The Internet is constantly changing and major changes that affect your business can happen at any moment. I write these columns over a month in advance of the time that you read them in order to have the publication laid out, printed, and mailed. Due to this time delay vast changes can happen with Internet Marketing between the time I write an article and you read it.
This was never more evident than last month’s article on Facebook. I wrote the article the last week of August to be in the October issue. Then on September 22nd Facebook announced several major changes at their annual developers’ conference. They stated that these changes were the 3rd major transformation to Facebook’s platform and the biggest change since they added the “Wall”. The ‘News Feed’ that I wrote about received a majority of the changes already implemented and the ‘Top News’ which used to be the default setting of the News Feed is now gone altogether.
The main focus of the announcement is that Facebook will become a true 21st century media company; not a media owner, but a media platform. It puts Facebook squarely at the center of your life. From Facebook you will be able to watch a movie on Netflix, read news stories or sports from The Guardian, and listen to music from Spotify. No longer will people have to stop what they are doing in order to like something and share it with their friend – it will now be shared automatically.
For The Guardian, Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and other large companies that enter into relationships with Facebook this could be a huge moment, opening them up to massive new audiences and building the power of social context and peer recommendation into everything that they do. But for brands who don’t make this type of content, these developments could make it much harder to use Facebook to engage with consumers.
As I write this month’s article the announcement is just a week old and Internet Marketers are still scrambling to understand the impact of the changes and to ascertain what effect this has on small businesses that use Facebook to market their stores. Many are touting that the changes are a death nail to small business trying to use Facebook as a marketing tool. Others see it as a way for Facebook to force businesses to pay for advertising.
By the time you read this the dust will probably have settled and the impact of the changes will be much clearer. However, I’ll take my shot at letting you know about the changes and what you need to do to effectively use Facebook this Christmas season.
One of the first changes you may notice is your News Feed on your Home Page. Gone are the tabs for Most Recent and Top News. Instead you will see ‘Top Stories Since Your Last Visit’ at the top of the center column on the left, and on the right you will see ‘More Top Stories’.
Top Stories is basically the same as the old Top News. Here you will see the status updates of your friends and pages of which you are a fan. These are still filtered by Facebook and you see what they think is most important to you.
To me the biggest difference is the blue triangle in the upper left corner of each post. If you see a post you don’t like, click on the blue triangle and a box appears that states “This is no longer a top story. We’ll try not to put more stories like this at the top of your News Feed.”
If you scroll down the page, below the Top Stories is Recent Stories. If you click on the blue triangle a box appears that states “This is now a top story. We’ll try to put more stories like this at the top of your News Feed.”
This gives users more control over what Facebook places in your Top Stories. Unfortunately for business owners, fans of your page can use this feature to keep your page up-dates from appearing in their News Feed without returning to your page to unsubscribe. They will still remain your Fan; they just will not receive any information from you.
Probably the most controversial change is the addition of the News Feed Ticker. Some people hate it; others love it, and Facebook has already made changes to it. The Ticker is simply the old ‘Most Recent’ News Feed. However, as mentioned in last month’s article, most people did not use it or know it was there. So Facebook made it more obvious.
When the changes were first released the Ticker was a large hover box that appeared on the right side of your screen. Quickly Facebook realized this was too obtrusive and moved it into the right hand column underneath the Sponsored Ads.
The Ticker shows all news feed items unfiltered in real time. This is a constantly scrolling box with the latest post appearing on top. If you have many friends who are active on Facebook or have liked many Business Pages, this feed moves rather rapidly and in my opinion is quite annoying.
Facebook wants to move towards becoming a publishing platform and as such has expanded the limit on the content you can share in a Status Update. In the past you were limited to 500 characters in your post. Now you can share up to 5,000 characters. While I have been successful in posting longer Status Updates, I have not been able to post anything close to the 5,000 limit yet. However, since I have been on the road since these changes have been made, this may be due more to the Internet connection in the hotels rather than a limit from Facebook.
