Posted by Sean Corcoran on September 22, 2011
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.