Facebook Poaches Another PayPal Exec: Christina Smedley To Run Messenger Comms

When David Marcus joined Facebook last year from PayPal to run its Messenger business, many people speculated that it would herald the social network getting much more serious about payments and commerce in general. Now the company has poached another exec from the business that recently spun out from eBay: Christina Smedley — who had been PayPal’s VP of global brand and communications — is joining to run communications for Messenger.

We got the news by way of a tip from a reader, but now both companies have confirmed the move. “I can confirm she is joining Facebook later this year and will be running communications for Messenger,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.

“We wish Christina all the best and thank her for her many contributions to our company over the past three years.  The Brand and Communications teams are excited to build on PayPal’s momentum and to extend and deepen the influence of the PayPal brand as we engage our 170 million active customers around the world,” a PayPal spokesperson said.

It looks like Smedley will be reporting into Facebook’s communications team rather than Marcus himself.

Since Facebook split off Messenger into its own app, Jillian Stefanki had been running comms for the division.

You can see where Smedley’s track record might come in useful as Facebook continues to build out messenger as a platform for more than chatting with friends off the public track of the News Feed.

paypal_christina_smedley_3Smedley was at PayPal since 2012, and among the work that she did there was lead the company in a pretty massive rebranding effort across web and mobile. Those changes were effective enough to lead to a boost in usage: rises of 5 percent in customer and business signups, 8 percent in account activations, and 9 percent in peer-to-peer money transfers, according to one report.

She also oversaw the development teams responsible for PayPal.com and various media campaigns and all internal comms. Her efforts were not without some critics, though.

Before PayPal, Smedley’s other experience included running all global comms for Amazon and also time at Edelman where she managed accounts for giants like Unilever. The Edelman pedigree should also be key considering that many of her consumer goods clients there will also be key brands for Facebook in both commerce and advertising.

It’s still not clear that Facebook actually hired Smedley for her track record in commerce, but if they did, she has her work cut out for her as an expert in selling the idea of commerce to a population that may be using commerce services every day elsewhere, but may not necessarily associate them that closely with Facebook.

For its part, Facebook has been a little hit and miss when it comes to e-commerce developments.

Efforts have included — but have not been limited to — Facebook Gifts, which didn’t really develop into a well-used service and was eventually shut down as Facebook turned its attention to a “buy” button. A while ago, Facebook kickstarted its own Foursquare-Swarm-like “check-in” features, but these haven’t converted into any significant monetization efforts. Most recently, we reported that the company is testing out a dedicated shopping feed in its mobile app.

All in all, lots of activity, for sure, but overall payments have remained a small proportion of the company’s business. In its last quarterly results, Facebook noted that ads accounted for the vast majority of its revenues: $3.827 billion versus $215 million for payments “and other fees.” That $215 million was down 8 percent on the same quarter a year ago.

At PayPal, it will be interesting to see who replaces Smedley and how the company continues to present itself to the public as a standalone business separate from eBay. One of its competitors, Square, just yesterday filed for an IPO, and another payments giant, First Data, is also expected to debut today with the biggest IPO of the year. PayPal’s stock was down slightly in premarket trading today.