Love it or hate it, Facebook refuses to be ignored.
With 800 million+ active users worldwide, and an eye-popping record of 500 million active in one day, one thing can be said for Facebook, it's here to stay. But what of these new changes? For users, every one of the new Facebook changes seems to be in their best interest. You may not realize it now, but in my opinion, this is the Facebook we've wanted all along.
Businesses however don't adapt to change very well. With every update, many find it's communication strategy obsolete. Facebook updates send public relations officers, and marketers to cower under their desk, wishing things would go back to "normal" on the world's largest social network.
If you're in the fetal position, sucking your thumb, and wondering if you're going to have a job next week, these are the 12 most critical things you must know about New Facebook.
1. It's about people
You'd think this goes without saying, but many businesses are still lacking a customer-centric communication strategy. Businesses talk about what they can do, how they can fix people's problems, how their service improves lives and so on... but rarely focus on letting their prospective client qualify themselves. Many companies still beat their customers into submission through advertising and blatant broadcast style messaging instead of engaging in an two way dialog with their core customer base.
The behavior follows them everywhere, it's not just limited to Facebook. Remember, Facebook is a business too; a free service whose success hinges on the happiness of it's users. If marketers manipulate the platform for extra exposure, it really isn't fun for users. Facebook's mission "is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected."
The hidden message to businesses? "People will share what they like, not what you force them to."
2. It's about people
Your core experience on Facebook, the News Feed, has seen the most dramatic change.
All "lightweight" info is going to the Ticker. Farmville, Mafia Wars, and other social game updates are hereby banished to the Ticker. Users also have the ability to unsubscribe from updates by certain individuals, and mark "Top News" for others, giving people complete control over their News Feed. (more on "subscribe" later)
Beyond that, Facebook's News Feed algorithm, "EdgeRank" has added a sub set called "GraphRank" which essentially looks for patterns in your friends habits. So if 3 of your friends comment on a status, watch a movie with a similar actor, like (soon to be "read") an article on the same site, etc., it's going to be more likely to show up in your News Feed. For businesses, if you're not encouraging comments, likes and shares, the likelihood of appearing in the News Feed will be reduced significantly.
3. It's about people
Another major change to Facebook is the "Timeline". Mashable says: "This is a stream of information about you - the photos you've posted, all your status updates, the apps you've used, even the places you've visited on a world map - that scrolls all the way back to your birth. It encourages you to post more stuff about your past, such as baby pictures, using Facebook as a scrapbook.
The further back in the Timeline you go, the more Facebook will compress the information so that you're only seeing the most interesting parts of your history. You can customize this by clicking on a star next to a status, say, or enlarging a picture."
For businesses, Timeline affords a few interesting opportunities, and it's not exactly what you think. First, by encouraging people to tag themselves or share photos with your branding, your business can have valuable real estate in their Timeline.
Beyond that, businesses could start involving their own employees to participate in the fun of social media marketing more, by encouraging incentivising them to change their "Album cover" to a branded picture.
After all, doesn't it just make sense to give your employee's "friends" the impression they actually like their jobs?
4. It's about people
By now, you may have heard more about "social apps" which will allow you to share what you're reading, watching, cooking, etc with your friends as it's happening. Some people already love this feature, and some hate it.
But for businesses, creating a social app around your business can be one of the best ways for your business to gain visibility in the "Ticker". The companies getting the most amount of the "share it as it's happening" buzz are of course media companies like Hulu and Spotify, however, news sites like The Guardian and the Washington post, also have apps that allow you to interact with their website without ever leaving Facebook.
5. It's about people
Users can now (verb) any (noun) on external websites.
You don't have to "like" a chicken cordon bleu recipe on a recipe website; you can just "want to cook" a "chicken cordon bleu" recipe. This is known as Facebook Gestures and its aim is to add more context to the social graph. So instead of requiring users to "like" an article (and thus endorsing it, which they may not be comfortable doing) you can simply ask them to "read" it. Instead of "liking" a video, they can simply "watch" it.
While these Gestures may seem simple, taking away the endorsement of the "like" and just stating exactly what you're doing could greatly improve the sharability of your product.
