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Facebook's new ecosystem: the agency perspective

Disclosure: I am writing this from the perspective of an agency employee, but in no way represent my employer or it's parent company

Any social consultant or agency worth a lick will tell you that a Facebook strategy is not a social marketing strategy.  Facebook is a platform.  Social is a marketing discipline that embraces an ecosystem.

But Facebook is about to get much bigger.  Below I will address a few of the rumored and confirmed changes and their probable impact on how we do business.  note: I have no insider information, this is just analysis of the speculation we've all seen online

  • Community Pages - Dear Agency world.  The bubble has burst.  Remember those great days in 2006 when your social presence was all about your own blog and community?  The web has evolved, and savvy brands have since learned to engage on the user's terms by participating in third-party hosted discussions such as industry forums, twitter conversations and replying to blog posts.  While brands could have engaged in third party hosted conversations in Facebook, few bothered to do so for any number of reasons.  However, Community Pages promise to unite people by affinity in a highly visible manner.  And brands are going to pay attention.  Let's just hope the conversation management platforms have a way to manage this "Community Management" in the closed ecosystem that is Facebook.
  • Facebook "Like" Network - Facebook Connect was great, but it complicated everything.  Only the most savvy brands successfully deployed Connect well, delivering true, rich, meaningful integration with their Facebook page.  Most Connect enabled pages delivered little equity to the visitor other than "Share on Facebook".  Like as a platform promises to make this simpler, and therefor more meaningful experience to both marketers and users. 
PS - If "Like" were tied to the Ad API (see below), the reach and targeting extensions would be significant.  Not to mention that Facebook would continue to own much of your brand performance metrics.  Good for Facebook, potentially challenging for marketers used to their own metrics pipeline.
  • Improved Ad Performance - We have long heard from Facebook that their ads are simply better than everyone else's at pretty much everything.  Media Planners however, are trained to take everything with a giant grain of salt.  Today's Nielsen study promises to substantiate Facebook's sales claims.  It just became a lot easier to convince clients and planners alike to spend more on Facebook ads. 
This study also drives home a HUGE POINT - creative and media need to work together.  Organic growth only happens when ads drive to a seamlessly share-worthy experience.
  • Facebook Ad API - if this happens, it will be huge.  Firstly, it will put Facebook into the "network" world.  Ad targeting will be strong, as it is with most substantial Facebook ad buys.  It also means that Facebook will own much more of your brand metrics.  Most importantly to marketers who are active beyond Facebook, it answers the age old question How do I attribute my third party (non Facebook) ad's performance in terms of fan growth and engagement?
  • Integrated Coupons and E-commerce - coupons are many vertical's way of measuring and attributing digital performance (ROI) when scale doesn't warrant larger impact.  Other brands and verticals look to e-commerce conversion numbers.  Integrated e-commerce will be HUGE for Facebook and the types of brands they attract if Facebook can convince users to use the site for e-commerce or to adopt their new "credits" currency.  Make no mistake, while some brands will run into a partnership with Facebook and the industry press will go crazy, user adoption will fuel the success of this rumored platform.