Illustration: In-Product Brand for Business Team, Facebook, Inc.

Designing for Meaningful Connections: Humanizing the Ads Industry

Yanling Wang
May 1, 2019 · 4 min read

Before joining Facebook in 2014, I was anti-advertising. I thought ads were annoying, spammy, and trying to make me buy things I didn’t need. During my first two weeks at Facebook, I was given a list of 10 teams across the company to choose from.

My first reaction was: I am not going to talk to those three teams in Ads.

Yet, after having 21 one-on-ones with all 10 teams, I decided to join Ads. And I have made a deliberate decision to stay with Ads for going on five years.

The mission for Ads is to make meaningful connections between people and businesses. The mission for my area, Ads Delivery, is to make every (Ads) impression meaningful.

This isn’t just something we talk about, it’s something we live every day.

I believe in our mission and am passionate about building great products for ads. To understand why, meet my 6-year-old son Yi, who has autism.

Photo: Yanling Wang

Yi and the FRC

One night in late 2014, during my first few months at Facebook, I was driving on Highway 280 at 2am with Yi in the car. I was so, so tired. I was driving and I was crying out loud. I felt I had no other options. I’d found that this was the only way I could calm him down, prevent him from screaming nonstop, and hurting himself by hitting his head with his little fists.

Some months and many late nights later, I came across a few nonprofits, including Gatepath’s Family Resource Center of San Mateo County. This organization provides parent support groups, information, and referral services to families with special needs children. Seeing the huge impact they had on my family and me, I decided to promote them on Facebook using the $250 monthly ad credit that Facebook allocates its employees.

One month later, participants of the support group at the Family Resource Center increased and the staff had to restructure how they ran the support group to account for the additional parents.

Photo: FRC Facebook Page

A few months later, I did the same thing for Autism JumpStart, after which they were able to connect with 200+ more families through their page on Facebook.

I know how significant each connection made between a struggling family and those nonprofits is. I was thrilled to see that with Facebook Ads, these organizations that I care deeply about were able to grow.

That is what I call a meaningful connection.

That is what I call a meaningful impression.

Yu And Dan, Small Business Owners

In 2015, my designer friends, Yu and Dan, quit their full-time design positions to start their own business, an automotive product-development firm called GPCA. They design their own products, have them manufactured, and sell the products online. I helped promote their business using the same employee credit.

When they first started, everything fit in their one-car garage. Three years later, they are renting a huge storage space and have hired multiple people — including one who’s responsible for creating and managing their Facebook Ads. Yu told me that those first Facebook Ads played a key role in their business growth.

Photo: GPCA Facebook Page

I am not naive, I know that Facebook ads don’t always work. For example, I haven’t had much success promoting a couple of Bay Area bands. I met one band, in particular, when they were performing at local farmers market (yup, I just walked up to total strangers and offered to help with Facebook ads!).

I haven’t had much success helping a painter friend either. But as with FRC and GPCA — and many other similar stories — Facebook ads have been making meaningful differences. We create job opportunities, we help businesses grow, and we make connections between businesses and the people they serve.

The way I see it, the better we do our jobs, the better this platform gets, and the more we can help make lives better and easier for the people that we care about.

Zuck had a famous line:

“We don’t build products to make money, we make money to build great products.”

I agree with him wholeheartedly and I believe in our mission wholeheartedly.

Can I count on you to join me on this journey? What’s your story? What gives you energy at work when facing challenges? What helps you keep marching forward when the problems are so big, so complex, and so ambiguous?

Facebook Design: Business Tools

Stories from like-minded product designers, UX researchers…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store