These are actually created internally by Facebook, by a department called the Analog Research Laboratory.
And there’s probably a dozen more than this, the “every day feels like a week” is probably one of my favorites as well because it definitely did.
But from this, these lessons, these posters are what kind of embody the Facebook culture. You see them everywhere when you’re having a tough day, something like this will remind you of greatness or something that you could probably achieve.
So 3 of these really stuck out for me, so I wanted to share those three with you and how those have helped me in my current business.
Done is better than perfect.
Very often what I would focus on, I was always trying to be perfect.
I was always trying to make sure that I don’t want to release this product, a website, this offer till I know everything is perfect.
Unfortunately, that’s not always true. Done is better than perfect for a lot of people and for me especially.
Making sure that I get ads out there and testing. Making sure that I’ve got some kind of data set, so I know actually what’s happening, has been really valuable to me.
Getting that insight helps me make sure that I’m focusing on something correctly, rather than just doing what I think is perfect because my perfect doesn’t necessarily mean what’s perfect for the business.
Nothing at Facebook is somebody else’s problem.
Think about that. Nothing at Facebook is somebody else’s problem.
The Eye-Opener Poster
For me, that was an eye-opening poster. It’s probably one of my favourites.
You don’t have to just do your job, everything is your job. So if I see something broken, even though I was on the sales side, if I saw something broken on that engineering or product side, that was my responsibility too.
And I had to go fix it. And I had to take off my sales hat and put on an engineering hat and work with someone to actually solve that problem.
I didn’t have the ability to just put my hand up and say, “well that’s not my job. I can’t do that.”
You don’t get those kinds of opportunities when you’re trying to grow and scale really quickly.
You need to wear every single hat. And if you’re not able to wear every single hat, you’re letting something slip away from your business.
Not only that, it gives you the ability to speak that language at least a topical level, so you can have conversations or intelligent conversations with everyone about what you’re trying to do.
And we know we’ve talked a lot about, or lot of people before me talked about VAs. And this is where if you know enough about something, you can swoop in and kind of help in that challenge when you’re working with VAs.
Now the other one is Fail harder.
Failing hard is really important.
There’s nothing wrong with failing.
I’ve failed a ton of times, I’ve failed in my current business. I failed at Facebook, but that’s okay because those are all learning experiences.
In my current business, one of my fails was, I tried to scale my business too fast.
I didn’t realise how I’d have to juggle payments from an advertiser or from a network to my credit cards, I didn’t realise how much money I’d have to float on credit cards and starting to take out lines of credit, just so that I can scale my business.
I didn’t realise that, but I did really quickly.
And these are all great things, but as great of a company is Facebook is, they could definitely learn a couple things from this group and these amazing marketers in the room as well.
If Facebook Can Learn From Us
So what are some things that I think and probably a lot of you think, would be great if Facebook could learn from us?
- Improve clarity and transparency with advertisers around what the policies are.
- Reduce the false positives, including my banned account from before.
- Build a platform that’s built with performance marketers, rather than something that feels like it’s not meant for us and rather than us having to try to figure it out.
And you’re probably all thinking, “well Niket that’s great, but when’s that actually gonna happen.”
Truth is, I actually don’t know.
But what I do know is that it starts with the people in this room.
Facebook and other platforms are people based platforms. They care about their users, they care about the experiences that these people have on the platform every single day.
Us as marketers, as we continue to try and push the boundaries and try to push up against that policy line, we’re creating bad user experiences.
We’re creating bad experiences for the platform and they’re not gonna be transparent with us.
The best thing we can do as marketers are really take a tiptoe away from what we’re trying to do.
Don’t try to figure out where that line in the sand is, go 5 feet in front of it, 10 feet in front of it.
I hear this all the time from everyone, that I know in the industry, it’s like what offer is working really well, what creative are they using. Okay I’m gonna go do that.
And then they do it and then it burns out in a month and then it’s a cat-and-mouse game.
Then it’s like, okay what’s the next offer that’s working. Okay, what’s e-commerce and what products running on e-commerce.
Don’t always try to do that, don’t always try to find the hack.
Try to be innovative.
These companies were, these platforms were and that’s how they’ve gotten to where they are today.
What we really want to focus on is trying to figure out how do we build businesses. How do we build scale? How do we build something for the long run because the Facebook’s, the Googles, the Twitter’s and every other platform out there is based on their users?
And they do want longevity on the platform. And we should be thinking about that in our businesses as well.
Even for myself, when I think about my business, it is definitely about longevity.
I’m trying not to do anything that’s gonna interfere with Facebook or any other business. I’m trying to build with them. I’d love to work with a company like Facebook on my business and be a partner for them going forward.
And I think there’s a lot of people in this room and some other partners that have done things like that.
Becoming something like an FMP or a Facebook Marketing Partner or anything like that where you can actually work with the company to grow their business. Then we’re no longer chasing this black-hat white-hat game.
It’s just really good marketing.
What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid
And one of the last things I want to leave you with is probably the thing that’s helped me the most in my career and even coming out onto the stage right now is probably one of my favorite sayings from Facebook.
And that’s saying is,
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
If you weren’t afraid to take risks, if you weren’t afraid to take challenges, if I wasn’t afraid to come out here and talk about this experience, if I wasn’t afraid to go to Facebook and learn about that, if I wasn’t afraid to leave Facebook and do that.
What would you do, what greatness would you build? What products would you build, what kind of social media marketing would you try?
And what leap are you gonna take to make your business better and to continue to grow and scale your company?