Facebook recently announced a series of changes to its platform, and the roadmap has a substantial impact on how brands approach building a Facebook presence. While changes to Facebook's platform are nothing new, this is the first time the company has announced a series of 19 changes that will be implemented over the coming months.
Be sure to understand the implications of these changes before pitching your next Facebook project.
1. Email is now a supported channel
Facebook has long hidden user emails, but soon Facebook will provide developers access to a user's verified email address. For brands that are serious about engaging in an ongoing dialogue with their fans, email becomes a powerful communication method. Email will allow brands to better reconnect with users who have interacted with them on Facebook. This becomes important given that...
2. Status updates are no longer guaranteed
Previously users' streams included everything their friends and pages (including brand pages) published. Now the news feed has returned to a default view showing select highlights that Facebook's algorithm thinks are most relevant to the user, which may or may not contain your brand's message. There's still a live feed view, but it's no longer default, so only brand posts that fans interact with will appear in most users' streams.
3. Other communication channels are consolidating
Many brands rely on application-to-user and user-to-user notifications to reconnect with users, and this communication channel is disappearing. That means in order to remarket to users to let them know about new product launches, sales, events, or promotions, you'll need to acquire users' email addresses or send popular posts (per above).
4. Application canvas pages gain more control
The Facebook header is being removed from application canvas pages, giving brands that engage users via applications more real estate on the page and a more customized and branded look and feel. Users will still have the option of returning to Facebook near the top of the page, but for brands that were hesitant to build on Facebook until more branding was possible, now is the time to reconsider.
5. Profile boxes are disappearing
It's been a long time since profile boxes provided much value to brands, as most users don't spend very much time on that part of friends' pages. But that hasn't stopped many brands from creating applications to establish a presence on users' profiles. Within a few months, tabs will be the only way to integrate into the profile, so brands should be thinking now about creating an engaging communication strategy that best leverages email and status updates.
6. Enhanced Facebook share
For many brands and publishers, the value in marketing through Facebook is leveraging word of mouth. In fact, Facebook users share 2 billion pieces of content every week. The new Facebook share button includes a counter displaying the number of times that piece of content has been shared and is a valuable tool for any brand with a large existing audience on its site. This is a relief for content owners who struggle with replicating a presence inside of Facebook; instead, expect Facebook to offer more ways for your site to become more social.
7. Every webpage becomes a fan page
Facebook has long been about connecting people with each other, and it's expanding the graph from people to objects in what it's calling the Open Graph. Soon users will be able to fan not only your brand but a specific page, product, celebrity, movie, or SKU. These pages will also show up in users' profiles and in search results, and that page will be able to publish stories to the stream of its fans. This shifts social brand interactions from Facebook tabs to brand websites in a powerful way for brands and publishers. While currently farthest out in Facebook's announcement roadmap, the Open Graph has the greatest implications and opportunities for brands and publishers.
Expect 2010 to be a real breakout year for social marketing. For two-and-a-half years we've seen brands build strong followings inside of Facebook, but with these changes rolling out early next year, expect smart brands to better engage their best customers through their own channels by leveraging the power of personal relationships via Facebook's platform.
Kevin Barenblat is co-founder and CEO of Context Optional.
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