I’m sort of reminded of the Y2K excitement when people are now talking about the fact that the whole Facebook interface changes for good – across the board – in a matter of weeks. It’s not that we didn’t know that the Timeline structure would be pushed to everyone, it’s just the effect it has on Facebook Pages. There is so much darn branded content that needs to be wholly redone to work within the new layout. If you’re a brand that has one – or even a dozen – FB pages (and a number of tabs) then it shouldn’t be a problem. But, if you have hundreds or even thousands of pages with bunches of tabs, you could be in trouble.
Other than the fact that the layout is changing (and that Facebook must be getting a lifetime supply of cupcakes with their sample of Magnolia Bakery on the Pages page), the main differences are in the control of the entry point and the amount of Tabs a brand can maintain. Without being able to force people to either Like or enter an email upon first arriving at the page means that brands will now have to find a better way to get people to commit without their exploration seeming to need a gateway. With the addition of 4 Favorites buttons that act more like navigation buttons, brands will have to put a little more thought into their presentation strategies. Will they use those to garner Likes or collect emails, or will those items be placed on the Wall for larger presence – which would also require closer management. Brands can send users specifically to a Favorites tab page via a URL, but companies can no longer rely on that gateway upon entry.
The need to re-think or rework does present major challenges for those companies – like movie studios – who have hundreds (or thousands) of heavily designed pages up that they were hoping they could just leave up there forever. It now ends up they will be completely broken – and who knows what will happen to all those followers if the page owners decide to let the pages wither away…
On the good side, it seems like this major change will help to stop all the micro changes that the Facebook engineers unleashed on a seemingly bi-weekly schedule with no notice for the past few years. Nothing created more headaches than waking up and seeing that your pages are broken and nobody was prepared (or paid) to update it. The hope is that these more structured and formalized pages will make those micro-changes unnecessary. Additionally, with the timeline, it will be easier to tell your corporate story by putting communications or newsletters on your pages and actually have them better reflect progression over time rather than a hodge-podge of items that might come if they weren’t anchored to an exact time. Additionally, the opportunity to push your creativity will be presented as the timeline will be more kind to graphic posts.
In the long run, it seems these changes will make population and content management more standardized. This could make things a lot more easy and allow for companies to rely on Facebook as an even simpler way to even replace an unwieldy and expensive custom site. I’m sure Facebook looked at the migration of companies from expensive sites to easy (and free) sites on platforms like WordPress caused them to take a deep look inward and provide their own solution.
Putting my user hat on, I’m very happy that I no longer have to Like something or submit my email address just to be able to see content for a possible vendor. even from the marketing perspective, I would rather have unencumbered eyeballs on my content and then step up to the challenge of developing good incentives to have them Like my product or enter their email because they actually like what we’re about – not just because its what they’re about to see.
So, while many brand marketers may be flailing in the short-term to make things right with the transition, this could be the key to really providing stability and a strong presence for all who approach this new landscape smartly and strategically.
Posted in Core
Tagged Challenges, Change, Digital, Facebook, Incentives, Like, Marketing, Opportunity, Pages, Platforms, Smart, Standards, Strategy
Yesterday, as the Mobile World Congress’ Keynote Speaker, Facebook CTO Bret Taylor laid out the company’s plans to “help” the mobile industry and developers work around the pesky control that Apple and Google now share. While unveiling two key programs that Facebook is looking to lead, he addressed Facebook’s plans to tackle both the in-app purchasing and the setting of HTML5 development standards and guidelines. Looking at both, they could be seen as either a uniting of factions to create a better mobile experience for all, or an end run at increasing the company’s power and market share.
Facebook CTO Bret Taylor speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
To be fair, the move does seem like a win for Telcos – who were left out of the app monetization scheme by Apple and Google – and App developers – who have to go through heavy testing phases to ensure their product work across the wide range of systems and hardware. But, it seems that Facebook’s real goal is to enable themselves to make more money in the long-term. And that’s not a bad thing – just a worrisome one.
First off, the changes to in-app purchasing are much-needed and could benefit users as much as the telcos (and Facebook) it will most likely support financially. I question what Facebook’s role is in finding that solution. Don’t they already have a monetization model via Facebook credits? As more of their business moves to mobile and the subsequent ad revenue opportunities are diminished in the mobile experience, it is unclear what they will be able to garner from this immediate development. It does look like they will be able to offer the Telcos a piece of the revenue pie by reaching the umpteen million Facebook users, but their ultimate upside for Facebook will be that they are now playing in the same 30% playground that Apple and Google control.
The other part of Taylor’s address was related to general Mobile Web standards. There is an obvious need to come to some general standards and Facebook has the weight behind it to lead other publishers and developers in that quest. If they are putting together a consortium, hopefully it will be more effective than the ones we’ve seen in the entertainment industry (that come together to then decide they are going to do things their own way.) If they are building technology – specifically the Ringmark product they announced for testing purposes – as an infiltration tool (think back to those AOL CDs that came in the mail to get users to join) things could possibly get messy. Developers will be keen on tapping into Facebook’s Open Graph, but will it help those same developers with other testing that might have nothing to do with Facebook? If it is too narrow, it could end up being counter-productive.
It is far too soon to tell which way this will go, but my initial reaction was one of concern. That concern is based on the confusion about whether the company is facilitating the consortium or leading it. They are certainly in the position to facilitate the connection of many companies to reach a higher (and competitive) good. My concern is that it seems that they are actually looking to extend their fingers beyond their core to generate an even further stake in the digital realm. The positioning as an alternative to Apple and Google is a noble business decision, but will it spread them too thin? Also, if they are leading the charge and bringing on partners to do a bunch of dirty work that might show those companies an up-side in the short-term for Facebook’s further domination in the long-term, that could be a cause for concern.
Of course, there is not anything “evil” in either case – it just seems like it could end up being dubious. Or, perhaps I’m too fixated on an “Evil Empire” narrative of some sort.
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Apple, Apps, Bret Taylor, Business, Developers, Development, Facebook, Google, HTML5, Market Share, Mobile Monetization, Mobile Web, Mobile World Congress, Ringmark, Standards, Strategy, Technology, Telcos, Testing