While Facebook users are contemplating what the new Timeline feature means for their profile pages (how much 'curating' they're expected to do, not to mention privacy concerns), brands are also mulling the latest 'New Facebook.'
Facebook’s big unveiling last week of its new user interface relies heavily on “social apps” to put the storytelling and narrative into user profiles, with Mark Zuckerberg touting "Express who you are through all the things you do—the music you love, the recipes you enjoy, the runs you take and more."
He might as well have added, "and the brands you love," because Facebook is opening the door for brand marketers and businesses to reach its user base like never before.
Zuckerberg's f8 presentation to developers showcased deeper integration of branded social apps into the Open Graph for Timeline's launch including:
• a boatload of music apps (such as Spotify, earbits, Songza, iHeartRadio, Jelli, Rdio, Slacker Radio, Mixcloud, Turntable.fm, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio, Audiovroom, Soundcloud, Mog, France's Deezer);
• TV, movies and video clips (Netflix, DailyMotion, Hulu, Vevo, Flixster, Cinemur, izlesene);
• social media/news apps with "recently read" sharing features (iPad app The Daily, Britain's The Guardian and The Independent, and from the US, Yahoo News and the Washington Post Social Reader);
• and lifestyle apps including: Artfinder, Recipe Box, and Nike+ Running (for all those "runs you take"); and more game apps than you shake a joystick at.
Beyond Timeline-ready branded apps, check-ins and "location shares" offer brands foot-trafficked, geo-located gold.
Brands are seeing middling to great returns on location-based check-ins and shares. McDonald's with 1.3 million check-ins/location shares; Starbucks with 2.9 million; and Taco Bell with a dismal 4. The quick-serve Mexican food chain has 7.5 million Facebook "likes" but hasn’t reached out to its network accounts to sync up thousands of their restaurants so check-ins/location shares are counted in only one place. The four check-ins/location are all at Taco Bell's Irvine, CA headquarters.
McDonald's is working directly with a Facebook account rep on this feature available to big brands. “Only companies that include an address on their pages see the feature," reports ClickZ News. "For instance, it doesn't currently show for Burger King or Target." As Facebook’s 800 million users sort out the new features at their disposal, marketers and agencies are sifting the potential of dramatically increased volume and speed of updates and the inherent challenge of standing amidst the fray.
Apps like Nike+, FoodSpotting and FarmVille are readily available to users, so marketers need activities and presence on the Timeline that grab consumer attention. Besides giving tools to users, it all boosts business for Facebook, which has seen its revenue boom thanks to its brand partners, along with driving sign-ups. New Spotify users, for example, must have a Facebook account.
"Marketers want to promote stories about the things they're affiliated with but don't always own the apps," commented Gokul Rajaram, Facebook Ads director of product management, to Ad Age. "Now you can promote stories from any app about objects you own, not just from the page owned by the marketer."
The latest Facebook social apps leapfrog ‘Likes’ and traffic in iterative verbiage like "reading," "watching,' or "listening to," with opportunity for brands to advertise buttons for “shopping,” "cooking," "drinking," or “eating.”
"The key metric going forward will be closer to how many people added your content or application to their timeline rather than how many connections you have," said Mike Lazerow, CEO of Facebook marketing specialist Buddy Media, to Mediapost. "This is a radical shift to actions and engagement — and away from reach and impressions."
The new social apps also accommodate more granular detail with brand mentions, such as Nike+ allowing for, “John ran 5 miles with Nike+” instead of “John ran.” The potential for a continuous stream of branded social content is exponentially increasing.
Facebook’s opening of wall posts and comments on brand pages to anyone, not just those who click "Like," now “opens up the opportunity to engage an expanded set of audiences,” said Jordan Bitterman, SVP Digitas in Mediapost. "Brands will have to be even more strategic, creative, and relevant to their fans to stand out," advised a 360i report.
As Facebook CTO Brett Taylor told Fast Company, “you will be encouraged by the new interface to make Facebook your permanent home on the Internet, which means the "walled garden" is pulling more partners in, rather than helping you get out to the wider world. So if you are a business, and you have a Facebook presence, you are going to need a much broader Facebook marketing strategy in order to find your new customers solely within the Facebook platform.”
For the new "New Facebook," the next reach is to keep the users engaged for Facebook's other primary user base — the advertiser, business and brand marketer.