A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how consumers and brands are friends on Facebook. The new Facebook changes reinforce this frame. It’s now more important then ever for brands to cultivate meaningful relationships with consumers. The new Facebook user Profile, Timeline, provides brands with an amazing opportunity to incorporate themselves into the fabric of consumers’ digital lives.
While the landscape is changing, the fundamentals haven’t. The simple truth is that a successful friendship takes work; it takes investment from both parties, and just as in real life, friendships on Facebook are cultivated through experiences over time. For brand marketers, this equates to: (I) listening to and understanding consumers’ wants and needs; (II) creating experiences that consumers actually want to engage with; and (III) making sure to communicate consumer-centric value to consumers on a regular basis. The change that is about to come about is tactical in nature. Let’s delve deeper into those three points, and provide updated approaches for each through the lens of social business and the engagement toolkit (Page, News Feed, Ticker, and Timeline) available to brand marketers on Facebook.
I. What does it mean for brand marketers to listen to and understand consumers within Facebook?
The fundamentals are the same here, except the sophistication, the amount of data to analyze, the tools and methods of listening are changing at rapid pace. Moving forward it’s going to become even more important to listen to and understand what’s on consumers’ minds in order to create a narrative that fosters meaningful two-way dialogue, ensuring that consumers feel valued. The science of synthesizing data into insights and the art of turning marketing into storytelling are now critical to success.
II. What types of experiences do consumers want to engage with on Facebook and how should such experiences be executed?
With the new Timeline, things are coming back to where they started back in 2007, but with a much richer, more meaningful experience for consumers, bringing about an opportunity and challenge to brands to create new types of experiences that weave themselves into consumers’ lives. Generally, experiences on Facebook can be broken down into three types:
Always-On Page experiences (old with opportunities for new features and extensions)
Campaign based Page/Canvas experiences (old with opportunities for new features and extensions)
Evergreen Timeline experiences (new)
Each of the abovementioned types of experiences will continue to have their place within the brand marketing toolkit moving forward. Like a great meal is more than just a steak (or block of tofu, for the vegetarians out there), success for brand marketers is developing and deploying the optimal mix of experiences at the right times.
III. What is a consumer-centric communication strategy and how often should it be executed on Facebook?
A strategy that focuses on only communicating items that are relevant and actionable. Brand marketers should not communicate with consumers just for the sake of communicating — communication needs to be genuine and planned out in timely intervals to touch on general brand marketing efforts.
I’ve been here before. Back in 2007 when Facebook first launched Platform. Then, there were only 20 million people on Facebook. Now there are over 800 million engaged consumers on Facebook. There are a few things that mattered then that still matter now. Back then, there were very few brands on Facebook, but companies such as Zynga and others that moved fast secured first-leader-advantages that served to be invaluable to their current business success. Now, it’s brands that have the opportunity to move fast and secure a place in the hearts and everyday lives of consumers through their Timeline. The brands that move smart and fast will be the brands that win.
In the end, it still comes back to doing as one would in real-life friendships — listening and understanding each other, engaging in fun experiences together, and making sure to keep communication relevant for both parties. Friendships are two-way streets. A brand is more likely to get what it wants by creating an environment wherein consumers are valued and receive value. By cultivating friendships, brand marketers can turn consumers into brand evangelists in any social channel.
It wasn’t that long ago I was presenting an introduction to social media and warned people that Facebook wasn’t something you could approach with a one off strategy for their organisation. Not just because a Facebook presence requires constant gardening (and like any social channel it does), but because Facebook is a constantly evolving entity. However, the current wave of changes announced at Facebook’s F8 conference are something significant and quite exciting.
If you haven’t watched these videos already, they give you a glimpse at what is coming:
Looking at these two new elements together, really what Facebook has done is brought the concept of lifecaching to the masses.Lifecaching as a concept isn’t new but through its massive user base, development platform and the accessibility of mobile computing, Facebook presents users with means, motive, and opportunity to make this happen on a scale that other start ups and researchers can only dream of.
