Since Facebook now has over 800 million users, the news of the company’s announcement of major format changes blanketed the airwaves – both off and online.
While some of these changes are relatively minor (i.e. different organization of news feeds), there are a few that will completely revolutionize how members use the social network and how they interact with their friends. Many of these changes have been dubbed by many as Facebook’s response to Google+, with some changes mirroring prominent features on that social network.
Changes to Facebook’s platform were announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the f8 Conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. Some of the following changes have already rolled out but others are yet to come. When the transition is complete, your experience on Facebook will be much different (…as will the strategy you employ to market your business online).
So what are the big changes?
The first big feature is the “Subscribe” button, which allows users to subscribe to a person or business without having to be friends with them. Similar features can be found on Google+ and Twitter. Adding a feature like this does raise privacy concerns among many users. Facebook however is addressing that by giving users a lot of control over the ‘Subscribe’ feature.
You can only allow friends to subscribe to your page or you can completely disable the subscription feature – it’s up to you. If you do allow people to subscribe, you can control what they see right down to a single picture.
Users can also have more control over which friends see what, which leads us into Facebook’s next big change….
Smart Lists are another new feature that’s considered by many to be a direct response to Google+’s Circles feature. This feature essentially allows you to divide friends into Restricted, Acquaintances and Close Friends. From there, you will be able to separate who sees what on your Facebook profile. Conversely, your friends will be able to filter what they see about you.
Timelines are perhaps the biggest change to come out of Facebook. The timeline is essentially a visual history and highlight of a person’s past. This feature will help users map out their life for friends and allows people with the proper permissions to see a sort of life history through pictures, video and more.
Facebook describes the personal timelines as “All your Stories, All your Apps, a new way to express who you are.”
Personal timelines though, when they’re implemented, will radically change how the interface looks. But due to a lawsuit by Timelines.com claiming the new feature threatens their business, Facebook has delayed implementation.
How will Facebook’s changes affect social marketing?
Now for what you’ve been waiting for…how will all of these changes affect my business?
Of course, much of that remains to be seen but from a preliminary view, these changes are sure to have a big impact.
First is the ‘Subscribe’ feature and how it will affect the current ‘Like’ button. In the new regimen, the ‘Like’ button will have a reduced role. In essence, Facebook will now be about branding actions rather than getting people to ‘like’ your brand. Meaning, it’s now about “…getting people to take social actions enabled by your brand” according to David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation for 360i.
One example from Berkowitz – say you’re a runner and post that you’ve just went for a three mile run. This is a prime opportunity for Nike, even if you wear Adidas since Nike has now become a part of your story. Adidas will have to find out something else ‘social’ to become part of your story.
With the added user controls, Facebook will automatically edit feeds based on users’ actions. Brands with boring or irrelevant updates will now have lower visibility. Your brand has to essentially capture someone’s attention and motivate them to interact. If they don’t, your updates will never appear in their news feeds.
McCann Digital VP Nir Refuah says with Facebook’s redesign, “…consumers will be creating a ‘digital autobiography’ in which brands will have to integrate themselves.”
All of this re-design by Facebook extends the metaphor of “…thinking of marketing as storytelling” to a whole other level. Marketers will now have to work that much harder to earn spot in users’ News Feeds.
As these changes rollout, the impact they will have on marketing your brand will become more apparent. One thing is for sure – Facebook’s changes will require new thinking, especially for those whose goal has been simply to accumulate as many fans and ‘Likes’ as possible.
What do you think of these new changes? Have you thought about how you will integrate your social media marketing strategy?
If so, leave us a comment and tell us more about what you’re thinking.