Between Facebook introducing Graph Search, the redesigned newsfeed, the rumored Facebook #hashtag ,and most recently, Facebook Home, it is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the social media giant. The latest is the official, Facebook-sanctioned emoticon. Yep, Facebook is taking a cue from old school MySpace. Regardless of what emotion (or emoticon ;-) ) this registers with each user and whether or not most will adopt it (I personally find them abhorrent), it is important to see that there is a greater design at work here: a first step to a reimagined Status Update aiming to capture more consumer habits and preferences with better frequency.
While the above pictures seem innocent enough, it gets far more interesting afterwards. In addition to "how are you feeling", there are other sub categories asking users "what they are doing" by allow them to select from watching, reading, listening to and so on, that essentially serves as a way for users to connect with brands and businesses (or anything LIKEABLE on Facebook) and thus increase advertising without it seeming invasive.
While users are currently able to tag any business, movie, or artist freely into their post, the new status seems designed to "guide" (or force, in my opinion) users into tagging with regularity in the way that it acts as a step-by-step process to link to existing likeable pages. Since one of the limitations of Facebook Graph was that search results were based on the privacy settings of what each user allowed to be known publicly, I suspect the new status update is a work around so that tags will register regardless. While users may view the change as a more fun and interactive Facebook, the real truth is that Facebook is working harder and more creatively to better capture user information that will only appear less invasive.
Potential privacy issues aside for users, I think this is a brilliant move for Facebook to increase its value to businesses as well as (or more importantly) its investors. If you have a business, gaining likes, orchestrating trending #hashtags, and getting tagged by users will now be more important than ever and most likely will be the priority ROI for social media managers in the future (this also has the added benefit of giving us more metrics to help determine how effective we are). The benefit to the user is that brands and businesses will need to work harder and probably offer better incentives for users to not just like them, but to also talk about them. In a sense, we may be looking at the SEO currency for Facebook's Graph Search results.
Since the emoticons are still in beta (Facebook hasn't officially acknowledged it yet), I am curious to see if users will have the ability to continue talking about a business, brand, or movie without actually tagging it (I predict they won't). Also, I wonder if users will see the move as a bid to capture more of their consumer habits and choose to quit tagging completely. Either way, two things are apparent: 1) businesses should be figuring out new strategies to appear more frequently in their audience's status updates and 2) users should probably start paying attention even more closely to any changes to their privacy settings.