Josh Catone on Mashable points out that Facebook’s all encompassing vision won’t be great for those who need to fill in that timeline retrospectively. And there is also no doubt that some users won’t be happy with these changes, but the number of users with Facebook accounts and the way it is increasingly embedded in the everyday Web means that really we’ve have reached a tipping point that would require a mass exodus to make a difference to the direction Facebook is taking us in.
One of the most interesting changes coming from the new and extended version of the Open Graph (used to enable the new features you see in the videos above) is that the vocabulary of the “Like” is being expanded. Based on a user -> action -> object model, Facebook provides the following examples:
A running app may define the ability to “run” (action) a “route” (object). A reading app may define the ability to “read” (action) a “book” (object). A recipe app may define the ability to “cook” (action) to a “recipe” (object).
Facebook has already linked up a number of social media apps to integrate using this new method. If you are a brand or organisation you should be thinking now about both what these overall changes mean for not just your overall Facebook strategy but also more tangibly, how will you take advantage of this new vocabulary in the apps you existing apps and future apps. For innovators, the new Open Graph is in fact a platform for socially integrated services and products.
And if you are working on social intranets and apps inside your organisation, Facebook has just provided us with a vision of where workforce collaboration is going next once we really interconnect business systems and users through workplace social networking backbone.
Hold on to your seats, everything could be about to change again.
Yesterday morning “Mark Zuckerberg” (Andy Samberg) and the real Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, unveiled many new products and features. Certainly you have been overwhelmed by coverage of the Profile makeover that is now rebranded Timeline in a fluid magazine-like layout. Additionally, Facebook Open Graph Applications have been designed to enhance user self-expression and serendipitous discovery, as described by Facebook CTO Bret Taylor. I applaud the Facebook team for these innovations and for being driven by the deep understanding of signal strength.
The foundational feature of News Feed was introduced in 2007 to amplify the relationship between social objects and people. News Feed next evolved through the innovation of Open Graph in 2010. Open Graph added expression to interest distribution with the addition of “Like” and social plugins for websites and through the Graph API. Today the Open Graph actions become unrestricted expressions in more contextually relevant means, as a verb, to best describe engagement with anything like running, dancing, watching or eating. Each of these interactions offer our friends, acquaintances and subscribers context and contribution to the self expression about the “story of our lives”. Chris Cox, Facebook VP Product, describes the relevance of apps to capture the summary of our use of time and the expression of data as a narrative. These are profoundly personal representation of structured information that now define individuals, points of interest and discovery. Timeline now is the active canvas for the rich curation of the “modern scrapbook” – signals structured for information discovery.
Facebook as a platform offers one of the richest data sets available to business. The signals exchanged between customers, partners, brands and employees will be enriched through the new Facebook Open Graph and Timeline. Business will move from the foundational metrics of impressions, Like/Fan count, and comments to more meaningful insights delivered through the pulse of a broader set of metrics offered through organic content, application and paid initiatives. Each of these tactics provide the business with the signals to measure strategic alignment to business objectives. Facebook is one of many signals we look at to view the fingerprint of the social business.
Our Social Business Index was publicly launched earlier this month as a view into companies’ social business performance and trends. Complex social signals mapped back to the complex business structures of brands, geographies and social identities. The rich visualization of these signals are expressed through the Social Business Graph enabling contextual filtering and comparative views. Signals surround business and of the most complex are those found in social. Like it or not, you are a social business. You are driven by the signals of your employees, partners, customers and influencers all associated to the social object of your brand. The question I ask; is your social business graph aligned with your business purpose? Have a look today, next week, month and quarter to check your signal.
Facebook f8 was filled with rich conversations with the many Facebook Product Management and Partner Engineering Teams that we have built relationships over the years and through the more than 500 social apps we have delivered on the platform. My primary discussions focused on key teams that drive my overall business Page strategy perspective: News Feed, Pages, Distribution and Mobile.
I have filtered the essential details into this to-do list outlining what marketers need to prepare for today and over the next quarter: