I thought I’d share with you my high-level reflections on Facebook’s new product announcements and what they mean. Bottom line is, while the changes that Facebook announced at F8 created more ways to connect with consumers, reaching those consumers may be more difficult due to a higher ‘noise’ level and competition for user’s time and attention.
To summarize the recent announcements, two major changes occurred on Facebook.
First, Facebook announced the Timeline. This is a chronological, user-curated view of every activity the user has taken or announced via Facebook that he or she deems meaningful. It’s a personal scrapbook annotated with photos, status updates, music, location check-ins, etc. This may become the most valuable real estate for users and for brands. Marketers may create applications that interact with the Timeline.
The second big change is the expansion of a piece of an underlying technology called the Open Graph. Previously the Open Graph allowed brands to include owned web properties into the Facebook ecosystem via the Like button. Now brands may go beyond the Like and embed custom verbs and actions into their applications — on Facebook or on their own sites.
This may result in more brand-relevant and viral newsfeed updates. Instead of simply Like-ing content on a brand site, consumer can send the following types of messages into their streams, from branded properties: “Joan is redecorating with the bold look of Kohler” or “Ron is grilling an Applegate Organic Hot Dog with Laurie.” Users can choose to include these branded stories or experiences into their Timeline, thereby elevating them to updates likely to be seen by friends.
Three Implications for Social Activation
First, Facebook wants brands and their customers to engage without forcing the experience to be optimized around Likes or Fans. Instead, marketers should use verbs that describe actions that make sense with their brand, and make it easier for these social experiences to live outside of Facebook.com.
Second, Facebook applications, which can be Facebook-enabled experiences on Facebook or branded websites, will become an essential part of the marketer’s toolkit. Facebook is a content distribution network that happens to come with a social graph. Therefore, the most viral experiences will be content experiences. This further increases the requirement that brands act more like publishers, and seek to create content that is engaging and shareable.
Finally, making it into the Timeline via Open Graph-enabled experiences will become key to marketers looking to create long-lasting relationships with their audiences.
Three Implications for Social Measurement
1. Benchmarking becomes more complex
As brands increasingly spread their Facebook investments beyond Facebook.com with unique experiences and action metrics, benchmarking one brand against another will be more challenging. Tracking competitors’ Facebook activities beyond the Page will be required to assess the merits of their tactics, and perhaps decode their strategy.
2. Measure what matters to you
The most valuable metrics for any brand to track are metrics that align with your strategy. With the freedom to create unique experiences and your own social “verbs”, you should focus on your specific Key Performance Indicators (which may be other than “Likes”) and track whether you are improving effectiveness around those. For example, if you are an online media company, you may want people to “read”, “watch” and “listen” more. If you are selling products you want people to share that they are “trying”, “buying” or ”drooling over” your products.
3. Measure. Iterate. Repeat.
Something that isn’t new, but worth repeating: Measurement is of no value unless it helps you improve your marketing. Metrics need to be at the core of all your marketing programs, and all your marketing programs and applications must be designed to be adjustable during their lifetime.
Social Beyond Facebook
Marketers must come to think of social as a behavior — rather than a channel — and look for ways to engage audiences in a brand-relevant way, regardless of which network enables the behavior. With the Open Graph, Facebook wants to be an enabler that doesn’t get between a brand and their customers. Marketers no longer need to use Facebook vernacular and metrics such as Likes or Fans in order to create viral and measureable experiences for Facebook members.
But Facebook isn’t the only game in town, especially when you start treating social as a behavior.
How will Facebook’s changes affect your marketing?