Despite the outcry that’s followed the most recent set of Facebook changes, Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at last week’s f8 conference, has made it clear that we haven’t seen the end of this latest rollout yet. In fact, over the next few months, it’s expected that we’ll see the largest facelift the site has received since its inception in 2004. But what does all of this mean for your business’ Facebook marketing plan? Let’s take a look…
Of all the anticipated changes coming soon to Facebook, the most significant is the introduction of “Timeline”, Facebook’s new system for user profiles. On the current site, user profiles operate in real-time. Photos populate a user’s “Wall” as soon as they’re added to the site, and any status updates or Wall posts are listed in chronological order on a user’s page.
Timeline will change all of this. In some ways, it’s been likened to a scrapbook, as it will allow users to select the information that best represents them to create a “landing page”, of sorts. According to Facebook, the Timeline will allow users to:
“Share and highlight your most memorable posts, photos and life events on your timeline. This is where you can tell your story from beginning, to middle, to now.”
Current, real-time updates will be relegated to Facebook’s new “Ticker” feature, which will allow users to access as much up-to-date information as they like – including updates on when.
So what does this mean for businesses marketing on Facebook?
Well, a couple of different things. First of all, the changes Facebook is making all encourage more sharing, not less. As has been widely speculated, this doesn’t just lead to deeper relationships between friends – it also results in a substantially larger data set that Facebook advertisers can use to drill down to ideal prospects. If you currently advertise with Facebook Ads, expect your targeting options to improve as these changes roll out.
But if you don’t use Facebook’s paid advertising service and instead rely on customers “Liking” your business fan page so that your updates show up in their News Feeds, the prognosis on these changes isn’t quite as good for a couple of different reasons.
First, the switch from a chronologically ordered News Feed to one that’s topped by Facebook-determined “Top Stories” will make it easier for users to hide marketing messages from the companies they’ve liked. While no one’s sure quite how the algorithm that determines what constitutes “top” news is structured, it’s a safe bet to assume that if your updates aren’t engaging to readers, they’re going to get less attention and be featured less often in a user’s Top Stories.
Additionally, the shift to deploying real-time updates via the new Ticker feature means that, while your messages originally only competed with status updates from a user’s network, you’re now competing against every action they take on Facebook. Because the Ticker tracks not just new status updates but also status “likes”, accepted friend requests and other minutiae, your business posts receive even less eyeball time before they’re buried in the depths of the Ticker.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom for businesses that connect with prospects and customers via Facebook. The anticipated increased presence of apps on users’ Timelines could be incredibly lucrative for some companies. And because the Facebook API is being opened up more to developers than ever before, it will become even easier to operate in this space.
But if you aren’t interested in creating an app or launching paid Facebook ads, you’re going to need to adjust the way you communicate with your fans on Facebook. It won’t just be enough to post updates willy-nilly. Instead, you’ll need to think of every post you make to the site as a unique marketing message that must be engaging enough to pierce the density of real-time updates in a user’s Ticker. Capturing your fans’ attention will also be vital in order to get your updates featured as Top News stories more often.
As Ian Schaefer of digital marketing firm Deep Focus put it:
“Marketers, who have been told for years that they’re actually publishers now, will have to put that into practice. We need to get people to share and interact with more content.”
By focusing on improving user engagement and making use of the new tools introduced in this latest round of Facebook changes, smart marketers will be able to retain their competitive edge and continue to succeed with this unique form of social media marketing.