6. It's about people
Along with many of the new feature roll outs, there is one that won't get much attention and that's Smart Lists. For years now, employers have been blocking Facebook from their employees because of its ability to destroy productivity. But what if your business was different? What if you allowed your employees to communicate via smart lists?
Smart lists have been automatically created by people with similarities in their profile. So, if 20+ people worked at the same company, Facebook has probably already created a list where the News Feed only shows updates by your co-workers. This feature doesn't just apply to workplaces, but also old classmates, friends from your town, etc. You can also create lists that only show pages, people, and subscriptions of your choosing.
For example, I've created a list that displays only industry news from trusted sources:
By having a custom "industry news" list and a smart "people I work with" list (which will show up as your employer's name with a star next to it), I can easily share relevant news with only the people who will find it useful.
Now you won't have to annoy your friends and family with your "business" news.
7. It's about people
The major goal of Facebook now is not just to acquire more users (they already have 800 million active already!) but to deepen their engagement with the platform and by proxy the people and businesses on it. In the wake of the F8 conference, Facebook is rolling out a number of additional changes that will not only reshape the platform, but how advertising and marketing over social media will work all together.
One such change is the introduction of a new ad unit which will expand only if your friend has "liked" the brand's page. There are two major differences from sponsored stories. 1.) The ad does not show up in the News Feed and 2.) It allows the advertiser to create a custom message around the ad unit. The ad unit does not currently have testers signed up. The image below is a mockup of what this ad unit might look like.
8. It's about people
Another subtle change to Facebook's Pages platform is the ability for "fans" to "share" any content put out by the page. Previously, "sharing" was limited to multimedia like video, images, and links. But now users have the ability to "share" text based status updates. This is similar to Twitter's retweet, but with two major differences.
1.) You can "share" statuses of pages you don't "like"
2.) You can see all of the people who have "shared" that exact same status, and anything they might have said in the context of that share.
How does this apply to business? Not only are you able to encourage your "fans" to share your content, but you can snoop on brands that might have your customers and see which updates get shared the most and what their fans are saying about it. Then adopt some of their communication techniques into your own communication strategy.
9. It's about people
On that same note, Facebook is integrating a few new metrics to Page insights, mainly "People Talking About" which will "measure user-initiated activity related to a Page, including posting to a Page's Wall, "liking", commenting, sharing a Page post or content on the Page, answering a Question posed to fans, mentioning a Page, "liking" or sharing a deal or checking in at your Place. " (Mashable)
Other new metrics will include "Friends of Fans" and "Weekly Total Reach" which will give you a much better idea of how your page is performing in the overall Facebook eco-system. "Friends of Fans" will show you how many people you are potentially connected to by telling you the overall friend count your fan base has. "Weekly Total Reach" will be an interesting metric to watch as it will help you to know how many people have actually referenced your page, either by tags, shares, or mentions of News Organizations (within Facebook). But overall, these metrics are measuring one thing and one thing only. How remarkable are your updates?
10. It's about people
There is one complaint that persists for The Social Network; privacy. With all of the overhauls happening on Facebook, App Privacy was sure to get an update. The most notable is the ease of deleting applications that have access to WAAAAY too much information.
But that's not all, with the introduction of the new Social Apps, you can make sure that the application can only publish your activity within the app to certain groups of people, ranging from public, to only certain lists or groups of people. For more on how this works, click here.
11. It's about people
Perhaps my favorite change is the ability to "subscribe" and "unsubscribe" from people's posts. This means that I can see influential people's updates without having to be let down when they don't accept my friend request.
Which if you're running a company and people want to get to know "you" they can do so without having access to everything, as you can display certain information to everyone, and all other information to only friends.
But my other favorite part about "subscribe" is that you can "unsubscribe" from people who you don't necessarily want to "defriend" but don't want to see every single thought that goes through their head either.
12. It's about people
Facebook changes reflect one thing; it's about the user. There are a number of minor tweaks that will be unrolled in the months to come, but to businesses the message is clear: be relevant to people or cease to exist.
With over 800 million active users, becoming obsolete on the web's premier destination is something you can't afford. Quit focusing on how to "get more fans". Focus on building an emotional connection with your existing fans. Focus on creating "sharable", "likable" "remarkable" content that people can't help but interacting with. Focus on getting so good that people can't live without you. That's the most critical thing you need to know about New Facebook.