Major Facebook Changes: Five Things That Matter to Marketers

Like most in our industry, I tuned in to the live stream of f8 to hear what Mark Zuckerberg and team have been working on and what’s in store for the brands who use the platform to build their business.

Our Ogilvy team will be looking at these changes and their impact on marketers in detail over the coming week.  In the meantime, below are five quick takes as the microphones cools down from more than 75 minute presentation:

1) Facebook Timeline

Sound byte: “It’s how you can tell the whole story of your life on a single page.”

This may be the biggest new feature since the introduction of the news feed in 2006 and the impact for brand pages is just as profound.  In short, Facebook has packaged all the activity that tends to fall off the “news feed cliff” after a few days and assembled a personal museum showcasing the highlights from a person’s Facebook life.

Presumably – though Mark didn’t mention this explicitly – brand pages, too, could have a timeline that fans could use to chart the launch of major product announcements over the course of many years, plot the rise and fall of logos, styles, and product designs, and even see a customised version of a Brand Page timeline a highlighting the history of the brand along with interaction from a specific user.

One could also imagine a timeline in which Brand Page Administrators could upload historic photos and brand history well before their plunge onto Facebook, seamlessly threading a 100-year legacy to the current day on the wall.  Imagine reading the latest news from the Ford page this week and scrolling down on the same page to see the evolution of the vehicles and the history all the way back to Henry Ford himself (disclosure: client).

This seems like a great way to craft an image-rich brand history, though be it could haunt some brands with early missteps on the platform as those early posts may be easier to dig up than ever before.

2) “Lightweight” Earned Media & Open Graph

Soundbyte: “”Ticker is a lightweight stream of everything going on around you. Because it’s moving by so quickly, you will never feel annoyed by a friend. When you share a post it goes into the News Feed, but when you add activity through the Open Graph it goes into Ticker”

Research suggests many brand fans stop short of sharing content through their feed for fear of annoying friends tired of seeing your daily Nike+ Running app updates.  “I don’t care how far you ran this morning, get out of my feed!” users likely hear in their heads and opt not to share.  To address this, Facebook created a second, fast moving stream called Ticker.  Built on the back of the Open Graph, ticker is designed to launch a new form of social app relying on a set of verbs “Read”, “Watch”, “Listen” designed foster a spirit of serendipity as these help you “discover new things through your friends,” as Zuckerberg announced.

As new verbs possible come on board (imagine “drove” for an automaker, “ran” for the Nike+ running app) the power of earned media increases in both breadth as more people are likely to share if they can plop this in the Ticker versus in the bright lights of the news feed and in depth as brand fans are freed from the one-word Like Lexicon and have greater degree of control in the way the share and describe affinity.

3) Longtail Lifestyle

Sound byte: “Express who you are through all the things that you do — the music you love, the recipes you enjoy, the runs you take, and more.”

Closely related to #2, Zuckerberg made reference to a suite of music and movie apps that had been given early access to the new feature set in the form of a social lifestyle app collection including Spotify, Deezer, Earbits, Mixcloud, Hulu, and Netflix.

Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, made a brief cameo to talk about how, in an early roll out of this feature among his Netflix employees, he was more compelled to watch an episode of Breaking Bad by a friend’s ticker post alerting friends that he was “watching” breaking bad, despite months of seeing the AMC television show in his own “recommended for you” list.

4) Potential Friction for “Frictionless”

Sound byte: Mashble editor Jennifer Van Grove wrote on Twitter, “I can see a lot of users getting peeved about the “frictionless experiences” piece. Apps auto-posting to the Timeline sounds like a lot less control for the user.”

Zuckerberg pointed out his frustration with apps interrupting users to share an action in the middle of using an app as major problem.  He gave an example of a mario brothers apps that pauses in mid play to encourage users to share once Mario nabs a mushroom.  Now, those “share / don’t share” days are gone.  Apps will now make is these updates “frictionless”, easier for apps to publish to the ticker without the need to prompt users. One can envision a situation in which frictionless publishing will result in a less control of what get published – newsfeed, ticker, or otherwise.

Time will tell how much of a privacy issue this becomes.  History tells us Facebook will ask us to become a bit more open with our data than we’re currently comfortable with, Facebook will hold the line, and we’ll get used to a new level of openness.  Brands will need be wary of a frictionless world for the sake of its consumers, while still using the data that pours out as a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

5) Facebook as the Preferred Social Hub for Brands

Sound byte: “For the first time ever in a single day we had half a billion people use Facebook.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Google+ has put up some impressive early figures and many have written about the superior Google+ brand pages and potential take over of Facebook.  Had Facebook remained unchanged, and Google+ scored some major brand cases in Q4 2011, there may have been the case for such an argument.

Now, with a new form of earned media on Facebook beyond “Like”, with the introduction of a lightweight stream designed for users to share everything, and with half a billion users logging in everyday, Facebook and its Brand Pages have gained greater distance from rivals competing for eyeballs.  Brands with years of experiences under their belts and in year 3 or 4 of Facebook will continue to devote more resources to the diverse forms of earned media it generates as the platform races toward the once unbelievable one billion mark.

{Cross posted from the Ogilvy Digital Influence Blog}