Yesterday, Facebook made a slew of product roadmap announcements at the Facebook Developer Garage at its headquarters in Palo Alto. In addition to the recent updates to the News Feed, this means significant changes are happening across the Facebook ecosystem that marketers and brands need to be aware of and account for in their products and strategies.
Here are 5 of the most important implications of the changes that Facebook has announced in the last week:
1) News Feed distribution to all fans is no longer guaranteed
With the previous version of the News Feed, all content shared by a user’s friends or Pages they’re a fan of appeared in the stream by default. In the current News Feed, an algorithm determines what appears for each user. This means that no longer is simply publishing content sufficient to guarantee exposure to all your fans – instead, Page owners will need to optimize the content they publish for maximum News Feed distribution (“News Feed Optimization,” as we like to call it).
So, how does Facebook decide which updates to show? When the News Feed rolled out last week, Facebook Product Manager Peter Deng told us that Pages are conceptually being treated similarly to friends. In other words, Facebook will take into account:
- How many people (and especially your friends) comment on and like stories from Pages you’re a fan of
- Which Pages you visit frequently
- Which Pages you interact with frequently
So, engagement is now a lot more important – it’s what earns you News Feed presence. However, Facebook may be using other factors as well. Remember, Facebook’s News Feed knows what you did last summer (and the summer before that, and yesterday, and last week), so it should be able to come up with some “serendipitously” good suggestions.
Of course, there’s always Facebook Ads for those Pages that want to increase their exposure more quickly.
Note: Even in the new Live Feed, Facebook chooses a subset of friends and connections if you have more than 250 overall, though you can increase that default number – to see all Pages updates, users will need to click on the “Pages” filter in the left hand menu.
2) The upcoming email API creates new opt-in opportunities
Facebook announced yesterday that it will be creating a new API to enable users to easily deliver their email address to developers when they so choose, in order for developers to be able to directly communicate with users. For brands who’ve built Facebook applications, this could present interesting new opt-in email opportunities.
While applications have been able to collect opt-in information manually in the past, this new “1-click” type option could reduce friction and make gathering fan contact information easier, bridging email and social media marketing opportunities in new ways. The API is scheduled to go live sometime in November.
3) Tab widths on Facebook Pages are NOT changing (UPDATED)
Yesterday, Facebook also announced that in “late 2009 or early 2010″ tabs on Facebook profiles will change width from 760 pixels wide to 510 pixels wide. We assume this means that tab widths will be changing for Facebook Pages too (we’re currently awaiting confirmation from Facebook on this).
If so, this means that all Pages that have created custom tabs (for example, application tabs, or tabs designed around special promotions) will need to be updated to fit the new width. (UPDATE: A Facebook spokesperson has confirmed to us that “Pages will not be changing at this time, however we are continually making upgrades to products. We’ll share more when we have further details.”)
4) Expanded platform policy enforcement team should increase overall application quality
In addition to the product changes we’ve covered, Facebook also announced yesterday that it was modifying its approach to platform governance again. Now, it’s getting rid of the “Verified App” program, and instead says it will be building out its platform policy enforcement team and applying verified app principles to all developers.
While this may spell trouble for developers of some applications, especially lower quality ones, it means good things for brands. With time, users should start to have a higher view toward applications overall, which should keep application engagement strong in the long term.
5) The new Open Graph API, while still at least 3 quarters out, indicates that Facebook doesn’t just want to bring brands and businesses inside Facebook onto Pages
The Open Graph API, which was the broadest idea presented yesterday, is an important signal on Facebook’s 12 month product strategy for brands and marketers. The “Open Graph” API is Facebook’s plan to make any website a first-class object in the social graph. In other words, Facebook wants brands and publishers to think about their website almost like a Facebook Page – with the Open Graph API, any website can have access to all the communication channels that a Facebook Page does, while living outside Facebook.com.
Here’s how it will basically work: when a website is registered with Facebook, users can then become a “fan” of the site itself. Webmasters and publishers can then publish content to users’s News Feeds through the stream publishing APIs. This means that Facebook could become a more important distribution channel for publishers even if they don’t have a Facebook Page – which could be very powerful for both Facebook, brands, and publishers across the web.
Learn more about building your brand and growing your audience with our comprehensive guide to marketing on Facebook. The Facebook Marketing Bible is available at FacebookMarketingBible.com