I know the blog has been pretty Facebook heavy lately, but that’s only because the social network has been changing things up so often. Bear with me as we delve a little bit into the new overhaul of Facebook’s profiles in what I hope will be my last Facebook-centric post for a long time. For the record, I would have written about this much earlier, but was clinging to my old profile, stewing with a mixture of deep denial and curiosity about changes to come, for as long as possible. The time has finally come for me to follow TechCrunch’s directions, get the new Facebook timeline and test out the new features.
The importance of Facebook to the search marketing world is ever-growing, and therefore seems to always be relevant when it comes to newsworthy developments in the interactive marketing world. And while there have been comments floating around about how people should not complain about the free service Facebook provides (the prevailing notion is, if you don’t like it, don’t use it), the simple fact is that Facebook is such a huge part of our lives, personal and professional, that not using it would be like not doing any advertising for a new business. There’s just no way around using the social network to not only connect with friends but also to promote your business.
The first thing I have to say about Facebook’s changes is that, on the one hand, they kind of make me want to take back any bad thing I have ever said or piece of criticism I have doled out about Mark Zuckerberg or his social media platform. On the other hand, they also kind of make me want to crawl into a simple Google + shaped hole and hide there forever. With the recent lackluster integration of video chatting, failure of the Facebook’s deals platform and the negative responses to the social network’s new layouts (pre-F8 conference), Facebook was very much in need of a home-run. From what I understand, many believe these new changes are just that: the timeline, gestures, media integration and more. Change is always scary, and I think when timeline goes mainstream, many will run from it and others will cling to it. But eventually, everyone will come back to Facebook, because these new profiles really have changed the face of social networking – for good.
A Search Engine Land article by Greg Finn about the new changes to Facebook resonates with me, especially when he writes that “Timeline was explained as an evolution from the original profile page being ‘The first 5 minutes of the conversation’ to timelines being the ‘rest of the conversation.’” It’s true, I think, that these profiles/timelines are going to change social networking forever. The current Facebook layout will be quickly forgotten once timelines catch on, and people will start to wonder why social networking wasn’t always done this way. Here’s why.
Some people are afraid of using the internet because whatever you put out into the ether is out there for good, and there’s not much you can do about it. Well, Facebook capitalizes on this fact, organizing users’ history into years, and keeping it all up front so they can access the past at any time. And while people like me, who don’t want to be reminded of what happened daily during my high-school or college careers, might be uncomfortable with this, many will be very happy to have the opportunity to be nostalgic with the click of a mouse. It really is like a virtual scrapbook, one that is aimed at helping users maintain old friendships while also encouraging new ones (and reminding us why we’ll never speak to that crazy ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/friend again).
This is the new look of my profile. It’s actually very aesthetically pleasing, and the buzzing activity that it reflects makes it hugely different from Google +’s sparse interface.
Facebook’s new profiles stand in stark opposition to Google +’s clean, simple and complication-free social network setup, and while many may think that this is a bad thing that will encourage Facebook defection and Google + population, I think it’s great. I’ve been waiting for Facebook to step up its game and show it doesn’t need to mimic Google + to maintain its giant user base and be the best. To put it simply, the Facebook team fooled us all into thinking they were struggling to keep up with the newer and possibly better social network, while really they were cooking up something revolutionary, a game-changer that could mean Google’s nearly 50-million user strong social network remains a small pain-in-the-rear rather than becomes a true, sizable rival.
Now, if you look at my Facebook profile alongside my Google + profile, you can see the stark difference between the two. Facebook’s interface is multi-faceted, busy and packed full of different types of updates, while my Google + profile is simple, clean and plain (given, I use Facebook much more often, but you get my point).
The thing that bothers me about this new set-up, though, is that the real-time updates made it over to the new lay-out. As if having a record of my every move on Facebook documented on my profile isn’t enough of a reminder that “big brother Mark” is watching my every move, these updates ensure that I remember that he is in fact watching all my friends’ moves too – and he’s doing so all the time. Now, some might argue that Twitter is basically a form of these real-time updates in 140-characters or less, but at least on Twitter people have a choice. They can choose to update you on who they are friends with now, what they’re commenting on other peoples’ photos, and what they like about another friend’s status. On Facebook, I have no choice but to be updated with every sleazy move made by that guy I met 5 years ago every time my eyes wander over to the right side of my screen.
