What does Facebook’s facelift mean for brands?

In this guest post, Lucio Dias Ribiero points out what the new-look Facebook means for users and advertisers

It has been a week of suspense and speculation regarding changes to Facebook that began rolling out at the start of the week. At the F8 developer conference in San Francisco, the company revealed a new way to integrate applications that reproduce content without the user having to leave the site. We have also seen user profiles updated, new applications for playing music and watching video and social news apps.

I watched the conference broadcasted online, and it seems pretty clear where Mark Zuckerberg wants to take Facebook in the coming years. The main focus is to increase user engagement. By using a series of media and lifestyle-centric applications, he wants to capture more qualified user data and drive up ad revenue – currently around $3.8bn – as a result.

Wired magazine described the changes by saying, “Facebook’s vision of the future involves bringing its users entirely into its social platform, allowing for the Facebook page to be a sort of one-stop shop, scooping up all of your activities and displaying them in one grand, blue and white frame.”

Three of the main changes are Timeline , Apps and Gestures.

Gestures. Facebook believes that users are not entirely comfortable clicking ‘Like’. They think that more people will share more things if the button they click doesn’t imply personal endorsement. As Mashable points out, “More people will click a button that says they’ve ‘Listened’ to a song or ‘Watched’ a video, rather than simply liking it. From Facebook’s F8 conference onwards, developers will have the power to create their own actions/buttons.

The new Timeline pages allows a user to feature any content – videos, photos or other updates – in reverse chronological order. Timeline transforms the list of status messages and comments into a scrapbook of a user’s entire Facebook history. (But this doesn’t apply to branded pages).

As for the new Apps; Facebook’s new class of social applications include media-centric apps — music, movies, news, books and games — and what it calls lifestyle apps. Rather than just ‘liking’, the new category of applications will allow users to ‘read, watch and listen’ to the integrated media services. This means that you can listen to your favourite music while stalking people.

Timeline launches in beta form today. But is only available to developers. It will roll out to users in the coming weeks.

So what does this mean for brands? I dare say, a lot.

Using the Gestures feature, brands can build their own customised buttons. Imagine a website with buttons like ‘Dare’, ‘Cheers’, ‘Fair dinkum’.

But the most immediate implications are for ads. Now that users can share what they are consuming (videos, news, music) through media partner applications, marketers can get mentions and give them wider distribution through sponsored stories – a new kind of behavioural advertising.

These apps present brands with a completely new way of targeting Facebookers. Depending on what sort of content users are consuming, ads can be filtered and served accordingly. For now, this new form of targeting will only be available through Facebook Ads’ API and its direct sales team. But I suspect that it’ll be rolled out for more advertisers very soon.

Here are some other more minor changes:

  1. Posts can now be as long as 5,000 characters – ten times the previous maximum length.
  2. You can no longer accompany a friend request with a message.
  3. Part or all of the navigation bar will remain on-screen even when you scroll down the page.
  4. You can create bookmarks, label favourites, in the left-hand column.
  5. Birthday reminders appear in the upper-right side, near where you see poke notifications.
  6. Friend lists that existed before the new smart list prompts have an entirely new management interface.
  7. The poke button has become a link tucked into a pull-down to the right of the add friend button.
  8. A thumbnail image of the user, and his or her name, appears in the right-hand corner of the top blue navigation bar. When one surfs the site using a page alias, the name and main image appears in the same place.

If you’re interested in watching Mark Zuckerberg’s video presentation you do can so here.

Lucio Dias Ribiero is the founder and partner at social media agency The Online Circle


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