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What Facebook’s New Changes (Again!?) Mean To Your Marketing Plans

September 25, 2011

By now everybody who leverages Facebook as part of their marketing plan is up to speed on the changes Facebook announced in recent days.  For those of you not up to speed, here’s a rundown as well as thoughts on what it all means.  At the end of this post I share a link that does a fantastic job encapsulating how this ‘New Facebook’ changes the way marketers need to think and operate… don’t miss it.

1. You’re going to get a Timeline — a scrapbook of your life. 

Fact: In a complete overhaul of its ever-evolving profile page, Facebook is introducing Timeline. This is a stream of information about you — the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates, the apps you’ve used, even the places you’ve visited on a world map — that scrolls all the way back to your birth. It encourages you to post more stuff about your past, such as baby pictures, using Facebook as a scrapbook.

Observations:  Some people will be freaked out.  Others will love it and go to great lengths to truly make it a scrap book of their lives.  But for most of us the timeline will be come an odd collection of our occasional Facebook activities that bear little relation to who we are.  This is a good piece that looks at the Timeline with skepticism, billing it as Zuckerberg’s biggest gamble.  I agree with most of this post.  In fact, I have been building my own timeline via Koz’s Keepsakes.  And this touching video from Google depicts how no algorithmic approach can compare…

2. You don’t have to just Like something — now you can [verb] any [noun].

Fact: Remember when all you could do to something on Facebook — a video, a comment, a product, a person — was Like it? Pretty soon that’s going to seem laughably antiquated. The social network has launched Facebook Gestures, which means that Facebook’s partners and developers can turn any verb into a button.

Observations:  The good news, this is going to be huge for Facebook, and for Facebook Advertisers.  The kind of grandularity that’s now possible will make highly targeted ad placements even more powerful.  The bad news, it’s also going to be a pain in the a** for under-resourced companies to implement and (regardless of your resources) standing out and being relevant just got a whole lot harder.  Here’s a good summary describing just how hard it will get.

The emphasis on lifestreaming rather than merely using the platform to amplify a message means that apps will become more of a vehicle for branding… The change will require new thinking from marketers who had merely tried to accumulate as many fans and “Likes” as possible… the “Like” is “a little less relevant now,” and that marketers will have to work harder to earn their place in news feeds. “Your content is going to need to be absolutely amazing,” she says.

3. Facebook apps need only ask permission once to share stories on your behalf.

Fact: Although not as big a deal as the Timeline, this tweak may be one of the more controversial. Previously, apps had to ask every time they shared information about you in your profile. Now, the first time you authorize the app, it will tell you what it’s going to share about you. If you’re cool with that, the app never has to ask you again.

Observation:  Once people realize this, they will freak out.  You will start to see the familiar facebook ‘cut/paste’ rants…

4. All “lightweight” information is going to the Ticker.

Fact:  Status updates, photos from a wedding or a vacation, changes in relationship status: these are the kinds of things you want to see from your friends when you look at your news feed. Who killed whom in Mafia Wars? Who planted what in FarmVille? Not so much. So that kind of trivial detail has been banished to the Ticker, a real-time list of things your friends are posting now that scrolls down the side of your screen.

Observation:  Nobody will care about the ticker.  But the data it represents is huge for FB and FB advertisers.  See #2.

5. You can watch TV and movies, listen to music, and read news with your friends — all within Facebook.

Fact: Starting today, thanks to a whole bunch of partnerships, there are a lot more things you can do without ever having to leave Facebook. You can watch a show on Hulu, listen to a song on Spotify, or check out a story on Yahoo News (or Mashable, via the Washington Post‘s Social Read app). The ticker will tell you what your friends are watching, listening to or reading, allowing you to share the experience with them by clicking on a link.   The upshot: a brand-new kind of media-based peer pressure.

Observation:  Not certain Facebookers are going to dig this ‘feature’.  But it will be huge for FB and FB advertisers.  See #2.

Bottom Line:  You need to change the way you think and operate as a Facebook Marketer.  Here’s why and how.

Do The Newsfeed and Ticker Changes Break Fan Page Marketing?

But will the changes to the news feed and the addition of the ticker affect fan marketing? Will pages be able to reach their fans? Will it be worthwhile to spend ad money to build fan bases?

The jury is still out. I am waiting for more data to see if yesterday’s changes will reduce the visibility of Facebook page posts to fans. I’ve heard anecdotally that this has happened for some, but we need more data to be sure.

Some have theorized that the news feed will now be even more hard on pages that get low feedback rates on their posts. That makes page posting best practices even more important.

Best advice for now: Focus even more on getting higher feedback rates, and do quality posts two to three times a day. Watch your data and adjust accordingly.

Recency, More Frequent Posting, and EdgeRank

And the blending of recent and top news (part of the changes to the main feed announced two days ago) means that posting more often may give you an advantage.

However, this is dangerous — don’t let the anxiety to post more make you post less engaging content, because that will hurt your feedback rate and could keep your posts from getting into top news.

The idea that posting more frequently will help you assumes that you are hitting an EdgeRank threshold that makes you visible to fans.

What’s Up With GraphRank?

This is going to be the source of a lot of debate and study for the next year. The biggest clue Taylor gave us about how it’s different is that it will include friend and family lists. Facebook may not show your mom something it would show your friends.

Does that change how we market? Probably not.

Fundamentally, these ranks serve to tell Facebook when to tell your connections about your activities (either as a profile or a page).

So if you continue to do things that cause interest and engagement, you will continue to get visibility.

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