At the recent f8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg and his team announced some pretty big Facebook changes.

Here’s a brief overview of these;

1. You will see a Timeline of ALL your activity on Facebook.

On your profile page, you will see a Timeline – a stream of information about you including the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates, the applications you’ve used. Even the places you’ve visited on a world map.  Many are calling it a ‘digital scrapbook’ of your life.

It’s currently in beta and will be opt-in to start, but its set to become the new default profile page. Click here to read what Facebook themselves say about it…

2. You don’t have to just ‘Like’ something — you can be “Reading”, “Watching”, “Listening” etc.

Facebook Gestures means that Facebook’s partners and developers can turn any verb into a button.

So, this means you will be able to tell your friends that you are “Reading” a particular book, “Watching” a particular movie, or “Listening” to a certain song.

3. Facebook applications will only need to ask permission once to share information on your behalf.

Previously, applications had to get permission every time they shared information about you. Now, the first time you authorise the application, it will tell you what it’s going to share about you, and if you agree with that, the application never has to ask you again.

4. All “lightweight” information is going to the Ticker.

Basically, the news feed now only displays posts from your friends and “interesting patterns” of their activity that will help you learn something about who they are. “Interesting patterns” are a collection of activities that have some commonality. The news feed is split into two sections: “Top Stories” which lists the posts Facebook thinks you will care most about, and below that “Recent Stories”, a chronological listing of posts from your friends, profiles you subscribe to, and Pages you like.

The Ticker is a real time list of all the interactions your friends have had with other people and content, such as adding friends, commenting on posts or who planted what on Farmville.  It appears at the top right of your page (see example)

ticker2a 500pix

5. You can watch TV and movies, listen to music, and read news with your friends — all within Facebook.

Facebook has partnered with Spotify so you can listen to a song without having to leave the site. The Ticker will tell you what your friends are watching, listening or reading, so you can share the experience with them by clicking on the link.

6. You can unmark a Top Story.

Facebook has added a control in the top right of each story so you can unmark it. Basically, this tells Facebook that you were not interested in that story, and over time, this information will automatically edit the feeds to deliver more relevant stories.

The changes above have radically changed our profile pages, and while Facebook have yet to confirm anything specific about how brands might take advantage of the new design, we can expect to see big changes there too.

Here is a link to a gallery posted on Mashable on what some designers are expecting brand pages to look like…

So, how will these changes affect your marketing?

Creating and sharing relevant, exciting content is as important as ever

The fact that users can unmark articles that appears in their top stories means that it will become even more essential that brands create and post innovative and relevant information.  When a user unmarks a story, Facebook will use that information to automatically edit the feeds, delivering more relevant news over time. So that means that brands with boring or irrelevant messages will have lower visibility.

In order to determine what information should appear in the news feed for each user, Facebook uses the EdgeRank algorithm, so we can assume that this is the case also for Top/Recent Stories…So understanding how it works has become even more critical for brands when creating content and learning how to optimise it to ideally appear in this section.

Here’s an excellent article featured on econsultancy that details how it works…

Facebook Gestures will enable brands to customise their own verbs on Facebook Applications, giving your customers a better way of expressing how they are engaging with you online. So for example, in the travel industry you could have “booked” a flight, “stayed” in a hotel, “entered” or even “won” a competition, “been” on a tour, “visited” a destination or “reviewed” a point of interest.  The possibilities are certainly exciting!

As with most things online, when it comes to engagement, transparency prevails, and those companies doing well are the ones that consistently provide engaging content and compelling storytelling that others want to relate, react and interact with – not just with the company, but with one another.

But wait…there’s another incentive to encourage you to create more compelling content.  Brands posting boring content will have low visibility, and may not be seen at all on individual Timelines as eventually, people will be able to “vote up” and “vote down” the importance of actions on there. Once again, over time Facebook will pick up the pattern and automatically vote up or down content that fits the user’s patterns.

The new goal of Facebook is for people to share and interact with more content, so if your organisation isn’t providing this content, it’s not going to be shared easily.

Users will now also see their friend’s actions on other profiles in their newsfeed, exposing your brand to an even greater audience– so for example, if you were friends with Jane Smith, and she shared a link with John Smith who you were not friends with, it would still appear in your Ticker.

Applications have become an integral part of how users can tell their life story – so think creatively about how your brand can get involved

There is a great opportunity for brands to engage with their fans, creatively.  Mark Zuckerberg himself said companies will be able to “redefine their industry” by creating new ways for fans to tell their life stories by engaging with brands.

Because applications no longer have to request permission each time they want to post in their user’s Timeline, brands will now have more opportunities to engage with their fans (and their friends), embedding brand messages in their stream of posts for all to see.

So for example, you might be able to keep track of your friend’s entire travel planning process as it may be recorded on their Timeline…

“friend read a review on VisitBritain about London”

“friend booked a flight to London”

“friend has been to London Tower Bridge”

“friend reviewed London zyx hotel on TripAdvisor”

Timelines will let brands tell a more engaging and authentic story

Although not officially announced, it is expected that the Timelines for pages will bring more branding opportunities and more pictures compared to the current Facebook page which only allows the profile picture and five thumbnails to be customised.

An article on Mashable suggested that the Timeline may unlock new possibilities for branding, raising awareness and creativity.  They explained that the “Cover,” an 849 by 312 pixel image spanning the top the page, may be changed at any time, so it will become major real estate for a brand — perfect for a product shot or promotion push. In addition, brands could highlight important photos on the Timeline by clicking a star on the post that expands the photo to widescreen.

To read more about the branding possibilities, click here

It will only be a matter of time before we see the major impacts these recent changes will have on the way brands engage with their audience on Facebook.  In the meantime however, the most important thing your company can do is to determine how your brand adds value to your Facebook fans life. Then come up with creative ways to instil that value as part of each fans Timeline.

Contact us today to find out more how we can help you spread your brand message on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and many others…