As originally published in Synergyzer Issue 6 – 2012

By Ali Alvi & Saira

 As the social media website ages and finds more and more competition around itself, it’s necessary for Facebook to keep presenting its users with new options. The company keeps changing and updating its data usage policy in an attempt to provide users more clarity on how it’s using the information that they share.

These changes are announced through the Facebook blogs. Also, in a bid to keep users and stakeholders informed about any updates in their policy, the social media forum developers have created a section that explains using technology such as cookies to deliver ads, securing the site and offering various features.

One of the very first changes Facebook made to its format included the ‘New Friend Button with Smart Lists’ and ‘Top Stories and Most Recent now in one News Feed’. All of these changes are further incorporated in the new format overall format that Facebook has introduced to its website, called the Timeline format. Even though Timeline aids in increasing ad revenue for Facebook by focusing on user interests and ranking them through graphs, many brands complained of a sharp decrease in fan engagement when the celebrated format was launched. Yet, those marketers with a futuristic vision quickly discovered that the actual problem were the strategies being employed by brands to market on Facebook and soon discovered that using the right techniques will easily give their brands more exposure.

While marketers had mixed reactions to the new feature, users felt the same: Some found it very exciting; taking it as a mode of expression and immediately putting cover photos that defined them, while some were left feeling confused.

These changes give a glimpse of what Facebook plans and does for marketers. It is continuously working to provide better insights on user demographics and psychographics.

Also, it has launched multiple ad formats, the latest being the ‘Promote your post’. This format has a very organic touch; it helps in increasing engagement as well as building audience at a very low cost. Page post ads allows increased reach for content; ensuring that it’s seen by more people. The content shows up on a fan’s newsfeed as a “sponsored post”, and is an excellent feature that helps in getting more interactions and impressions.

Certain changes in Facebook have led to many controversies, too. It’s a hot topic on message boards, where the Timeline is said to be playing a major role in invading user privacy, since it makes visible older information, bringing posts made years back to the forefront. It also highlights more personal entries such as the place of birth and even maps out the user’s favorite hangout spots. This has sparked numerous issues, particularly concerns that this will make it easier for identity thieves and stalkers to profile individuals..

Yet, the Timeline is now a mandatory part of the Facebook experience, for brands and users alike, and apart from these cons, there are pros to the format as well. It provides brands with new options for self-expression: They can now outline their corporate history such as product launches, store openings etc., which simultaneously helps marketers in constructing a narrative for their audience. Also, it gives marketers countless opportunities to educate the public, customize brands and remove the perception of corporate anonymity. While brands work on developing the Timeline loop by adding new milestones as they happen, conversations can be stimulated around major achievements.

Finally, brands will be able to initiate deeper consumer interactions. They will be able to send and receive private messages and take extended customer inquiries off the Timeline and to a private message thread. Brands that constantly create engaging updates and share important milestones will stay at the forefront of users’ attention. Another way to promote brands is to share videos, other than still images. Imagine every time a user likes a brand, the action will share a video, depending on what the brand custodians decide for it project, ranging from showing its benefits to the glamour it holds. This does not mean sharing pictures is not helpful, visual marketing is undoubtedly an all time winner and is still one of the best ways of interaction.

Every change brings along with it certain highs and lows, but it is wise to accept those that are here to stay and start learning how they can help grow your business. As time passes, the changes in Facebook are showing a lot of diversity that may benefit every brand and business, and the results are fast becoming clearer than ever.