Facebook f8 Redux: How Facebook's Upgrades Will Impact Small Businesses

by Stephanie Taylor Christensen on September 23, 2011
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Facebook’s f8 developer conference has come and gone, revealing major evolutions of Facebook and what will soon be the”new norms” in social media. The event was kicked off by SNL’s Andy Samberg, who posed as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, revealing two new Facebook features:  a section for “friends who really aren’t your friends” and the “slow poke” — which allows ill-considered “pokes” to be retracted within 24 hours. (While both features were jokes, at least half of Facebook’s user audience was probably wishing they were real).

Soon after, Zuckerberg revealed major changes for the next era of Facebook, which he noted will focus on “apps and depth of engagement.” Here’s what small businesses owners should know about the Facebook’s newest capabilities.

The Ticker. If you’ve logged onto Facebook recently, you may have noticed a vertical information feed running along the right side of the screen. Zuckerberg explained that this new feature (aptly called the “ticker”) was developed to give users “a socially acceptable way to express lightweight activity.”  Information that is more newsworthy, than, say, eating a sandwich, will be communicated via the newsfeed, the central column of information that is based on patterns of users doing similar things, is from users you indicate you want to read through the “subscribe” button, and other noteworthy information.  For small business, the implication is clear: Facebook updates must be founded on well-thought-out, useful information, or they face being “downgraded” to the ticker — and easily ignored. The new Facebook functionality also allows users to uncheck “top stories” they don’t consider interesting, so newsfeeds become more relevant over time.

Gestures. Perhaps the greatest revelation of f8 in regards to small business is that the “Like” button will soon be old news. The new Facebook functionality will move toward what the company calls “gestures,”  or buttons that are based on noun and verb based actions, versus the endorsement-implicit “like” button. For example, gesture buttons will allow users to indicate that they “read a book” — but don’t require they state a preference for or against it. For small business marketers, the impact of the button change remains to be seen, but it could indicate the need to work harder to earn customer referrals and social media-based word of mouth instead of begging for easy “Like” clicks.

Timelines: Facebook profiles are evolving from lists of rudimentary information to a full-blown collection of your life, complete with featured images, maps of where you’ve been, friends, apps you use, places you visit, and key life events. Zuckerberg likened the new timeline to the kind of personal information that you would share with someone over many hours of deeply engaging conversation.

Apps: People use apps to express themselves and their interests, and f8 revealed an overhaul in the way they are delivered, shared, and accessed. Now included in the Timeline, apps preview “the story” that will be shown to users. If the user approves, they simply click to download — no more pop up and privacy prompts. Zuckerberg also introduced the idea of “real time serendipity,” which allows users to see what media apps friends are using in real-time. Friends can now access the exact same song or video and enjoy right along with their friend, thanks to partnerships with Spotify, Hulu, and Netflix. Yahoo! News, Mashable, USA Today, NewsCorp, and other media outlets now also offer apps that show Facebook users popular articles friends are reading, and allow friends to access the same information.

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