As many marketers are aware, there have been quite a few changes in Facebook’s display and features. From earlier updates, such as Subscribe features, to the new Timeline profile announced at the f8 conference, these changes mean businesses will have to make necessary alterations to Facebook marketing campaigns.
Updates already introduced to the mass Facebook audience include:
- Photo/tag approvals that give users control over the images associated with them
- Facebook Subscriptions that enable people to decide which connections they want to see content from (and how much)
- One stream newsfeeds, which combine Top News and Most Recent News
- Ticker, which resembles Twitter’s real-time updates, highlighting the recent activity of friends
And there are more to come. If you haven’t already heard about the Timeline feature, which is only accessible to developers at the moment, you’re in store for some huge visual changes to your profile.
There’s a general theme to the Facebook changes marketers should bear in mind: Users will get a more personalized experience. Social media marketing plans that include posts relevant to a brand’s Facebook audience have always been important to fostering social engagement, but now social content increasingly key to garnering visibility on the site. Businesses that already post fresh offers, timely information, industry news and other quality content marketing headlines might see Facebook’s changes help them stand out with their fans (and friends of fans), and those that don’t should take this as an incentive to start!
Timelines: Make consumers care about Branded Facebook content
Debuted during the f8 conference, Facebook says the timeline will create a “better connected world.” The Timeline allows users to view their personal history since the birth of their Facebook profile. It provides an overview of users’ status updates, media, places and applications. Users can customize their timelines to share more or less of the content they enjoy by clicking the “Feature in Timeline” tab. This can help marketers determine what matters to exemplar members of their audience and target them appropriately. So if users are into sports games, they can fill in timeline with a sports app. This means marketers will have the ability to target ads and Sponsored Stories based around actions users have taken with these applications. So ESPN, Nike and game developers will have the ability to connect with these users’ interests and gain entry into their activity for additional visibility.
On the other hand, since Timelines can be customized by users, it’s going to be much more difficult for pages to get exposure on fans’ profiles. The number of fans or Likes will be less important than fans’ engagement with particular pieces of branded content.
Content should be published based around customers’ interests and less around products or services to increase the likelihood that users will add a business’ posts or application to their timeline. For instance, a retail company can focus on publishing posts about the latest fashion trends, positioning specific items it sells in the context of the season’s hottest looks. This may provide more engagement than posting the company’s “latest product line.”
Also, marketers might consider giving loyal fans shout outs within their Facebook posts. This could give users an extra incentive to add Liked brand content to their Timelines.
It’s quite simple: If you publish content or an application that people enjoy, they’ll be much more likely to keep that object in their timeline.
Streamlined News Feeds necessitate relevant content
Facebook’s algorithm, Edge Rank, has traditionally prioritized the content appearing in users’ Top News stream based on content types that correlate with users’ activity. Now, Edge Rank will have less importance in the updated single stream that features both Recent Stories and Top Stories. Why? Because Facebook’s updated algorithm sorts stories into one feed of news based on a given user’s interests and past activity and users have the ability to customize the type of updates they want to see.
Facebook explains that its News Feed now aims to serve as users’ “personal newspapers.” Businesses that want to make the front page still need to encourage sharing from fans who pull authority on their friends’ News Feeds. Brafton has reported that being mentioned in the News Feed can significantly increase a business’ social reach. Because Recent Stories take a back seat to Top Stories in the new News Feed format, frequency will be less important than relevance. Marketers should invest more in creating quality posts instead of shallow regular updates, and pages shouldn’t be updated more than once per day unless the information shared poses timely importance to fans. Instead of sharing a lot of content from other web publishers, marketers should place more emphasis on crafting things to share from their own sites that will be relevant to users and make the backlinks in Facebook posts really count for their businesses.
Moreover, if a company isn’t a household name, it will be more of a challenge to News Feed visibility from users. It’s vital to offer exclusive content and deals other brands can’t provide. Small businesses looking to gain exposure should consider running a giveaway of some sort in conjunction with posting informational content. This is something Blinc does really well.
New buttons could mean new measures of engagement
Another change that should be on marketers’ radar will be Facebook “Gestures.” The Like button, which has been widely integrated by many businesses, is rumored to have some variations in the pipeline as TechCrunch first reported. New buttons, “Read,” “Listened” and “Watched,” could allow users to personalize their statuses and add explanation to their activity, while simultaneously promoting the pages they are interacting with. The buttons could also give brands the opportunity to shape their fans’ experiences by using action verbs that will guide page activity.
Here’s what the new Gesture buttons might look like.
Through the addition of the new buttons, companies will have more variety in how they connect with their fans. Businesses will be able to use verbs to encourage users to “Watch” a video, “Listen” to a song, webcast or podcast and “Read” breaking news instead of asking or telling people to “Like” a post. Through Open Graph, businesses and their developers will be able to customize these Gestures based on how users interact with their brand to add the most value to their page, and they can plan social content campaigns around what their fans are most likely to do – Watch, Read or Listen. Even if a fan who is connected to an app watches a video or reads a blog post from a site, it can appear on Facebook as a Sponsored Story. So the more users engage, the more posts an application will display to those users’ friends.
More Potential social content visibility via Ticker
Depending on what type of updates users mark as a “Top Story,” the revamped News Feed may limit some updates from being seen, but the Ticker may prove to be the place for shared content to shine. Ticker streams live activity on a sidebar as users navigate the site.
An additional place for users to showcase the type of content a users’ friends are interacting with may prove valuable for generating comments and Likes for branded content that fans have engaged. Hulu and Spotify, among others, have already integrated with Facebook’s new Gestures to enable users to interact with content in a way that makes sharing activity with friends a more positive experience. For example, with the new “Spotify” application, I can automatically see what type of music my friends are listening to and comment on that activity straight from the ticker.
The biggest downside to Open Graph from a user perspective will be the new permission settings which only require users to allow apps access to publish once to share any and all activity in Ticker moving forward. Prior to this update, apps were required to receive user permission to post activity to the wall and News Feed each time an object was shared. Now, upon receiving initial access, applications will auto publish any stories under the users’ behalf into the Ticker.
Marketers will want to monitor user feedback on Ticker. Nonetheless, the development should be exciting for brands: Although marketers may miss out on Recent Stories activity, the visibility the Ticker can bring continuous engagement with a brand, and the Twitter-like feature could translate into a viable word-of-mouth marketing platform for businesses.
The new Facebook marketing = targeted social content
To sum it up, from a marketer’s perspective, these updates might not be bad if you’re posting engaging content. In fact, the updates could give brands that are investing in targeted social content marketing more of an edge against the competition, and businesses that foster engagement stand to get more visibility than before.
And if you haven’t heard, Sponsored Stories can be based around users’ shared activities to add more layers of visibility. It seems there are plenty of new ways to engage and get exposure, and as a social marketer, I can’t wait to see all the new features roll out!