If you are at all involved in Social Media Marketing, you probably know that April 19, 2010, was a big day for Facebook. Yesterday the social networking giant launched all kinds of changes and updates, many of which will have some pretty interesting implications for companies. Here’s a summary of the changes that Facebook made, and more importantly, what they mean for marketing.
Remember when fan pages first started and everyone was becoming a fan of silly things and your stream would fill up with “Callan Green became a fan of Brussels sprouts” or “Callan Green became a fan of sparkly unicorns.” Well, Facebook wanted to create a way for users to express their affinity for said sparkly unicorns without utilizing the pages that were intended for companies. Enter the Facebook Community Page. These pages free the Facebook police from having to shut down un-official fan pages and they allow for a clearer distinction between a brand’s official page and a page started by a random.
So what are these new community pages like? They look like company pages but wall updates are created from users’ status updates. Anytime someone uses a key word to update their status, (in this example, “hike”) Facebook automatically pulls that update into the community page. When you visit the page, it divides the updates into updates made by your friends, and updates made by the general community.
There are a couple of important distinctions between community and company pages. 1. the update on a community page won’t run through your news stream and 2. it is impossible to write directly on the community wall, or to upload pictures/videos to the page.
So why do these community pages matter to marketers? Well there’s been a lot of chatter that the real reason these pages were created is so that Facebook can get a better idea of its user demographic. Others are saying it’s Facebook’s attack against Twitter, which recently claimed to be the best indicator of real-time public interest. Either way, the data compiled from “likers” of community pages allows Facebook to present a strong case to potential advertisers. For instance, lets say there are 100,000 million “likers” of Pizza on Facebook. Wouldn’t that be a nice stat to have when Facebook tries to approach Roundtable about advertising with them? And on the marketing side, wouldn’t it be nice to buy an ad and have it served to all the “likers” of our clients’ categories? It is no secret that us marketing people love data. The truth is, the more data we have, the more tailored our marketing approaches can be, and the more sales we can then get.
Within the next few days, Facebook will begin prompting you to link the interests you’ve listed in your profile to various company or community pages. Lets say, for example, that under interests I currently have “running, surfing, reading and Absolut Vodka.” Facebook will now ask me if I’d like to link those interests to the running, surfing and reading community pages AND to the Absolut company page.
This is great for marketers. To the average person not reading Tech Crunch, Mashable or All Facebook, they may not understand that by clicking yes, they are also now subscribing to all these company pages in their news feed. So for brands on Facebook this is a big, “yaay!” You have just been given an easy way to capture new fans (despite the fact that they may be unaware of their new-found relationship with you).
*Word to the wise, I’d make sure your content on Facebook was dead-on for the next few days, knowing that you are going to have an in-flux of brand spanking new fans. This is your one chance to capture them, and if your content sucks, they are probably going to “hide” you in their streams.
Starting yesterday, Facebook made changes so that users can now select which of their “interests/likes” are visible to their friends. However, if you “like” or include a page as one of your interests, your like-age will always be visible from the community page and is considered public knowledge. So the moral here is, be careful what you “like.”
This is good for brands, as it continues to loosen privacy settings and makes more content public. Plus, these privacy changes had to take place in order for Facebook to gather quality “interest gauging” for the above Community Pages.
Now to connect with a brand on Facebook you “like” them. Originally people speculated that this would be helpful to brands because there is a lower barrier of entry to saying that you “like” a page vs being”fan” of the page. I think that’s poppycock. Semantics won’t have THAT much of an affect on Facebook users. Whether you are a “fan” or you “like” the page, the end result is that you are now following the pages updates in your news stream, and I’d like to think that users will catch onto that.
What does matter are the changes that came with this. For instance, the company page now shows you which friends of yours also like the page. A nice new function that might encourage someone who was on the fence to “like” a page. This along with the ability to link to said pages from your profile and the new privacy changes, means a lot of new visibility and growth opportunities for these company pages.
Facebook must be tired, but the annual F8 conference is tomorrow, and it is likely that these changes were just the beginning. Stay tuned as we learn more about the changes that Facebook plans to make in the near future and how these might affect your marketing plans.