What F8 and the changes to Facebook mean for brands and marketers

The announcements at yesterday’s F8 conference included a few of the changes we expected to Facebook (the music service was a very poorly kept secret) and a few more radical changes that went further than we might have guessed. For brands and for social media agencies working with Facebook, now is the time to begin to digest and understand what this means about how people will use the social network in different ways and what this means for them.

Here are three initial trends that I see having an impact on brands and organisations that use Facebook and suggestions about how to capitalise on them:

1. The Timeline becomes the centre of the Facebook experience

To date, Facebook has worked by showing the latest things people have said in a single long stream of activity. If you went away on holiday for a week or two, when you returned you would see the latest things people had Liked or commented on or said. Everything else that had happened would be buried. The introduction of the Timeline changes this. It replaces a users profile with a timeline of events (status updates, photos, things they have done in apps) and then this is shared in Newsfeeds. It allows others to explore updates from friends this week, or last week, or last month. And (perhaps critically) it means that only certain actions will be highlighted here.

The Timeline will no longer show actions like ‘Liking’ a brand page. Instead your friends will see that in their Ticker, a fast-moving set of updates of every action your friends do. This means it will be buried and and brands that rely on friends if friends seeing that somebody has Liked your page to drive traffic will need to think again. This should be nothing new anyway, we all know it’s really about creating an engaging Facebook page.

Secondarily it looks like only apps that use the new Open Graph will appear in Timelines and Newsfeeds. So whilst you can now post messages based on things people do in your apps (and only need to ask their permission once to do this), you may need to rewrite part of them for this to work.

2) A new vocabulary (and new area for creativity)

Let’s be honest, ‘Like’ is not the most versatile of words. I might not want to say that I ‘Liked’ a movie, but would rather say I ‘Watched’ it. And now I can [verb] any [noun]. This is a great development and is one brands should start to think really creatively about.

There is an opportunity for some brands to start to ‘own’ verbs by getting users to take actions on them. There is also a chance to be more creative in how people interact with content. Rather than ‘Liking’ items that you want to buy, how about a more emotive ‘Want’. Then maybe Facebook could gather together all your ‘Wants’ in one place as a gift list of things that you would like people to buy you from around the web. Could Facebook be the new place for your wedding gift list rather than having it tied to one store?

3) A shift from numbers to engagement

A real focus for Facebook to date has always seemed to be getting more and more Members; we were even told proudly yesterday that they now have 800 million members globally (about 12% of the global population). Whilst this drive won’t become less important the real impact of the changes announced at F8 is to make engagement as important. The introduction of music, movies, news and the Timeline feature is really about social discovery (letting me find our even more things about my friends) and adding a social layer to my life.

Facebook is no longer somewhere I come to update my friends through a status. It is now a scrapbook of the things I do, the things I like, the places I’ve been and the people I know. I can explore this through shared interests, through music and film, through maps through photos. I can also record important events in my life (everything from a death in the family to breaking a leg!)

This is done to make Facebook more engaging, to make people spend more time using it and get greater reward from this investment. For brands this should be a positive trend. The best have known for some time that social media is about engagement. And with people spending more quality time on Facebook the brands that get Facebook right should find this means people spending more quality time with them.