• Interview with Facebook´s Christian Hernandez

    Date: 2011.03.25 | Jonathan Müller | Category: Economy, Social Media, Technology


    During the Global Sports Forum I had the chance to speak to Christian Hernandez. I can say to you that it was a pleasure speaking and listening to him at the sessions of the forum. So I have to thank him for taking time and of course the guys who organized the Global Sports Forum Barcelona for giving me the opportunity to speak exclusively before the sessions to Christian.


    Christian Hernandez is Facebook’s Head of International Business Development. He is tasked with increasing the use and engagement of the Facebook platform across international markets through the establishment of partnerships with media firms, technology companies, innovative start-ups and leading brands.

    Prior to Facebook, Christian held senior roles at Google where he led its commercial expansion into Eastern Europe and previously headed the business development efforts in EMEA for Google’s mobile products (search, mobile ads, Android) and PC clients (Toolbar, Chrome). Christian has also worked at Microsoft where he was the Global Marketing Manager for Smartphone.

    Christian holds a degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from The Wharton School. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Wharton Alumni Association and acts as an advisor to several start-ups in the mobile and internet space. Born in El Salvador and having grown up across Latin America, the US and Europe, Christian now resides in London with his wife and son.

    So let´s dive into some great insights on Sports & Facebook, the internationalization of Facebook features and in addition get a lot of good advices for social start-ups:



    Jonathan Müller (JM): Why should sports-people come to Facebook and talk about their passion?

    Christian Hernandez: People come to Facebook to share their passions. A passion could be your favorite TV-Show, the birth of your best friends child or your favorite team scoring. The problem is if you don´t create a place for this passions to be shared you might be sharing it with people who don´t care. Therefore you have to create specific hubs for these passions. A hub could be a FC Bayern München or Jonah Lomu having a page on Facebook. That should build the conversation around there. So the voice of the athlete, the brand or the team is actually part of the conversation on Facebook.

    JM: Despite the functional aspect, what can Facebook do for sports brands?

    Christian Hernandez: We are talking to a lot of media companies, to sports teams and celebrities to actually build these presences on Facebook and to make sure that they are the real voice, that there is only one FC Bayern München or only one FC Barcelona on Facebook.

    JM: Based on which criteria do you decide to speak to these institutions?

    Christian Hernandez: It depends how open the different federations, teams or athletes are to social media as an engagement medium, also that I have the proof that people talk about them, their team or their athletes on Facebook. What we give them is our tools to go capture that conversation.

    JM: Are there any specific examples?

    Christian Hernandez: In the UK for example we work with the players association. They created pages for 500 players at all levels of the FA. So there are 500 Players who have 30 Million followers. All from a local peer, to a player, all the way to Wayne Rooneys Page. And they actually manage on the behalf and teach them how to use the tools, so that they can be part of the conversation.

    JM: Which other roles can Facebook play in the future concerning sports consumption?

    Christian Hernandez: At home on a big screen TV – and I still think at home is where sport will be primary consumed on a large format – we play a secondarily role. You are on Facebook or you are watching TV. But it´s likely that your are watching a football game and your favorite teams scores, you will react to that on Facebook and share that with your friends. So how do we enhance that experience? One way is that we talk to the broadcaster to have a live-chat functionality on their website. That drives the conversation between common people who are screaming together.

    JM: What about the sports venues?

    Christian Hernandez: At the game is where you can check-in to the venue and you can discover that five of your friends are here at that place as well. And you get something back. For example FC Bayern München gave their fans 1.000 scarfs or the Golden State Warriors let one fan go to the locker room each game. So a lot of people actually check-in.

    JM: Are there other additional aspects?

    Christian Hernandez: In the US for example we took Facebook and put it on TV during the Super Bowl. While the Super Bowl was happening there was content flashing up. For example the most talked about celebrity or the most talked about player on Facebook. That brings the conversation from the computer back to the screen.


    JM: On which criteria do you decide to talk to these entities or to internationalize a new feature?

    Christian Hernandez: In general our belief is that we internationalize fast. But there are some issues about how to internationalize a product. Take Facebook Places as an example that was launched in the US. Later on we brought our check-in-service to the other countries. In Germany for example we had to get the local database, build the components of the maps and athen integrate them into the German version of the iPhone-App. It´s extra engineering what we need to do on a country basis. So we can´t just flip and switch and internationalize it. But the general belief is that we internationalize as quickly as possible on all territories.



    JM: Which advices do you have for all the vertical start-ups growing around Facebook?

    Christian Hernandez: If I was doing a social start up today I would start by borrowing all the free stuff I get from Facebook. So we give you the graph of 500 million people plus a deep identity. So when I log-in with the Facebook-log-in, I tell you not only who I am.

    I tell you my name, my demographic and my gender. I also tell you for example my favorite sports team or tv-show and other information concerning my interests. All that’s part of my identity which therefore should guide my experience. On top you can use Facebook for distribution, to drive “virality” and make new people discover your service – which is probably the hardest thing for any start-up.

    JM: Do you think that there is a chance for start-ups to build vertical-networks on top of Facebook?

    Christian Hernandez: I do believe that there is a place for vertical-services on top of our platform. For example be that “Sports”, be that “Jobs” or be that “Social-Dating”. There are a couple of successful examples in the US already.

    JM: Which city do you think has the most vivid start-up-scene in Germany?

    Christian Hernandez: I think at the moment Berlin is a passionate hub of the start-up-scene in Europe. Therefore we´re are doing the first Facebook-Hack ever – which is a developer-event – outside the US. There are hardcore techies coming together, building stuff in their free hours, discussing and learning from each other. And of course we have some engineers coming all over from Palo Alto.

    Finally I have to state that I really enjoyed the interview and the fact that Christian Hernandez took his time to talk about Facebook and sports. Whether you find this interview interesting or boring – i would love to read your comments below.