New marketing opportunities abound with latest Facebook changes

September 27, 2011
Posted by: Matthew Hammer, VP- Marketing

Written by former LiveWorld employee, @BryanPerson.
Facebook has unveiled a slew of changes to its platform and the user experience over the past week, including the major announcements and launches at last week’s f8 conference. What does it all mean for brands? Here’s our walkthrough of the most relevant changes:

New Timeline for user profiles now; similar features to follow for Pages

Facebook has completely revamped the profile page for individual users with the launch of Timeline. The new product features a visually compelling, scrapbook-like layout of your entire history on Facebook, from photos you’ve uploaded and friends you’ve added to the places you’ve checked into and the status updates you’ve shared.
You can also fill in Timeline with earlier moments from your (pre-Facebook) life, so expect to see a surge of baby pics and bad-hairstyle shots from your friends!
Facebook applications are getting prominent treatment in Timeline, too, making it easy to share actions around your media and lifestyle interests, such as meals you’ve cooked or music you’ve listened to. In a screenshot from my timeline below, the “News” section displays articles I’ve read in new Facebook social readers from The Guardian and Washington Post (more on the opportunities with rich applications below)
Pages, the brand companion to user profiles, isn’t undergoing a similar makeover just yet. But if past history is any indication, expect Facebook to launch a Timeline-style layout equivalent for Pages later this year. The most memorable status updates from brands, high-impact photos and videos, prominent conversation threads with and among fans, and activity around branded applications will mesh together in a single place, encouraging users to share and interact with more content from the page.
To get a visual sense of what these new-and-improved Pages might look like for brands, check out these Mashable mockups.

Open Graph expansion

Facebook is expanding its Open Graph in a big way. And if you’re a brand marketer, that’s very good news!
As mentioned above, new applications built on top of the Open Graph will integrate directly into users’ timelines, driving and brand awareness and affinity. Here’s how Spotify (one of several Facebook partners that launched a new app at f8) looks inside Timeline:

Also, applications will no longer be limited to a pre-defined set of Facebook objects and the verb “like.” Instead, Open Graph applications can incorporate any action verb and any object. Here are some potential action/object combinations:

  • [Read] a [book]
  • [Watch] a [show]/[movie]
  • [Cook] a [meal]
  • [Visit] a [city]/[store location]
  • [Test drive] a [car]
  • [Play] a [sport]/[game]
  • [Want] a [piece of clothing]/[gadget]

This new ecosystem offers plenty of advertising opportunities, too. Brands can target users who have taken the specific actions or interacted with the specific objects built into applications. Hulu, say, could buy Facebook Sponsored Stories aimed at users who have [watched] a television show, while NBC could target fans who have watched a particular [show], such as Saturday Night Live.
Or a retailer like Best Buy could build an app that allows users to create and display a holiday wishlist in their timeline, and then advertise to those who [want] certain items.

Ticker + updated News Feed

Just before f8, Facebook also launched both Ticker and a refreshed News Feed. Ticker, as shown in the screenshot above, is a real-time firehose of all the activities taken by your Facebook friends, including the status updates they publish, photos they share and tag, and comments they make and like.
New posts from brand pages and actions taken on applications (“David is listening to Town Called Malice by Studio 99 on Spotify”) appear in Ticker as well, meaning additional content discovery and sharing from fans and brand advocates.
With the News Feed, the main layout now combines both “Top Stories” and “Recent Stories.”
Top Stories” appear first for most users, and surface the most relevant and interesting posts to users since their last Facebook login; “Recent Stories” then feature updates from friends and pages in reverse chronological order (similar to Ticker).
But while the look and feel of News Feed have changed, creating compelling status updates essentially follows the same recipe. Posts still have to be interesting enough for fans to share, like, and comment on in the first place, so they can tap into the EdgeRank algorithm that powers “Top Stories.”  The timing of posts remains critical, too, especially since new status updates will pop into the News Feed and Ticker for fans almost immediately.

Ultimately, these new changes are all about encouraging users to share more of their identity, interests, and life moments inside Facebook.  And with continued publishing/engagement on Pages and the creation of interactive Open Graph applications, amplified by advertising, brands can tap into and benefit from this powered-up social sharing.