Media coverage abounds related to last week's 2015 F8 Developer Conference - an event for app developers put on by Facebook. A few exciting changes seem to be looming, amidst a ton of snooze-worthy hype.
Out of all the gossip, what are the 2-3 things that PR pros should care about the most? Brand opportunities for its messenger app that could take public Facebook conversations to a private level - labeled Messenger Business - and an update to the comments feature could allow website-based comments to show up on a Facebook story.
But I have a few big "if's" built in to my reluctant excitement.
Only time will tell what is hype and what is worth that happy dance, but I do have some predictions to share. Read on for the deets!
What F8 news about upcoming features DOESN'T excite me? Facebook native video. The same way YouTube videos are uploaded then embedded or shared, this me-too gesture of Facebook expects users to upload a video to Facebook, which will then host the original video, then share it on other platforms.
Why do that on a platform that has laughable reach when I can already upload to YouTube with zero reach restrictions? It gives me the YouTube audience hugeness, right? PLUS Facebook reach (minimal as it might be).
Why on earth would I host it on Facebook, where the reach is likely to either be pay-for-play, just like any other brand post, or have the rules changed at any given moment based on stakeholder demand and developer whimsy? NOT!
Since YouTube is a Google-owned business, at least I can count on that having as much reach as possible. They aren't likely to cannibalize my video reach as a pay-for-play advertising opportunity when they make revenue stuffing commercials in front of videos already, and do that based on organic reach. The ad platform already in place on YouTube is much more predictable than Facebook.
Developers will be able to add a Messenger button to their apps.
Let me fit this into a little make-believe scenario for how it might work... He buys a movie ticket for tonight's 7pm showing of "Shades of Gray" using a Harkins movie theater app, sending you a DM on Facebook, telling you that there is a movie ticket waiting at the box office for romantic surprise date that evening, if you care to join him. Fun, right? To add a frisson of your own romance to the evening, YOU then reserve a table for two at that romantic restaurant up the street for their 10pm seating - the one where you eat with the lights off - using the Open Table app, and have a nice little private chat with the sommolier at that restaurant about what kind of wine you want chilling at your table when you and your hottie/sweetie arrive. Whew. Wouldn't THAT be fun? Spoiling each other, all courtesy of Facebook and businesses using their Messenger Business platform. Not bad for convenience factor, either.
Sure, you could do this using a variety of apps, phone calls and clicks - but in five minutes within Facebook? Might be attractive - especially given how many of us rely on our smartphone already, and have a growing reliance on the Internet of Things (devices connected to the Internet, like your house thermometer and security system)...
It could be compelling, if done the right way, right?
I don't know if that little fantasy is exactly what they have in mind or the actual direction the final product will go, but... According to Mashable's Senior Tech Correspondent Samantha Murphy Kelly, who had one of the first stories published online regarding F8, Messenger Business will "allow users to communicate with merchants by sending them a direct message or making a reservation and checking shipping information."
"People will be able to have personal conversations with companies - specifically, customer service representatives - and be able to make requests, ask questions and get quick responses in an ongoing thread."
Okay. I can see how this could be interesting in a few different ways, provided it's available to ALL COMPANIES, and isn't just a thinly disguised advertising platform - the kind of pay-for-play add-on that only large companies can afford.
This new launch could be handy for Facebook, who makes money based on how much time users spend on the social media platform each day to set their advertising reach and costs - but will it be truly useful for consumers? For PR pros wanting more brand visibility? Time will tell.
It's substituting other private mechanisms such as a website chat or phone call, for a Facebook conversation.
It could help manage crisis control by allowing brands to quickly move a public conversation to a private chat almost seamlessly. It could help Facebook collect data, eavesdrop on customer service and collect consumer information normally proprietary to the brand based on customer interactions. It could help customers by saving them a few mouse clicks.
It could also infringe even more on our privacy, give Facebook yet another reason to nickle-and-dime our advertising budgets to get decent reach for something that would otherwise fall into the brand's lap for free as they handle customer service themselves, and give already beleaguered customer service agents and call centers yet another thing to juggle inefficiently. They still don't combine customer service across a phone call, email and live chat yet - how can we expect them to wrap in Facebook, too?
I'll reserve judgement until it launches, then we'll see. If brands respond to Messenger Business the same way they respond to customer service posts on brand pages, this might not go so well. Fabulous or terrible, Messenger Business will present some interesting challenges for real-time crisis management, brand reputation monitoring and community manager duties, won't it?
From a media platform standpoint - say the WSJ integrates with Messenger Business. It could be used for customer service, sure, but how about journalism? How cool would it be to pitch a breaking news story idea to a journalist or editor on Facebook, then connect with them instantly using Messenger Business to flesh out the story idea in a private chat, upload video and photos for your story idea using the very same platform, (and here's my radical make-believe part) THEN PUBLISH IT directly on their Facebook page with page and chat integration? Then, it shows up in the print issue the next morning? Well, now - THAT could be interesting! And perhaps it would help ensure a source is credible and authentic, since they would be doing it all from an established, validated Facebook profile the journalist can verify is real, not spam.
And could a second app take a conversation with that source on the chat app directly into a live Facebook post on the media platforms page?
Triple hmmmmm. I need to think about this. There could be some interesting ideas on how to use Messenger Business beyond customer service.
The geek in me just might have Facebook dreams tonight. Sad, isn't it? LOL
Anyway, it will be fascinating to see how media takes to this new Facebook change - or doesn't take to it - and what the implication might be for social selling.
For PR pros, however, it might not cause too many ripples in the crisis control front. It might actually make crisis management much easier. What do you think?
Website-Facebook Comment Integration
I'm not really sure that I understand this one. According to the same Mashable article mentioned above, Facebook is also rolling out an update to its Comments feature. Instead of using plug-ins that interface with Facebook to share a comment on someone's Facebook profile, Facebook itself will take a logged-in user's comment on a website page, and "duplicate it on the official Facebook-shared story, too."
That seems a little unclear and open to interpretation, but here goes my guess... I'm logged in to Facebook, because it's a tab on my web browser that stays open all day. I head over to the New York Times because of something a Google Alert turned up. I read the article then, ignited by something it said, am inspired to leave a comment on that article. Even though I lefty the comment on the NYT website page, my comment also turns up on the Facebook post that the NYT made that morning, when they shared the original link. Whoa. I have thirty new Facebook likes? Social signals through the roof?
NICE! Way to grow reach!! I like!!!
And I could tag my client's Facebook page in that comment, you say? Tag the CEO, asking him a smart, insightful question to get him to show a little smarts of his own and have it show up on their page AND mine? Sweeeeeeeeeet. #dreaming
What do you think. Any of this sound interesting from a PR perspective? How could it transform how YOU use Facebook?
More news about F8: Everything You Need To Know From Today's Facebook F8 Announcements, TechCrunch, March 25, 2015)