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Facebook has just announced a number of major platform‐level innovations at their annual “F8 Developer Conference” in San Francisco. The fact that they chose to make these announcements at a developer‐only gathering is important in that it signals their desire to put the user experience as their first priority. As such, the marketing implications are not fully known at this time. Digitas will stay close to these developments as well as our partners at Facebook. We will continue to provide updates as we have them. This summary serves to share a description of these innovations and a first‐take on what they might mean for our clients and our work.
INNOVATIONS ANNOUNCED AT F8
1. Open Graph: Apps Description: In the early days of Facebook, users were able to populate their profiles with various kinds of apps. Most apps provided nothing but badge value (e.g.: “what kind of beer are you” or “gift someone an animated sticker”). Accordingly, Facebook ultimately relegated them to a less prominent role. With today’s announcements, they are now reviving Apps as a centerpiece of their platform. Similar to the smartphone ecosystem, developers will begin building apps for use on Facebook. In some cases, these will be apps adapted from other platforms (iPhone, Android, Netvibes). In other cases, they will be built from scratch. The goal in each instance will be to connect a user’s app activity to the social graph. As Mark Zuckerberg said in his keynote address: “Your apps, now with friends.” Examples of app types will include: media (music, TV, news), lifestyle (running, cooking), games and communication. There are two likely reasons why apps are central to Facebook’s strategy moving forward. First, they would like to provide users with the ability to socialize their activities in a seamless and frictionless manner. They described this as creating “real‐time serendipity” between people and content. Second, they stand to create more allegiance for their platform (including even greater time spent per user) as they become a next generation portal – not a start‐page for the web, but a start‐middle‐and‐end‐page. Timing: Developers will have the ability to begin creating apps for Facebook immediately. Users will begin seeing apps appear in their timelines in the next month. Digitas will be working closely with our clients to determine what apps (if any) need to be built to and to align on strategy in this area. 2. Open Graph: Verbs Description: In addition to updating one’s status and indicating location, users will now be able to share activities with their friends in new and potentially brand‐friendly ways. Actions like “Richard is driving a Cadillac” and “Emily is flying with Delta” will become part of the vernacular. These verbs – “driving” and “flying” – will become clickable enabling friends to go deeper into these activities and discover more about them. Verbs will be connected with apps and will require users to install your app and grant permissions to start posting to the Timeline. Verbs are not ad hoc, but are modeled within the Open Graph, allowing rich meta‐data to be associated with actions the user can take. While not all of the innovations announced at F8 were expressly built with marketers in mind, in Verbs we see a number of possible pathways materializing in a brand’s interest. There will likely be both earned and paid
elements that are born out of this innovation. Timing: Verbs are already available for developers to begin using, but we’re unlikely to see significant (non‐ beta) apps roll out for 4‐6 weeks. Some apps, like Spotify, have participated in a pilot of Verbs and will be available sooner. 3. Timeline Description: In his address, Zuckerberg described Timeline as a new way of “seeing all of your stories, all of your apps and a better way to express who you are.” The middle well of each Facebook profile page will soon be populated with a reverse chronological accounting of each user (earliest pictures, activities and posts at the bottom; most recent at the top). The Timeline will, in essence, replace today’s version of “The Wall.” With Timeline, Facebook aims to create a much more visual and emotional experience versus the text‐heavy Wall offered to date. Essentially, each user will be publishing, on their own terms, a diary of their life in pictures, videos, updates, maps and apps. In Zuckerberg’s words, Facebook is seeking to provide “a modern vehicle for the age old process of scrapbooking.” “Reports” on each user’s activity – status updates, posts, app usage and the like – will be available to read and share regardless of whether that content was published by a friend, a media outlet or a brand. The Timeline is supported by the same Open Graph functionality that allows us to define verbs – so the app stories that are posted into the Timeline will use the Verbs you have defined. This allows the user a rich view of the activities of his life and allows him to display more information about the activities that mean the most to him. The following link shows the Timeline feature and underscores the visual nature of the new format. https://www.facebook.com/about/timeline Timing: Beta begins immediately for developers; Users will begin seeing changes within weeks; According to the Facebook sales organization, Marketers may not be offered profiles in the Timeline format. As of now, brands will continue to utilize the current profile template until Facebook determines their chosen display format for brands. 4. Ticker Description: The old middle‐well was populated by a linear accounting of status updates and content posts. A new feature – “The Ticker” – will provide a dynamic, real‐time account of all activity being published by a user’s friends and favored brands. This functionality will live on the upper right‐side of the page and will appear as a vertical scroll, much like a crawler on cable news. The middle well will continue to publish a curated feed determined by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. Hovering over stories displayed in the Ticker will expand them and allow users to interact with the content. Content displayed in the Ticker is not just status updates and content posting, but also app activity including use of new Verbs functionality. Timing: Live as of 9/20 for users; Conversational and/or messaging calendars will have to be reviewed in the coming weeks to determine any desired or necessary changes to cadence, frequency and pace. Apps will need to be developed to take full advantage of the Ticker.
5. Social Plugins Description: To support the new Timeline and Open Graph innovations (Verbs), Facebook’s social plugins will also undergo changes. The Activity Feed, Facepile and Recommendations Box will all be filterable by verbs connected with your app. So if users are both ‘flying’ and ‘booking’ trips with Delta, you can choose to show only ‘booking’ in your Activity Feed if you choose. There will also be two new plugins to support these changes but they are currently still in development. More information will be available in the coming weeks. Timing: All plugins ‐ both new and updated ‐ are still in beta. No information on when they will be finalized has been released, but it’s expected to happen within 3‐4 weeks.
As we have seen in the past regarding changes occurring on Facebook, one day or even a few weeks is too soon to make accurate predictions as to long‐term marketer implications. That said, our list of implications we are following include: All Facebook advertising units (including Sponsored Stories) are – for the time being – unaffected by these changes Commenting on content posted on brand pages is now open to everyone, not just people who have liked your brand Content calendars may need to be updated to include greater frequency of communication as brand content may be deprioritized in the algorithm and sent to the Ticker. Since the Ticker is dynamic and similar to a Twitter stream, added frequency may be advisable Earned media may, in certain instances, become harder to achieve since brand “likes” seem to be destined for the Ticker as opposed to the main well EdgeRank algorithm may have been tweaked; We’re investigating in order to determine how this will affect strategies to ensure brands can be discovered Content companies built around the Facebook ecosystem must evaluate their value proposition; Facebook may suggest these changes will enhance the experience of offerings like Flipboard and Pulse (and that may wind up being true), but these moves are also competitive to the niches of those entities The sheer amount of content and activity, along with the number of customizable publishing options available to users, is going to make Facebook a bit of a chore in the short term for users and brands alike as they get used to these new settings The Facebook analytic offering has been updated to include these new changes; Digitas is working with Facebook to ensure that all meaningful metrics are accounted for on campaigns moving forward Most importantly: It will take time to determine how users will consume the various innovations and enhancements along with the specific ways that consumption will affect an optimal presence for marketers. We’ll be on top of this as we go.
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