While this allows retailers to post more in-depth information, I caution you from over using this feature. Numerous studies have shown that shorter posts receive more engagement. The past behavior of Facebook Users has been to like short posts that are easily skimmed over. Then if more information is desired, they can click on a link to be taken to a more in-depth article elsewhere. This new change to Facebook will be interesting to follow to see if Users Behavior changes or this is a feature that is best NOT to use.
In the past you could organize your friends into Lists, but now Facebook has improved the feature and added ‘Smart Lists’. In the past you had to go to the list of your friends and manually add them to a List or add them to a list when you first friended them. When you posted an up-date or did any activity on Facebook you could choose to only allow people in one of your lists to see the content.
The new Facebook List works the same way, however they have added some ‘Smart Lists’ which automatically adds people to the list. You do have the option to add friends manually to the list and remove anyone from a list.
The one Smart List that I believe has some value to retail jewelers is the city list. If you enter your current city in your profile, Facebook will group all your friends who live in your city into a Smart List. The default setting for this list is any friend who lives within 10 miles of you, but you can set it anywhere up to 200 miles.
Then you can go to your business page for your store and invite friends and select your city list. This way you are only inviting friends who live close to your store who are in your market area to visit your page. When you send an invitation to your page be certain to be clear that you want them to visit your page and Like the page instead of just liking the post.
Since the beginning years of Facebook you have been limited to having no more than 5,000 friends. While this seems like an excessive amount to most people it was quite limiting to public figures and even to marketers and other professionals. Fans of movie and TV celebrities, sports stars, musicians, politicians and other public personalities wanted to follow their heroes, but Facebook kept them from becoming friends. For the past two years Facebook had promised to lift these restrictions, but every date they set and promise made, came and passed without any changes.
The Subscribe button is the perfect solution for these public personalities who want to connect with more people. The Subscribe button allows you to make your personal profile more public, allowing subscribers to see your public updates.
Subscribers will see all your updates in their News Feed just like your friends (unless you set the privacy setting on the update to exclude them). However, you will only see updates from your friends in your News Feed and none of your subscribers updates will be published there.
By default the Subscribe button is turned off. If you want to allow subscribers to your personal profile you need to go into your settings and turn it on. Whether or not you turn on the subscribe button, when you look at your friends list you will see that you are both their friend and subscriber. This simply means that you will see their updates and they will see yours.
The Timeline is the biggest change announced by Facebook and as of this writing has yet to be implemented. The change will not happen at one time for all 800 million users of Facebook but will be gradually implemented over time.
The Timeline will change the way your Personal Profile will look. Your Wall is coming down and in its place will be a Timeline. Within the Timeline you will be prompted to add content to fill in the gaps from the time you were born until the present time. While this feature may appeal to the younger generations, it will most likely be ignored by most users.
The best aspect of the Timeline that I see is your ability to personalize it. Gone is the photo strip of the last 5 photos you uploaded. In its place is one large photo of your choosing which is similar to a header on your website. This will make it easy to add branding to your profile page. You can also add a background picture to customize the look of your page similar to your Twitter profile and YouTube channel.
Like other Social Networks the amount of customization is limited. There are different modules that make up your profile Timeline. How much you can move the modules around and control the content in them is yet to be seen.
So far there have been no announced changes to Facebook Business Pages. However, this doesn’t mean that Facebook isn’t working on it. Pay attention to the Timeline when it is implemented on your Profile. Most experts believe that changes to Business Pages will be similar to the Profile Timeline.
Status updates from business pages are still filtered through the EdgeRank algorithm to be displayed in your Fans’ News Feed. The information I gave in last month’s article to receive a higher EdgeRank score still applies. However, Facebook has changed the algorithm in peoples’ News Feed to allow fewer updates from pages and more updates from personal profiles.
What this means for businesses is that they need to make quality posts on their pages to achieve higher EdgeRank scores. This way their post will be chosen among the fewer page updates displayed. It is also more important to post interesting information to keep your fans from blocking the content and to engage your fans with your updates by getting them to either like the post or to comment on it.
I’m not sure who said “I’m all for change as long as I don’t have to do anything different,” but it seems to apply. Facebook has made significant changes and will be making more. However businesses that have been doing the right things in the past will not have to do much differently.