What The New Facebook Changes Mean For Businesses

Ordinary people and small businesses using Facebook are going to have to come to grips with two new terms after the big announcements Mark Zuckerberg made today at f8, the Facebook Developer conference. The first is "self-expression," which means your friends will know a lot more about what you read, what music you listen to, and even what you cook. The second is "serendipity," which means if you see a friend of yours has watched a movie on Netflix, you can click on that app in your timeline and begin watching it immediately from within the app.

This could lead to a great deal of inadvertent oversharing, especially if you use Facebook for business, or if you are not a student of how it evolves. It is always evolving into a platform for sharing more of your life, never less. Facebook's newest idea is to make its platform a 21st century form of scrapbooking, and to help you "scrapbook" your entire life "frictionlessly." I must say it will be beautiful, compared to the old Facebook. It looks like a Tumblr blog.

But you might want a little friction as you try to interact with all these changes. Here are some fast and easy tips on how to make the most of the new features and not fall into unexpected traps. 

As CTO Brett Taylor says, "when you change from the current profile view to the Timeline, you forget how much stuff is there." That can work for or against you. We're used to burying much of the past on Facebook and hoping it went away. Now it's all going to be very retrievable, by anyone you friend.

In the next few weeks, you are going to get an entire new interface that will convert your life into a timeline. That timeline will have photos, updates, and a new set of "OpenGraph" apps.  While in the past, you could authorize apps and nothing might happen that you didn't expect, that's no longer going to be true.

Much more "passive sharing" will now be possible. Be careful what apps you authorize, because by default, much of what you do on Facebook with apps, or even outside Facebook with Netflix and Spotify, and Facebook's other integrated partners, will be shared auto-magically. Once you add an app to your timeline, you don't have to give it permission to add stuff to your feed: "Adding an app to your timeline is like wiring a real-time connection between your app and Facebook...There is no step two,” says Taylor.

Third, you will be encouraged by the new interface to make Facebook your permanent home on the Internet, which means the "walled garden" is pulling more partners in, rather than helping you get out to the wider world. So if you are a business, and you have a Facebook presence, you are going to need a much broader Facebook marketing strategy in order to find your new customers solely within the Facebook platform.

The good news is that 800,000,000 people from all over the world are now on Facebook. The bad news is that creates a lot of noise, and doesn't necessarily help you reach the "right" people, especially since Facebook search is notoriously inferior.

The good news is that Facebook's new design is based on better data visualization. The bad news is that all that data is probably better for Facebook's advertisers than for you. Remember that as long as you do not pay for Facebook, you are the product, not the customer. That's why when you complain, Mark Zuckerberg often ignores you.

In case you are wondering how fast this will happen, the beta test of Timeline starts today, and with it, the common news apps that you might want to see. You can sign up for it if you are an early adopter. Just click on the Timeline Facebook page. If you don't want to be rushed into anything, stand back, but watch out—it's all coming soon to a neighborhood near you in the next few weeks.

The takeaways?

  1. Be careful who you friend.
  2. Carefully explore your privacy settings and make sure you understand them.
  3. Think twice about adding apps

[Image: Flickr user iowa spirit walker]

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3 Comments

  • Barrie Robinson

    Hey Francine, great post. On the positive - this move by Facebook will result in more diversity. More people sharing the things, activities, interests that make them unique. Always felt that Facebook dulled down the presentation of one's life. Facebook should be a more vibrant place going forth. Also, I'd often disagreed on the value of Facebook data as it represents only a slice of reality, and often a Facebook version of one's reality. If this works, the data will be much more real, and from a marketing perspective more targetable. On the negative - as you rightly state, this is Facebook pulling more partners in, which is the opposite of what I personally believe the web should become - i.e. more about you and less about them. I firmly believe that data should be something centered on the individual, and in the individual's control, to the individual's benefit. To summarize - to partners "we have the users you desire, become a Facebook feature", to users "hey, you are becoming more active elsewhere, Facebook is better".

  • perky

    Pretty intimidating.  Typos: 3 paragraph, fasty; 5th and 9th paragraphs end with comma; 8th paragraph typo "people"; #3 needs period.