Facebook: This journey is 1% finished…

Facebook Timeline OMD

They just can’t sit still can they. Just when you thought you’d got used to the last changes Facebook made, they go and do something pretty radical. Again. Such is the nature of the beast I guess – ‘this journey is 1% finished’ and all that. So, time again to look under the hood of Facebook and figure out what the latest changes mean for brands and advertisers.

What’s the latest to come out of Palo Alto? A couple of weeks back, Facebook announced the following developments:

  • Timeline, Cover Photo and Milestones
  • New advertising placement – Offer ads
  • New advertising packages – Reach Generator and Logout Experience
  • Private Message(s) in order to respond to fans in a quick and personal way
  • Premium advertising now appearing in 3 places rather than one
    – Right-hand side of the hompage
    – In the news feed
    – In newsfeed on mobile, making brands accessible across new devices to     reach audiences on both web and mobile

 

Facebook say that the new branding opportunities give brands a chance to stand out and maximise their impact. So for example, the Timeline means consumers will be able to interact more closely and deeply with a brand’s heritage and history. But to really mine the opportunity, brands will need to dig into their archives to retrieve and repurpose content (or create new content about their history) which people will find inherently interesting and engaging. This means that brands will need to think laterally about how they approach their past, giving careful consideration to the things they choose, or choose not, to talk about.

However, whilst the changes are aesthetically pleasing, it looks like all brands will be moved to the same standardised branding formats and so there is a risk that all brand pages will have a similar look and feel in terms of page layout. It will not be enough for brands to simply use stock images; there has to be a compelling story to tell. This story needs to be carefully considered, planned and maintained and sufficient resource needs to be applied to ensure that content is kept fresh.

Whilst community management of Facebook pages has always been important, changes such as page visitors now being able to send private messages directly to an advertiser, makes personal communication with consumers even more crucial. Advertisers need to be able to provide the quick and personal response consumers will expect. Brands which don’t support their pages with sufficient resource to respond in this way run the risk of pissing people off, with ignored consumers usually happy to vent their frustration on their own pages to their own networks. Therefore it’s now more important than ever for a brand to closely monitor and manage their Facebook community with commitment.

Looking at the new advertising formats, monetising their mobile offering is a bit of an ‘at last’ moment for Facebook and has the potential to drive significant new revenue for them given the huge usage of the platform on mobile devices. w00t! Mobile + Social for advertisers. What’s not to love? Whilst this is a welcome development, remember that people have a very personal relationship with their mobile phones and treat advertising on it differently. This, coupled with the considerably smaller screen, and different user experience, means Facebook (and advertisers) need to use the formats judiciously to make sure users don’t get upset..

Facebook are clearly angling for advertisers to invest in fan acquisition, encouraging brands to ‘buy’ fans using their ad formats with the their new ‘Reach Generator’ package; a hard-to-resist opportunity to push posts and content to 75% of your fans in one go (rather than the average 16% that currently see this), …..just as long as you have 500,000+ fans (not worth doing it for less than a million if that nice man at Diageo is to be believed). If a brand does have this number of fans, giving value to them should be at the centre of any successful Facebook strategy so advertisers must ensure they are rewarding their fans with meaningful and relevant experiences – not just accumulating them and lining Facebook’s coffers in the process.

There’s no doubt that the new layout is bigger, bolder and offers a far richer and interactive canvas which can facilitate a deeper, more immersive experience for consumers, building credibility and loyalty with audiences. Overall, investment will be worthwhile and has the potential to be greatly rewarded. However, this will require brands to invest time and resource in developing and managing their pages on an on-going basis in order to embrace these changes successfully.

Facebook are seeking to position their platform and advertising products towards more long-term relationship building with consumers, rather than on short term campaigns – although there is still plenty of scope for the latter within Facebook (ASUs will continue to be a major revenue stream).

The latest developments are a bold, smart play from Facebook. While the changes are wrapped up with creativity, they are commercial to the core – it’s almost like they’re trying to show major revenue growth prior to an IPO or something….

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