Making sense of Facebook’s latest updates

Much has already been spoken about in the blogosphere about Facebook’s F8 conference last week, and the changes introduced, not least the Timeline feature.

We believe it is still far too early to draw definitive conclusions for what this means specifically for retail brands within Facebook, certainly in terms of how they organise and share their content and encourage people to do this on their behalf.

Why?  Well, to start with, an article on 16th Sept (before F8) by Paul Fabretti on Social Media Today suggests that while Facebook has generated huge followings (although he observes that in the top 20 ‘most followed’ within Facebook there are zero brands), engagement with these groups by ‘core fans’ is tiny.  The % of ‘core fans’ engaging with the top 20 is comparable to the % CTR one might expect from banner advertising…hardly a glowing endorsement of engagement.  Logic suggests therefore that the solution to poor engagement is ‘better’ content. This isn’t new news to anyone, and harder to deliver it seems.  Especially content that people want to share, to pass on.

Will the updates revealed at F8 make the delivery of ‘better’ content easier or more difficult, then?

Anecdotally at Leapfrogg International HQ(!), opinion is divided.  Some love the new layout and the freshness of Timeline, while others are concerned that if Facebook is starting to decide what constitutes a ‘top story’, rather than having posts fed through chronologically, it raises a question mark over posts that a user might previously have seen that now get missed.

Is there an element of information overload now – how many types of posts can anyone really look at, in different places on one page?  For brands, this seems a risk as well as an opportunity.

Ciaran Norris raises some interesting concerns in his article on Search Engine Land , as does Travis Pitman in Tnooz.  The launch of Gestures, offering the facility for people to share every song they listen to, every book they read or place they go to more easily than ever, could invite ‘stream fatigue’.  If Facebook’s new content structure means that brands are fighting for page real estate in the ticker section of the page with an increasing volume of information from friends, standing out from that ticker stream is going to be more and more difficult.  The thought that the ticker feed is simply ‘the current News Feed on steroids’ is valid.

One solution for brands may be to invest in sponsored areas of the pages; it cannot be a coincidence that within the refreshed content structure, the areas where Facebook generate revenue from brands remain larger, colourful and more impactful than the ticker feed.

At the same time, it seems more important than ever that brands and businesses ensure they have Facebook’s presence embedded within their own sites, to ensure it is as easy as possible for people visiting their sites can broadcast information back to Facebook as easily as possible.

In short, for brands and Facebook, it’s not ‘why?’, but ‘how?’  Our reason for this is simple; not only are more people (800m+ globally) registered, but recent data shows they spend more time there than on any other social media property;


Image source: Citi Investment Research and Analysis

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