Stories about Facebook’s advertising business tend to focus on the big numbers — its billions of users, millions of advertisers or its enormous lead over any competitor that’s not named Google.
But Facebook says that one of its success stories in recent years involves a relatively small group of engineers — in fact, originally it was just one engineer, Vastal Mehta, who serves as Facebook’s director of solutions engineering and now leads a team of more than 100 people. That team works with advertisers to build the technology and infrastructure needed to run more effective campaigns on Facebook, often on top of Facebook’s APIs.
Mehta said that when he first started working on this in 2010, it was a very different landscape, both for mobile (where BlackBerry was still a major player) and for Facebook (which hadn’t even introduced advertising into the News Feed). This was right as the company was trying to shift in a big way toward mobile, and advertisers were still trying to wrap their heads around the change: “For example, travel companies didn’t have teams set up to reach consumers with mobile advertising. We knew that we needed to invest in helping businesses build infrastructure to power their mobile advertising, so I started a team that could help businesses in this sort of bespoke way,” Mehta added.
You’d expect any digital media business to offer some degree of technical support to its biggest advertisers, but the solutions engineering team is actually building products.
For example, it was involved in creating Facebook’s dynamic ads format (where ads show different products to different users based on their activities and interests). Mehta said dynamic ads were first inspired by the complaints of an advertiser he was meeting with in Hamburg, Germany, and he then worked with the Facebook Ads team to create a prototype, eventually leading to a more polished product and broader availability.