Announcements at F8 this week mark a real turning point in the way in which brands interact with consumers on Facebook. Here’s the top five things you need to know.
1. Timeline – the new profile page
This is one of the biggest changes users will notice, rolling out on 2nd October. Whereas once a Facebook profile was a digital snapshot of a person, it now becomes a digital autobiography. Actions and content such as photos are organised by time, with the timeline stretching back – a bit creepily if you ask me – to ‘birth’!! If brands want to find a meaningful place in a user’s profile, they really need to find ways to truly add value to users and be part of their life, enabling and enhancing their activity. Think about the power of an estate agent being indelibly inked into a user’s autobiography because they bought their first house through them – the opportunity for brand affinity is enormous.
__ __ _____ Just as importantly, this will impact the fan pages of brands too eventually. Zuckerberg has spoken of a wish to make all profile pages equal. Imagine the brand story you could tell on such a page if you are an iconic brand with heritage such as McDonalds, (see below courtesy of mashable) Kellogg’s, Lamborghini, or Auto Trader!!!
Take out: Find creative ways to be a part of the digital autobiography, forget static snapshot profiles.
Take out: Start thinking about your own page overhaul now.
2. News feed & ticker
Users will now have more control over what appears where in their news feed because they can mark or unmark certain stories as ‘top stories’. News is now split between ‘top stories’, ‘most recent’ and ‘from earlier today’. So those brands which post un-engaging or irrelevant content will find their posts enjoying fewer and fewer impressions. To be honest, this will only punish brands which have remained blissfully unaware of Edgerank – the algorithm which has dictated what appears in a user’s newsfeed since April 2010. It’s just that users have more explicit influence over Edgerank now.
All actions and stories will show up in the new ‘ticker’ however, which is a ‘natural’ feed of activity in the top right. Which brings us to another point – interaction with a brand will now be more visible than ever thanks to the ticker, so encouraging existing fans to comment on a post, upload a photo and so on will mean your brand page is noticed by more of their friends. Encouraging interaction specifically with posts will ensure they gain a good Edgerank score and appear to as many fans as possible.
Take out: Your posts are going to need to be brilliant to encourage users to mark them as top news. Encourage more interaction. It’s so much more than just ‘liking’ now.
Take out: Keep a programme of doing something non-intrusive, such as uploading a photo to your page’s album or commenting on a post, every hour or as often as possible – you will appear in your fans new ticker every time, but in a less intrusive fashion, meaning you stay top-of-mind.
3. Facebook ‘Gestures’
Previously, the only thing a user could do to an ‘object’ on facebook – a person, a post, a comment, a video – was ‘like’ it. Now, a publisher can combine any verb with any noun, which takes indicating a preference for something way beyond the humble and one dimensional ’like’. The new verbs begin to make a user’s true feelings and behaviour more transparent and will likely lead to an explosion in sharing and content discovery, which is good news for publishers.
Take out: Publishers now have more options for allowing users to share their behaviour, and should consider what benefits this could bring. If ‘Zuckerbergs Law’ holds true (that the volume of content shared grows doubles every year) Facebook will soon become an even more serious driver of traffic and conversion. Make sure you’re involved in that!
4. Media partnerships
Some exclusive partnerships have been announced, such as Guardian, Spotify and Netflix which will mean that users do not have to leave the Facebook environment in order to read news, listen to music or watch a movie. I’m a little perplexed by this one. I can see what’s in it for Facebook (can we envisage a day where you don’t ever have to leave facebook.com? Scary) but for the partners it is quite a gamble. They are essentially forgoing much of their own site traffic and control over their own site to allow their content to be consumed in a foreign environment. To put it bluntly, once more users are reading the Guardian on facebook than on Guardian.co.uk which is entirely possible, Facebook have The Guardian by the balls. The upside of course, is the frictionless sharing and no doubt massive increase in consumption of their content within the Facebook environment.
Speaking of frictionless sharing, the last point to mention is that apps will only need to ask for permission to post to a users wall once now rather than each time.
Take out: Think carefully before exporting your site’s core offerings to Facebook. That’s an awful lot of control to give up. It’s different for every brand but a programme of using Facebook to interact yet ultimately drive traffic and registrations to your own site, still feels right for most brands.
What are your thoughts on the impact to brands of Facebook’s latest changes?