Survival Guide for Facebook Changes – Part 1: Overview

By Babar Bhatti and Nizam Sayeed on October 11, 2011

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you probably know that Facebook is undergoing extensive changes ranging from the layout, to the addition of timeline, to next version of Open Graph protocol, to the new Insight metrics, to API changes and Ad integration, to social app discovery on mobile and more . It’s enough to make a regular Facebook user frustrated, but it’s even more challenging for marketers and social media managers who are trying to figure out how all these changes will affect their business.  This inspired us at MutualMind to develop this 4-part blog series to demystify the changes to Facebook. We’ll review the overall changes, discuss what the changes mean to marketers large and small, offer insights into user reactions, and relay some of the potential long-term effects that will result from these developments.

Opinions About Facebook Changes Vary

You may want to check out the Facebook Developers blog for general details on how the new features will work, when they will be implemented, etc. This will give you a straightforward explanation of how all the features work, but it doesn’t tell you much about how it will affect the way you will engage with Facebook in the future.

As a marketer, you can also start at the Marketing API page, for details on how to use the new open API system and the new metrics, but unless you are on the analytics or app development side of the spectrum, this explanation may be a little too technical for you. That brings you back to reading the reviews, blog posts and recommendations from industry experts. This can be daunting as even the trusted “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.

Let’s start with an overview of the changes.

Just the Facts

Here’s an overall look at some of Facebook’s most recent changes, categorized by user type.

User Profiles

  1. Improved Friends Lists – Optional categorization of friends. Can be used to give access to posts, photos and all other content
  2. Subscribe Button – Allows users to choose what they see from friends in their News Feed, hear from users including those who are not friends, and let other users hear from them, even if they are not friends
  3. Timeline – This feature allows a users old(er) activity to readily accessed by visitors to the user’s profile. Facebook will autofill this section with major life changes (relationship status changes, new employers, etc.) and photos, but users can fill in the gaps.
  4. Graph Rank – Users’ News Feed, Ticker, and Timeline will be based the users’ engagement activity, showing only the updates that are scored as being most relevant to each user’s Facebook activity.
  5. Open Graph – 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.

Analytics

  1. New Insights Dashboard – appears as a tab on a company’s Page and is only available to Page administrators.10 The dashboard lists the total number of fans, likes and now the “Friends of Fans” metric, which shows many people can be reached through a page’s post via existing fans. It also shows how people ended up on the fan page, whether through an ad, a friend’s post, or otherwise.
  2. People Talking About this Page”- New Facebook specific analytic, displayed on all brand pages just below the number of Likes the page has. Metric includes: Liking the Page; posting to the Page’s Wall; liking, sharing, or commenting on a post; RSVP’ing to an event; photo-tagging the Page; checking in at the brand’s Place; and Liking or sharing a check-in deal.

Integrated Advertising Platform

  1. Marketing APIs – Now available to marketers building 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.
  2. Page and Insights API are available without permission, but access to ads API has to be gained through application. Marketers must be able to demonstrate the ability to build significant value for users and marketers.
  3. Use of the Integrated Ad Platform is limited to three categories:
    • Ads management applications – used to help launch and optimize Facebook advertising, including Ad content permutation, Customized targeting, Customized reporting and Advanced conversion tracking and rule-based optimization
    • Cross platform integration- to generate, measure and amplify word of mouth.
    • Vertical or niche APIs- to reach specific audiences or perform customized functions that Facebook does not currently offer.

Sources Cited:

  1. http://www.readwriteweb.com/hack/2011/10/facebooks-insight-data-mean-pa.php
  2. http://www.facebook.com/marketingapi
  3. http://mashable.com/2011/10/03/facebook-ad-strategy/
  4. http://mashable.com/2011/09/30/facebook-too-complicated/
  5. http://www.insidefacebook.com/2011/09/30/news-feed-fewer-impressions/
  6. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=10150278932602131
  7. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=10150280039742131
  8. https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=10150289612087131
  9. http://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/564/
  10. http://www.facebook.com/marketingapi/get_access/