Facebook Changes The Social Networking Game . . . Again

If there’s one thing Facebook is not afraid of, it’s change. Today at its annual F8 conference Facebook announced some dramatic changes to its platform. But this time it’s different. Why? Because the big social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and now Google) have traditionally battled over the social graph – your relationships in the digital world and how to help build and connect them, but now Facebook is laying claim to your life. Through its new Timeline feature that recaps in one fell swoop everything you’ve ever posted and lets you feature the highlights, along with its new apps that let you discover and  share real-time experiences like watching movies and listening to music, Facebook is changing the social networking game. Of course you could argue that it was already acting as the online identity for many people, but this takes it to a whole new level.

This could also open up some big doors to marketers such as:

  • Word of mouth on steroids. As the ability to share experiences matures, companies that are effective in getting influentials to speak on their behalf will succeed more. This will make two key skills even that much more important in the future: 1) providing great product experiences that people will share; and 2) getting customers to become advocates who share on your behalf over the long term.
  • Advanced targeting. While Facebook ads currently allow you to target based on some basic demos and even some interests, this new activity sharing should open up some doors to new types of behavioral data. This won’t look like the behavioral data some of us are used to in the display advertising market but eventually it could be even better if activity patterns are included – simply because it can be more relevant. Just imagine Ticketmaster sending you a custom offer for Radiohead tickets for you and your friend because you listened to their music together.
  • Better customer data. Not only will “engagement” data evolve to provide more detail, but content experiences will be included in your data set as well. And the “value of a fan” conversation goes to another level. For instance, there are many companies already working to create applications that can match your Facebook fans back to your customer database. Because you need to get opt-ins, get a unique identifier, and then match data, this can be a difficult process. But there has been some traction as companies like American Express, Tasti D-Lite, and Starbucks have already collected fan data by linking their loyalty programs. This allows for a whole new view into your customers.

Of course these new opportunities won’t appear overnight and there will be plenty of challenges. Most marketers are already immature in their use of Facebook – being there for the sake of being there and adding little value for their fans. And you don’t have to have seen “The Social Network” movie to know Facebook hasn’t exactly been committed to marketers (though they are getting better at this). There’s also privacy, which Facebook has learned about the hard way. So getting data will continue to be a challenge. In addition, features like Timeline will take commitment from users, so it will take time for it to build up.

What does this mean to the interactive marketer? It means that Facebook’s importance in the marketing mix will grow significantly and as the primary owner of the platform for your brand, you’ll have to figure out how to leverage it. For now, focus on today’s Facebook, which is plenty complicated enough. Start by learning the nuances of the platform such as how its Edgerank algorithm affects who sees your posts (and maybe more importantly who doesn’t see your post) as well as how Facebook ads can increase the reach and sharing of your content. Then you can begin to do new things in an iterative fashion. Look out for new Facebook research that we’ll be publishing in October for more input and advice.

Of course we’re interested in what you think these new Facebook changes mean, too.

Comments

Gamification

Hi Sean

It will be fascinating to see how brands take gamification to another level through the shared real time experiences. Here's to some ground-breaking campaigns.

from scott doniger :: wirestone

nice recap, sean. if agencies are now even more compelled to put their client's eggs in the FB basket, it might well become one mightily cluttered landscape. i wonder if FB will be able to maintain the kind of direct relationship opportunities for brands that, say VW, has been able to achieve, when every competitor in their category will now be trying to do the same thing. simply enabling people to choose or not to choose a brand's extended hand may not be enough. all that said, FB should be commended for thinking deeply and differently.

Social Loyalty & Attribution

Good insights, Sean. I think that they key to Facebook making themselves invaluable to marketers, in the long term, largely comes down to creating a powerful attribution model, like we've developed in paid search and other areas of digital marketing. If we can prove that word of mouth, sharing content and other engagement metrics actually drive revenue, then the value will become more indisputable.

I'm curious about whether Facebook is considering buying a company like MyLikes or CrowdTwist...or whether they're developing their own approach. The initial signs are there, but a more holistic solution would be powerful.

If you're interested in my initial observations about the impact of the Facebook updates on marketers, feel free to check out my recent post:
"Facebook challenges marketers to create content-rich experiences": http://icrsng.com/nGhCSp

I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that although Facebook has proven that it is a company's opportunity pot, it still has yet to appease the needs of the masses. It would be foolish for a company to not ride the wave of Facebook just as many other social networks of its kind were ridden. Unfortunately, I believe in the future Facebook will see its end sooner because of the "pony riders". You've stated a valid point "(companies) being there for the sake of being there and adding little value for their fans". Unfortunately, it's a toss up. How can a company prove their "needed" use of Facebook when the original intent was not for marketing strategies? Moreover, now that there's a paradigm shift, when is it good to begin riding the wave and with how much effort?

