Facebook's Changes Give Brands More Freedom

But Can Marketers Respect Social-Network Etiquette?

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Ian Schafer Ian Schafer
Today, Facebook announced the redesign of their Facebook Pages, as well as several other product updates. These ones you should know about are:

  • Existing Facebook "Pages" will start to look/act/feel more like typical Facebook "Profiles."

  • Brands pages will move from segregated areas of Facebook to within users' social graphs.

  • Information subscriptions will allow people to opt deeper into others' data streams.

  • A new "publisher" feature allows for selected broadcasting of information to those subscribers' Facebook home pages.

  • A new Facebook home page (take a tour here), with a general (real-time) news feed but also filters to allow you to sort through information, friend lists, and apps will launch by March 11. You will also be able to share any type of content on the home page with your friends.

So what does all this mean?

For one, it means that Facebook is giving more power to sharers of information. So rather than putting the onus on people to filter out what they don't care for, it empowers the creators of information (the sharers) to share what they think is most interesting -- in effect, turning them into "publishers."

It also means that brands, formerly restricted to the limited-use realm of "Pages," now get to flex their muscle a bit with more freedom. In Facebook's words, they are "moving towards making people and pages the same type of thing."

As a marketer, you should be prepared for more control over the content of your brand profile and the communication you will be able to have with your "friends." You will be in someone's social graph, just as a human being will. But, as Stan Lee so eloquently said, "With great power comes great responsibility." You will have the power to (and responsibility of) publishing directly to people's homepages.

At first blush, what's interesting about these changes is that they make Facebook more like MySpace and Twitter. More like MySpace in the sense of brand profiles sharing existence in a person's social graph, and more like Twitter in the form of subscriptions to and publishing of select content. And both of those things carry "for better or worse" caveats. Facebook will need to come down hard on abusers, and support the brands that are "doing it right." And users will need be trusted to use their filters wisely.

All of these changes by Facebook are designed to put more information into the "stream." The stream (a.k.a. the newsfeed, status updates, etc.) is what makes Facebook as engaging as it is. So much information will now be put into the stream that it will require filtering. Facebook is betting that you'll do just that.

But can brands be trusted to respect social (network) etiquette? And can a few brands that abuse their power ruin it for the rest of us?

Stay tuned, true believers. As previous Facebook launches have proven, they have a knack for launching first, and fixing second. This thing will have to play itself out in the wild before we know for sure.

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Ian Schafer is CEO of Deep Focus.

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