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February 2014
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April 2014

Facebook Recommendations are coming, and they will be ama$ing

Last year we saw Outbrain explode in popularity across publishers large and small. But their rise to fame is nothing compared to Facebook's next big move - better, smarter, pervasive but not invasive personalized and contextualized recommendations. Facebook has nearly a decade of experience optimizing and personalizing our feeds. They know what we read, watch and listen to, what we are interested in, who our friends are, what and so much more. Facebook has the experience and scale to turn this data into a goldmine.

Facebook content recommendationsAnd I'm pretty sure they are already testing this product.

Check out the screenshot beside this post. When I right clicked on Professor Jeff Jarvis's post, Facebook dynamically loaded the box below his with video recommendations. It would be quite simple for Facebook to add a sponsored video to that feed. It also wouldn't be a big leap for Facebook to make this unit available for publishers for inclusion below their content. With a ratio of 15% sponsored recommendations to 85% organic recommendations, publishers would see this unit as a win-win and users would be very likely to engage. Publishers would see page views (and ad revenues) rise and Facebook would recognize the sponsored content revenue. Over time, larger publishers would likely have the option to remove sponsored content for a negotiated fee, further increasing the revenue to Facebook while increasing the data they collect.

And here's why this is a goldmine.

These recommendations will work as well on desktop as they do on mobile. And they will work as well with videos as they do with music, books, magazines, apps, products, restaurants and so much more. This is the next generation of performance media, driven by engagement rather than interruption while monetizing the forgotten white space - below the fold. Facebook Recommendations will be like AdSense for the connected age, amplified by the exponential reach of connected devices and engagements. 

Welcome to Facebook Recommendations.

Facebook needs a Matt Cutts

Cutts Facebook
Facebook needs a Matt Cutts. 

Matt Cutts is the high priest of SEO for Google. Matt guides the public on all things SEO, an industry just a shade more misunderstood and misrepresented than social media. Matt participates in the industry dialog, posts to YouTube, does panels, podcasts and conferences. He provides more than just the rules of the road, he embodies and communicates the principles by which Google Search operates. It is extremely rare to find an SEO professional complaining about being burned by Matt's advice, because his core principles rarely change. And when there are major changes, he shares a clear and cogent reason why these changes were needed and what you can do to help your business. The public trusts Matt because Matt has a proven track record, and because Google has a track record of standing behind him. 

Facebook needs a Matt Cutts. 

Businesses large and small have collectively invested billions of dollars in advertising, content and human capital building their communities on Facebook. Facebook actively courted these businesses and for better or worse, Facebook has changed the rules of the game. Unfortunately, I have not seen very much explanation around these changes from Facebook, leading to an incredible amount of anxiety and anger.

Facebook needs a real person to serve as the authority on building communities and businesses on Facebook. Beyond sharing do's and don'ts, this person must provide core guidelines that will not change. And if they do change, he must present acceptable reasons and actionable advice. This person must embrace dialog with the industry and demonstrate real understanding of it's complexities. And Facebook needs to stand behind this person for the long haul.

Facebook is no longer a bright and shiny innovation, and they deserve to be more than a talking point or a box to check. Facebook needs to be more than too big to ignore. To accomplish this, Facebook needs to take a page from their own playbook and become a a partner at the table of every customer, not just the big ones.

Without a Matt Cutts, I fear Facebook may grow a systemic cancer, a blindness to the market. This wouldn't just be a loss for Facebook, but a loss for society. Facebook has the potential to radically change the discipline and craft of marketing, to give a stronger voice to the user and revolutionize communications at an unprecedented scale. This opportunity is to big to ignore.

The time has come for Facebook to behave like the leader they have become. Facebook needs to give this industry a Moses, a figure to explain what has happened, what will happen and how to build for the future. Facebook is better, and smarter than the basics mistakes they have made. And in partnering with businesses, they have everything to gain.