What Facebook’s Changes Mean for Marketers

Facebook’s bold list of changes, announced Thursday, will put more pressure on advertisers to come up with compelling content and integrate themselves further into consumers’ lives. The big loser? The “Like,” which will have a smaller role in marketing, industry analysts say.

One big change is that Facebook has added a control in the top right of each story that users can check to unmark a top story. Facebook will use that information over time to automatically edit the feeds. Since users now have more control over their news feeds, brands with boring or irrelevant updates will have lower visibility. (They will still show up in the Ticker, however.)

Marketers, who have been told for years that they’re actually publishers now, will have to put that into practice, says Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, a digital marketing firm. “Facebook is a channel, albeit a collaborative one, that needs to be programmed,” says Schafer. “We need to get people to share and interact with more content.”

How to do that? David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation for 360i, says Facebook will now be about branding actions. “Before on Facebook it was about getting people to ‘Like’ the brand,” he says. “Now, it’s about getting people to take social actions enabled by that brand.” For example, if a consumer posts an update about a run they just took, that’s a prime opportunity for Nike. “If your run is powered by Nike, you might still wear Adidas,” says Berkowitz, “but Adidas will have to find something else that’s social about its brand to become part of your story.”

Nir Refuah, vice president of McCann Digital in Israel, says that with Facebook’s redesign, consumers will be creating a “digital autobiography” in which brands will have to integrate themselves. “First Facebook became the digital ID of everyone, and now it will try to gather our whole life story,” says Refuah.

The emphasis on lifestreaming rather than merely using the platform to amplify a message means that apps will become more of a vehicle for branding. But, like the marketing messaging, Schafer says apps will also have to be genuinely interesting to consumers and their friends. “Apps with utility that allow you to consume more or participate more will be more important,” says Schafer.

Thinking of marketing as storytelling isn’t a new concept, but the redesign will extend the metaphor. Sponsored Stories, an ad unit Facebook introduced earlier this year, are a good example, Schafer says, of marketing messages that could be of interest to consumers and their friends. How? Instead of offering basic information, like “Jim checked in at Starbucks,” Schafer suggests that something more specific such as “Jim checked in at the Starbucks on 14th Street and ordered a cappuccino,” might be a relevant part of that consumer’s life that day and of interest to friends.

The change will require new thinking from marketers who had merely tried to accumulate as many fans and “Likes” as possible. Jenna Lebel,managing director of strategy at Likeable Media, says the “Like” is “a little less relevant now,” and that marketers will have to work harder to earn their place in news feeds. “Your content is going to need to be absolutely amazing,” she says.

Colin Murphy, social media director at Skinny, a digital ad agency, thinks overall, the changes are a challenge to marketers and agencies. “He really threw down the gauntlet today,” Murphy says of Mark Zuckerberg. “You actually have to deliver something of value to a customer rather than just being a person spamming.”

Source: mashable.com