The recent changes announced by Facebook have the Social Media world up in arms. The wide variety of responses, good, bad, and indifferent, that have been published in the past few weeks have left Facebook users frustrated and marketers overwhelmed.  Even the so-called “Social Media Experts” are voicing opposing opinions about the new developments within the same channels. On one hand you’ve got the early adopters who are singing the praises of the new advertising model, while on the other the naysayers criticize the new user interface for being too complicated, and others still remain on the fence about how the changes will affect the medium in the long run. This inspired those of us at MutualMind to develop this 4-part blog series about the changes to Facebook. Our first post provided an overview of the changes for users and marketers. In this post we’ll discuss what the changes mean to marketers and the subsequent posts will offer insights into user reactions and some of the potential long-term effects that will result from these developments.

New Insights Dashboard
The New Insights Dashboard still includes expected metrics such as the total number of fans, likes and shares, as well as how people ended up on the fan page, whether through an ad, a friend’s post, or otherwise, so why all the hype?

There are two BIG additions to Facebook insights that add new dimensions to marketing. The first is the “Weekly Total Reach.” This metric shows the engagement of your page’s audience, including the number of users who have posted about, mentioned or referenced your page. This is a great snapshot of how much viral activity your posts and pages are receiving. This level of tracking was previously not accessible without a third party monitoring system. The insights to be gained here are the types of posts that appeal to your audience and can reach beyond your existing fan base, whether in the form of videos, photos, polls, contests, promotional offers or new product information.

The second big change to the Dashboard is the addition of the Facebook-specific, “Friends of Fans.” This metric represents the number of friends the fans of your page have. With this metric Facebook is telling you the potential audience that your posts could reach, given of course, that the fans of your page see enough value in your posts that they will react to the content. The addition of this new analytic should not be taken lightly. In the company press release announcing the addition, Facebook cited recent comScore research which found that fans and friends-of-fans of a Page are more likely to “visit a store, website, and even purchase a product or service.”  Like traditional word-of-mouth, the social media conversations among friends are often the most effective ways in which a brand can spread its message.

Another way Facebook is helping brands spread their word of mouth is the addition of a third, platform-specific analytic, “Talking About this Page.” This new metric is displayed below the number of Likes on a brand Page and represents all engagement with a brand’s Page including Likes; Posts to the Page’s Wall; Content Shares; Comments on a Post; RSVPs to an event; Photo-tags on the Page; Check-ins; and Check-in Deal Likes and Shares. This single metric can show the engagement of users with your page as well as your competitors’. While this has been offered through services like MutualMind, this is the first time the entire market will have access to this information.

In the wake of Google+ entering the market, the addition of this metric provides Facebook with a means to stay competitive. Like Google’s algorithm, which places an emphasis on user-generated content, this new metric incorporates user-actions, elevating a Facebook page’s rating if its content incites user engagement. This should promote a drastic change in marketers’ social behavior. Facebook users are more likely to engage with content that is relevant and provides value to them. By rating brand Pages with user interaction higher than those without, Facebook provides and incentive to marketers to create pages with more quality content, which is likely to merit comments, shares and Likes from fans. This is a win not only for social media marketers who have developed valuable content, but also for Facebook users as brand pages will now need to offer content that is more relevant and of higher value to their followers.

When considered as a total change or upgrade, these new metrics will help to make brand pages more relevant to users. It should compel marketers who have been continuing to use social media as another channel through which to push market to optimize their content, to stimulate engagement. This means making brand pages more about initiating conversations and dialogues between fans and brands. The resulting higher quality content and increased levels of two-way communication should create a better user experience for fans along the way.

Advertising Developments

One of the most talked-about changes to the Facebook is the updated advertising platform. Changes in this area send red flags flying for personal users and marketers alike. Any Facebook user who has had profiles on MySpace or Friendster will immediately shudder at the ways in which the monetization of a social network like Facebook can quickly turn the user experience from an enjoyable pastime into a spam battle from Hell. Marketers too become leery thinking of the huge amounts of money invested in MySpace only to see the users flee from the onset of irrelevant marketing messages like that of an impending tsunami.

It is with these not-too-distant memories in mind that we tiptoe toward the innovation that promises to monetize the network representing the 3rd largest country in the world. How will these changes affect our beloved Facebook? Let’s break it down.

By now everyone is familiar with the Open Graph integration that Facebook launched earlier this year, which allows for the integration of websites and pages outside of the Facebook network to be included in users’ activities, i.e., posting to Facebook when you make an online ticket purchase on a third party site. Through a new class of open graph applications Facebook users are now able to share what they listen to, watch and read with friends. These shares will appear in users’ news feeds and Ticker stories with their respective “listened,” “watched,” and “read,” buttons. This innovation is two-fold: first it allows for users to share more in-depth information about their activities with their friends and followers. Second it will allow advertisers on Facebook’s Ads API or those who work with the Facebook direct sales team to have the option to target users based on what they have shared through these apps. For example, a concert venue may want to target users who listen to a song by a particular band because they want to sell tickets the band’s upcoming concert. Essentially, these new feedback buttons, provide marketers with a more accurate way to target their brand messages to Facebook users based on the shared behaviors and activities.

This will expand further with a new premium ad unit that allows brands to turn the aforementioned media sharing and usage into Sponsored Stories that turn what would have been news feed or Ticker stories into sidebar ads. If the ad is put in front of a user who has a friend who is a fan of the brand, the ad will include that information in the ad. This is a way to harness the power of word of mouth by combining a brand’s marketing message with a friend’s voice.

With this new targeting, Facebook is also providing the ability to see how much activity the paid channel is driving for posts. Advertisers will now see reports on reach (total unique impressions) broken down into Organic, the number you receive from users seeing your post; Viral, the number of impressions received from the stories generated by people interacting with your post; and Paid, the number you get from Sponsored Story ads.

The final big change to the Facebook advertising program is the availability of Marketing APIs to marketers to build apps for their own use and to third party vendors or agencies who are building tools to use for clients or for licensing to other marketers. The availability of this information is granted through an application process and is made available for the following 3 categories:

  1. Ads management applications- used to help launch and optimize Facebook advertising, including:
    • Ad content permutation
    • Customized targeting
    • Customized reporting
    • Advanced conversion tracking and rule-based optimization
  2. Cross platform integration- to generate, measure and amplify word of mouth.
  3. Vertical or niche APIs- to reach specific audiences or perform customized functions that Facebook does not currently offer.11

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