Facebook Relaunches Its Ad Platform, Says Brand Pages Are at the Center

Live From New York, What You Need to Know About Changes At Facebook

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Facebook re-launched its advertising platform today at an event at New York City's Natural History Museum and made it crystal clear that your Facebook Page will be the centerpiece of your paid, owned and earned strategies going forward.

The highlights of the announcements from the company's first-ever Facebook Marketing Conference include:

  • Via Facebook's new "Reach Generator" product, brands now have the option to pay Facebook for guaranteed News Feed distribution to up to 75% of all their fans.
  • Several new exciting new ad units were launched, where the content you post on your Page is the ad unit. There is more creating separate ad copy on Facebook.
  • All brand Facebook Pages will get Timeline, just like personal pages.

These announcements show that Facebook is willing to listen to marketers and introduce new offerings that increase the value and effectiveness of both paid advertising, earned engagement and owned Pages, which have come together in a radical new way.

In this post, I review exactly what Facebook announced, and what marketers need to know.

Reach Generator: Significantly More Reach
One of the biggest complaints I get from brand marketers about Facebook Pages is the lack of distribution of Posts to fans. Today, content posted to Facebook Pages reach only 16% of fans.

Facebook launched a new product, Reach Generator, that lets you pay money to guarantee that your Posts get to at least 75% of your fans each month. This will double average reach. Engagement will more than double as more fans will engage, exposing the posts to their friends, many of whom will also engage.

This isn't a new concept. You currently pay to send emails. Part of email service providers' service is to guarantee that you are getting through. Facebook today just did the same for you. While you're paying for distribution, you're getting significantly more engagement. This engagement is "Facebook gold," as I like to say. Your EdgeRank score will be juiced. And you will have many more "stories" to buy against using socially enabled ads.

Your Content and Your Ads Are Now the Same
The lines between what marketers now refer to as paid, owned and earned media are now officially gone. Goodbye. Gone. All ads in Facebook will begin as content posted to a Page. There is no more creating separate Facebook ad copy. The content you publish to Facebook and the data associated with it is the front end of the ad system. You publish content, and whatever gets the most engagement, you are able to end up paying to distribute that further. People can 'like' and engage with that content anywhere, whether on the Page Post or in the ads. As Facebook said, "ads are more effective when they start from Page Posts.

There are two general categories of ads on Facebook. The first are premium ads. These are bought directly from Facebook today. Facebook did not make any announcements about how they are bought and trafficked in the future but I expect to see changes to the current process in the future.

The second group of ads are Marketplace. These are the ads that appear on the right-hand side of your Facebook experience. These are bought directly through Facebook's self-serve portal or, for many brands, through third-party ads API technologies.

Facebook announced that brands can now turn any posts into premium ads. The premium ads, instead of just appearing on the homepage, as they did in the past, actually appear in four places – news feed, right-hand side, mobile newsfeed and on the logout page.

This means two things for you: (1) you need to create awesome content for your Page; and (2) people will tell you what your ad creative is , and you then need to monitor the data in real-time and make the right decisions about what to buy and when. Both of these are difficult but necessary, and there will be a shifting of resources within large marketing agencies.

We're moving away from a world in which you create one version of an ad. In Facebook's new world, people will tell you what they like by voting with their clicks, shares, 'Likes' and Comments. You need to be prepared to buy distribution for the content that becomes most engaging to the right audience. You can no longer look at paid media as lifting weights alone. Paid ads need to join the group spinning session of content marketing and community management.

Brand Timelines
All brands now have Timelines just like people's Facebook Pages. In 30 days, you will need to have brand Timeline ready. Timeline will have a slick new cover photo. Underneath the cover photo will be four large logos for your Tabs and other applications. These are all re-orderable except for photos, which will always remain in the left spot. So instead of being pushed off to the side of the Page like they are today, your Tabs will be front and center under your cover photo. An info section will appear to the left of the Tab tiles.

The cover photo is a large image – 825 x 315 pixels for those designers reading this! Your profile picture (180 x 180 pixels) will now be your logo. Facebook released a set of guidelines for the cover photos. Make sure to check them out before you create yours. The biggies? No price or purchase information. No contact information (this all belongs in the info section). No references to Facebook features or arrows. No calls to action. No false, misleading or stolen IP materials. Basically, Facebook wants this to be a photo and not an ad.

The functionality of the brand Timelines is similar to the consumer ones. You can star, hide and milestone stories. So you have the opportunity to put your entire company history in photos, videos and text on your Timeline.

On the top of the Timeline will be a new pinned post capability. Brands can keep one Post "pinned" on the left-hand side of their Timeline for up to seven days. These Posts will stay at the top of the Page for the duration of the time it is pinned. This is another great way to guarantee that your fans can see your most important and engaging content.

Facebook launched a new customer service inbox. This is a place where users can contact the brand directly. The goal here is to get more of the customer service information off the Wall and into a more private and discreet area where one-to-one communication is possible.

The new admin panel is where brands not using a social media management system can go to answer customer messages, get notifications and access insights.

While tabs get increased visibility atop the Timeline, Facebook is eliminating the ability make your tabs the default landing Page when non-fans visit your page for the first time. As of today, you can still "likegate," which is an attempt to force users to become a fan. I imagine that going forward, this will be less of a strategy. This is part of Facebook's effort to streamline the user experience while still providing brands the ability to program content and host any content on your Facebook Page.

However, each tab will still have unique URLs so you can promote the tabs in Posts and ads. And your pinned Post, outlined above, can link to your Tabs. The new width of the Tabs will be 810 pixels wide, an increase from 520 pixels today.

An Entirely New Ecosystem
Facebook has taken the best of magazine ads (large-format imagery), the best of television spots (video content), the best of email marketing (guaranteed delivery), the best of newspaper ads (locally tailored and delivered content) and the best of social (the world's social graph) to create a new and vibrant and amazingly flexible advertising offering.

This new platform offers brand advertisers the best of digital and traditional advertising inside one global platform with close to 1 billion consumers, half of which log in every day. Brands get a homepage with a beautiful canvas that tells the story of the company. Consumers can check out the latest content and campaigns at the top. And if they want to dig into the rich history of your company, they can, easily, with a click or two.

This visibility will lead to at least double the engagement, as Facebook showed with their beta testers today. So Posts to fans with a link to tabs will result in at least double the traffic to the tabs. Facebook has guaranteed the "open rates," so to speak, which guarantees engagement.

Ad dollars will go further. The ad units are now an extension of a brand's best content and most engaging content. So brands have the ability to reach 200X the number of fans they have through socially-aware ads.

Together, brand's have a place where they can publish content for free and via paid channels that tell the story of their business, which includes the real-time content they want to get out there. In short, Facebook got rid of very little, and gave brands an entirely new arsenal of weapons.

Michael Lazerow is CEO of Buddy Media, whose social enterprise software is used by global brands and agencies. He founded Golf.com and sold it to Time Inc., and U-Wire, which was sold to CBS. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/lazerow
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