Gestures, Multimedia Integration
Beyond timelines, a few other changes are also notable. Developers will now be able to create their own “gestures” that users can use when browsing content. Instead of being limited to simply “liking” things, Facebookers will now be able to specify their button pushing with just what they did: instead of liking a book, they can say they read it; instead of liking a mountain, they can say they climbed it, and more.
But what really has people buzzing is the upcoming integration with Spotify. Users will be able to share their music with friends, and they’ll be able to so easily. Also sharable are news and videos; in fact, many news sites will be able to create versions of themselves within Facebook, ensuring that news will ultimately trend in a more social direction. After all, a recent Pew Internet and American Life project survey revealed that “Social media is becoming a factor in how people learn about their local community, but it is not as popular as other digital forms. In all, 17% of adults say they get local information on social networking sites like Facebook at least monthly.” The movement of other digital forms, like internet versions of newspapers, into the social media space will make social networking a one-stop shop for anything and everything users may need.That 17% will grow, and it will do so rapidly.
Spotify Integration: What Will Happen
When users begin to utilize the Spotify/Facebook integration, here’s what will happen:
– The user will have a “Music Dashboard,” which will show up on the left side of the his or her Facebook profile. The user can view friends’ favorite songs, as well as their playlists. Songs that are big hits in the moment will also be represented in this dashboard. The user can listen to any of these by hitting Play. (Also, Facebook friends will show up on the right side of the user’s Spotify profile when the user is logged in via Spotify).
– The Facebooker’s real time ticker will show what songs a user’s friends are listening to right at the moment, and will give the user the option to listen to those same songs too.
WSJ Social – The Future Starts Here
The future of news and news sharing begins with Wall Street Journal’s entrance into the social sphere. The WSJ is making waves in the social networking space with a new Facebook app to supplement its page (note: when I went to “Like” the WSJ page, Facebook asked me to write a recommendation for my friends. I haven’t seen this before, but that could just be me. Either way – we all know that recommendations are a surefire way to spread popularity, as a user is more likely to do something or look at something if a friend recommends it, so I see this becoming a regular phenomenon on Facebook). This app is called the WSJ Social, and it “filters Journal content through the so-called social graph to yield a news product that lives entirely within the walls of Facebook,” according to an article by Forbes.com entitled, “WSJ Social, For A World Where Facebook is the New Internet” by Jeff Bercovici. The article continues, “It’s also about reimagining newspaper reading as an inherently social experience. Users choose which streams they want to follow – the official one’s produced by the paper’s, and each other’s – and that determines what stories they see.” Users become editors as the Wall Street Journal brings its reporting to a new, more socially engaged audience. Once you download the WSJ app, you’ll see the following:
These are images of the WSJ Social page. This is just one-part of Facebook’s new media-sharing initiative. With print media slowly becoming obsolete, news outlets now have a way to maintain their relevance to millions of people: social networking.
How This Changes How Businesses Use Facebook
While what changes (if any) to Facebook will affect businesses remains unclear, you can be sure that the social media platform’s team is doing everything it can to ensure that Facebook pages remain a vital part of internet marketing. This week, Facebook begins its “small business education program,” according to AdAge Digital. Facebook will show small businesses what they had in mind when they created pages, specifically how to best target customers through the social network.
The article mentions the following striking statistic: “According to an eMarketer report, 44% of small and medium sized businesses used social media as a marketing tool in August, and 59% spent less than $100 on social-media marketing.” To encourage more use of Facebook as a marketing platform as well as to make those who already do use it even more successful, Facebook will be partnering with the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business to distribute helpful materials like webinars and case studies to businesses looking to optimize their pages for better marketing. Further, members of the Facebook team will be taking their helpful show on the road. Also according to the AdAge article, “9.2 million small businesses in the US have pages on Facebook, but only 3.2 million of those pages have active engagement.” Though back in the summer, Facebook released a page with tips for optimizing Facebook pages for business, many companies still struggle with how to build “likes” and properly engage fans.
The important point that Facebook will likely address is that more companies, especially the smaller ones, cannot stop working at their Facebook pages the minute they have more than their targeted number of likes. These businesses need to be interacting with their audiences, providing them with unique content, and remaining relevant in an ever-changing space.
All in all, I have to say that Facebook’s profile overhaul is for the better. While on the one hand, the changes will be difficult to get used to, on the other they differentiate Facebook from Google + in an incredibly engaging way. They also promote content-sharing in a way that makes Facebook a one-stop shop for all things news, music and video related.
There are only two entities that Facebook’s changes will not benefit: Google +, and wherever you work (because you know you’ll be spending even more time on the social network than you were before!).
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