Future Visions: Facebook Updates and Marketing Implications - Week of 8/7/11
August 12, 2011
Over the past week Facebook unveiled a number of new features that will be sure to challenge marketers to adapt and innovate in yet another new series of platform and ecosystem dynamics.
In review, over the past 7+ days, Facebook:
- Enabled zip code level targeting
- Launched Facebook Messenger, a mobile app featuring their native messaging platform
- Began linking user status updates about brands to the official brand pages (without user-initiation)
- Began grouping (and truncating) Facebook wall posts by topic
- Introduced a global/local navigation solution for global brands with local pages.
- Enabled adding test users to apps
- Was challenged by Shagbook over their trademark of the term "book" in a brand name or web address.
- Redesigned the right hand "chat" bar to include updates from social games
- Launched a public ads API (this was 11 days ago, I cheated)
Enabled zip code level targeting in advertising.
The impact to marketers here is obvious. More granular geo-targeted media will not only enable scaled marketers to manage their advertising, but invite local businesses and particularly small businesses to better manage their targeting efforts. If you are in the Facebook ad business, play with this, test it and see where it can take you. If you're in the third party ad business, this could be huge. See the paragraph below for some thought starters.
The bigger question in this story is where this level of targeting will go next. Will Facebook add granular geo-data into the PostRank mix? Will Facebook add this granular geo-location into their native brand-page publishing platform, allowing marketers to target wall posts to at the zip code level? How will 3rd party ad platforms add this granular geo-location capability into a broader next-gen optimization engine - targeting only C and D counties, optimizing or building look-alike models based on granular geo-location performance data etc?
Launched Facebook Messenger, a mobile app featuring their native messaging platform
As brands can't send private messages, most marketers will not find a way to use in this platform. However, savvy brand ambassadors may leverage their personal accounts in the appropriate settings to maintain relationships on the go. For example, at conferences, conference organizer/social ambassadors could friend attendees and invite them to seek or share information on the fly by using Facebook Messenger. That said, this environment in it's present form is far from ideal for most of these communications.
Additionally, while the rumored (likely) introduction of video into this environment will not impact marketers, this is a trend that marketers should pay attention to and consider. Live social video is big and is getting bigger)
Began linking user status updates about brands to the official brand pages (without user-initiation).
Began grouping (and truncating) wall posts by topic.
This could be a big deal. While many have been quick to point out that Facebook must be using an NLP solution to derive this data, the bigger story here is where this may be going. For now, auto-tagging posts with pages will improve brand page visibility. This means that both compliments and negative or crises communications will become linked to the brand page.
Most interestingly, this speaks to two potential platform evolutions that could really change the game. For one thing, Facebook could begin grouping and truncating interactions with a brand, minimizing the visibility of meaningful interaction.
More importantly however, Facebook could begin pulling organic activity onto brand pages. This will cause quite a stir. While I'm sure that Facebook would never change privacy settings, many users will become confused or even outraged when they see brands comment on their posts that were originally written as personal status updates. This would put a tremendous amount of responsibility on the community manager to set expectations and define their environment when commenting. Additionally, this would make crises management that much more complicated. While this is a sizable change, I believe this will be coming, and soon. Automated linking and explicit tagging (@brand tagging) are looking very similar, and this is the next likely evolution of this dynamic.
Introduced a global/local navigation solution for global brands with local pages.
While this isn't yet available to the general public, this is a big deal for scaled marketers. Global/local page management, information architecture and design has been a challenge with no perfect solution. That said, as much as I love the team at Facebook, this is an area that they have struggled with for some time and Facebook's proposed solutions aren't always the right ones for many global/local marketing needs (particularly when brands have multiple sub-brands with inconsistent names or design elements). Savvy marketers will consider Facebook's new offering, but continue to weigh this platform against solutions offered by leading third party page management solutions, as well as their historical page infrastructure and Facebook's fan migration opportunities.
Enabled adding test users to apps
Many marketers currently provide influencers, members of private communities and members of the media with early access to their campaigns and apps for either testing or preview purposes. However, doing so historically required setting up a password-protected staging environment, almost always off-domain (not on Facebook.com). This new "testing" environment could prove very useful for both private community testing, as well as pre-launch previewing to influencers and members of the media.
Was challenged by Shagbook over their trademark of the term "book" in a brand name or web address.
The impact to marketers here is minor. As marketers continue to explore off-Facebook extensions of Facebook efforts (such as Intel's Museum of Me), many will likely want to integrate either the words face or book (or Facebook proper) into their domain name (brandbook.com) or domain extension (brand.com/campaign/book). For now, stay away from doing any of the above unless you have Facebook's written consent and it has been reviewed by your lawyers. The cost of a legal battle is likely not worth the minor branding benefit.
Redesigned the right hand "chat" bar to include updates from social games.
Brands with strong social games will have enhanced visibility... for now. Early response to this platform update hasn't been the most positive and I agree with much of the concerns shared. Facebook users celebrated when their walls stopped being flooded by requests for crops. Reintroducing these updates in the sidebar create a high degree of noise in an area otherwise dominated by signal (who is online and available to chat).
That said, if you are not yet planning on building a social game, this should not be a reason to do so. I have seen very few case studies or examples of marketings building well designed branded social games. Building a successful social game is very difficult, and relating it back to a meaningful or valued brand experience is even harder. And not inexpensive either.
Launched a public ads API (this was 11 days ago, I cheated)
The third party ad business on Facebook is booming. As Facebook continues to evolve their relationship with brands and marketers, outsourcing the day-to-day ad business (particularly on remnant inventory), is likely a trend we will continue to see more of in the days ahead. With plenty of cash on hand, Facebook is better off with sales leads partnership with marketers to innovate on the platform, then push advertising alone. If marketers can be encouraged to further invest, the ad revenue will come. And most importantly for Facebook, their platform will become stronger and more differentiated.
As with all third party advertising solutions, not all solutions were created equal. Just because someone has access to an API, or may have years of experience in advertising outside of Facebook, doesn't mean that they can deliver the best solutions for you in Facebook. Those with an early lead in this space have years of experience in this environment. That said, competition leads to innovation. With a level playing field, this market is going to get very interesting.