Aside from all these thoughts, Facebook users (arguably) don't care about much else then the wanting of a "dislike" button. Of course we know that this simple feature-add doesn't pay the bills in Palo Alto.

establishing a path

Social networking is the epitome of the 21 century. I commend Facebook for continuing to produce fresh ideas. I think that Sean's idea of advanced targeting is brilliant idea. Who wouldn't love custom ideas or opportunities, its like having a personal stylist. Facebook is known for making frequent changes and in time they will adhere to the marketers if it is beneficial to their consumers.

Intriguing Post

Sean,

Your post was a great read and you touch on some very interesting points. I have decided to post a link to your article on Facebook because I feel there will be many who would find your post intriguing. Word of mouth is a great way to market...

In recent weeks we have all seen the Facebook “changes;” however, I have only seen negative comments on the walls of the Facebook community. Facebook is a great place for individuals to comfortably connect (and reconnect) with family and friends. With that said, I fear too much change will cause the market to flock elsewhere. The Facebook community is large and extremely diverse and I have heard from many different members the enjoyment they get out of the simplicity of Facebook and frown upon change. I personally enjoy change and believe change is needed in order to keep up with an economy that feels more like a roller coaster then an escalator going up. Change is definitely good, but there are many consumers who do not feel the same way I do. Facebook has to consider this fact, especially when it comes to the baby boomers, who are not as keen on drastic change as the X an Y generations are.

Facebook has always been an incredible way for marketers to reach out across land and sea without really lifting a finger. Word of mouth is the best way to spread positive messages about a brand. Nonetheless, the downside can be the negative message a consumer can spread which can be ten times stronger then the positive word of mouth. Marketers definitely need to be carful and make sure they have a clear vision and constancy with their brands.

Privacy is the other issue and even though Facebook has performed better in this area, they have yet to master the skill of protecting the privacy of the Facbook community. A format definitely has to be set in place to allow individuals to easily make changes to privacy settings. Most humans have an issue with information about them being published on the World Wide Web and I do agree with them. Although I think advance targeting is genius, there are still consumers out there who may not want everyone knowing what they are doing, buying, eating, etc.

If marketers play their cards right the success of their brand will sore due to the Social Networking community. I see the Social Networking market as an excellent medium when it comes to research and marketing. Social Networking is still new and only time will tell if their will be a positive or negative impact on marketers. One thing is for sure, the internet is the new frontier with infinite potential. Who knows what is going to happen.

I actually like the changes

I actually like the changes that FB is making to their site. I think these changes and growth is where MySpace failed. In addition, from a business prospective, FB is figuratively asking customers to allow them to compile more complete data for them. This additional and more concise data can mean Billions of dollars for FB. My only concern is the privacy issue. So far, cookies allow one to be tracked anyway. The ironic they is that most people just don't know or realize it. The additional ability for the average person to see and track ones movements via the web is probably more of a concern to people.

Change isn't necessarily

Change isn't necessarily always bad, but I wonder how many times Facebook will change before users decide they have had enough. I consider myself internet savvy and I have found difficulty in using the new layout on Facebook. So much has changed. I believe, to make things easier for the users, that Facebook should have considered using a tutorial as soon as the changes took effect. For example, when first time a user logs in after the changes take effect, a tutorial should appear on how to access things with the new layout. Also, I believe there should be some sort of warning to users that things are going to be changing. These few things could make the transitions to new layouts easier and less stressful for users.

Facebook challenges

Hello,

I believe that this is a good move for facebook. However, i dont think business owners and marketers are going to use facebook to it maximum potential. Facebook has already been proven to be one of the largest social networking sites that is only getting larger. It is a great marketing and advertising tool for business owners and marketers. Facebook is doing their part to help businesses get great exposure. It is now up to the actual service itself to do the work. Business owners and marketers should now see the changes facebook is making and try to make a change as well. They should get more involved and use facebook to the best of its ability. This change will only work out for the best, if the users takes advantage of everything facebook has to offer.

Being a Facebook user I think

Being a Facebook user I think that making changes for the sake of marketers is a good idea. Today Facebook has begun to attract a younger and older audience. The younger audience is turning Facebook into a popular version of Myspace. They use Facebook for all the wrong reasons. The main purpose of the site is to network with people, companies, schools and experts in industries. By giving marketer opportunity to advertise to specific audiences will attract more consumers. As a result of this Facebook will still be one of the top visited social networking sites.

Being a Facebook user I think

Being a Facebook user I think that making changes for the sake of marketers is a good idea. Today Facebook has begun to attract a younger and older audience. The younger audience is turning Facebook into a popular version of Myspace. They use Facebook for all the wrong reasons. The main purpose of the site is to network with people, companies, schools and experts in industries. By giving marketer opportunity to advertise to specific audiences will attract more consumers. As a result of this Facebook will still be one of the top visited social networking sites.

Travel

Yes,Facebook is going to the great social media and it will be a great.