Monday, June 20, 2011

Key Facebook Changes Marketers Need to Know

As Facebook continues to innovate at a rapid pace, it is the marketer's job to translate those innovations into an enhanced experience for their current and potential fans and customers. In the last few months, there have been several changes that affect the looks of Facebook Pages, how they can be promoted, how brands can communicate on Facebook, the impact of sharing, and much, much more. But don't worry. We know that there is a lot to keep up with, so we wanted to lay out all of the recent changes in one spot to serve as a helpful guide.

What's new with the Facebook platform?

Updated Pages
Some of Facebook's changes are minor, but the recent Facebook Pages update is one of the biggest recent changes Facebook's community has seen. The main difference? Pages now look and feel more like user profiles. Page administrators can "Login as Page" and interact with Facebook as they would from their personal profile -- with brands and fans alike. Page admins will even see a specialized news feed and will be able to comment and "like" things from the brand's perspective, making for a more cohesive experience.

The appearance of Facebook Page tabs has also changed.

Iframes are here...
...and they have forever changed the way brands interact with their fans. We can now build even more robust user experiences inside of a Facebook Page, and best of all, we can more effectively track each user interaction.

Basically, many of the things brands have been used to doing with their creative agencies or analytics providers for the last 10 to 15 years was not possible (or at least, very difficult) to do in a Facebook Page tab. For those looking for a deep dive, read more here.

FBML might be gone, but iframes appear to be here to stay.
Sharing is caring (Sponsored Stories)Sponsored Stories marked Facebook's first attempt to let marketers amplify the actions their customers, potential customers, and fans are taking on Facebook.There are now four types of sponsored stories (all of which can only be seen by Facebook friends). The four types are:
Likes: When people "like" something on a Page, brands can employ that "like" in their Facebook advertisements.
Wall posts: The same goes for wall posts. Anything posted on a wall is open to be sponsored by a brand and included in their Facebook ads.
Check-ins: When people use Facebook Places (don't worry, we'll get to Places soon) to check in to a location, that information can be displayed in an advertisement.
Custom apps: Interactions taken on custom applications -- for example, taking a quiz or poll -- can be sponsored.

The launch of Sponsored Stories confirms Facebook's commitment to its Page product, as three of the four initial triggers for Sponsored Stories are tied to Facebook Pages.

Targeting ads to updates

Facebook has started testing ads based on status updates. For example, if a user says something like, "I'm having a baby," or asks, "Hey, what's your favorite hotel in Turks and Caicos?" the ads on the right-hand column will reflect their immediate updates. Instead of saying "Sponsored" above an advertisement, it will say "Related adverts," which makes the presence of the ad seem more natural.

This is essentially the next evolution of "Sponsored Stories." It's still in its infancy and has only been rolled out to about 1-2 percent of Facebook's users for testing. But, if Facebook can combine people -- who they are, how old they are, where they live -- with intent, it essentially becomes the most massive ad platform ever…so stay tuned.

Facebook Places
At the time of the launch of Facebook Places, only 4 percent of Americans had even tried location-based services, let alone used them regularly. Foursquare and Gowalla combined have just a few million users. So when Facebook decided to get into the check-in market, location-based services finally reached the masses. Brands follow consumer habits, and with the implementation of Places, Facebook's huge scale - 700 million accounts - turns an increasing number of consumers into geo-social users. And with the launch of Sponsored Stories, Facebook is reinventing the impact of check-ins by turning them in to targeted advertisements.

Brand tagging (aka, Facebook's biggest minor update)
According to Facebook, 3 billion images are uploaded to Facebook each month -- which is 10 times more than the entire Library of Congress. That's a lot of photos -- and a lot of opportunities for marketers to be featured in real-life product placements.

Not surprisingly, photos represent the most popular Facebook application. Fast Company even believes that the popularity of photos will help "brand tagging" surpass the "like" button. If you think about it, tagging a photo with a brand that's actually represented in the photo is a natural behavior. And it's the embodiment of brand advocacy.

Facebook Deals and social commerce
For those that have been waiting for "the year of social commerce" (we've all been hearing about it since 2008 or so), it's finally here. The launch of Facebook Deals marks Facebook's biggest -- and most notable -- social commerce endeavor. As of now, Deals is only being offered in limited markets, and while the nationwide rollout will be gradual, so was the rollout of Facebook itself (and now we're at 700 million users.

As of now, commerce on Facebook is growing, but limited. Right now, most people are not on Facebook to shop. However, people are shopping in massive numbers on the internet, and sharing the purchases and purchase decision-making process with their social graph. According to Wired magazine, 90 percent of all purchases are subject to social influence.

Right now, we see the value of bringing Facebook to your commerce, rather than (or in addition to) bringing your commerce to Facebook. For example, many brands have sharing buttons on their websites, but they don't know how much revenue is being driven directly via social sharing. Buddy Media recently acquired social commerce company Spinback, which enables brands to answer that question.

There's no such thing as "wasting time" on Facebook
We can't stress this one enough. Understanding the user experience is the most important element to any successful marketing campaign. And with Facebook changes rolling out regularly (there are a few more that have been announced recently), it's the only way to understand the complex and wonderful world that is Facebook.