Alright its been nearly 140 days since Facebook went public and all the mayhem surrounding its overpriced valuation is gradually settling down. In these 4 months the company has lost over US$50B in market capitalization but if Zuckerberg’s first post-IPO interview is anything to go by, the company hasn’t lost any steam at all when it comes to rolling out new features.
Over the last quarter or so, Facebook has been quietly rolling out & testing new products and not only could some of these have a significant impact on Facebook’s revenue streams but also determine the direction its driving towards. Here is a quick snapshot of the Top 10 features that Facebook has been shipping out post IPO and something brands may get excited about:
1. Timeline for Mobile
In April 2012, Facebook revamped the profile page completely to what it called the ‘Timeline’ – an interesting, creative way for people or brands to chronicle their lives and achievements. Come July 2012, Facebook offered the Timeline feature on its mobile app and thus now the experience is seamless for fans across the web/mobile browsers and mobile apps. Earlier this month, my colleague Dave had written extensively about the mobile Timeline feature – do read it to get a detailed perspective.
The Timeline has had mixed reviews and a lot of resistance from individuals and brands alike but overall it has had a positive impact on fan and content engagement as far as brands are concerned:
2. Promoted Posts
Facebook reports that on average only about 10-16% of a brand’s fans receive a Page Post in their news feed – now that is quite disappointing given that one has invested a lot of time, money & energy in building a fan base. To address this issue, Facebook released a new feature called ‘Promoted Posts’ where in users could opt to pay anything between US$5-US$300 to promote a particular Page Post to all its fans plus some of their friends, who may not be your current fans.
The Page Post promotion only lasts for 3 days since the content has been posted and following the promotion, Facebook shares insights about the reach, click-through and engagement of the promoted post. What is good is that in case Facebook is unable to exhaust your promotion budget, it does not charge that amount to your account. Thus far my experiments with this feature has been more than satisfactory as not only have I been able to drive up engagement rates but also generate new fans by reaching out to the friends of existing fan base.
3. A New Faster, Lighter and Slicker native mobile app
There has been huge hue and cry about how slow and lousy Facebook’s mobile app has been. In fact in his Techcrunch Disrupt speech, Zuckerberg himself humbly accepted that betting on HTML 5 as opposed to the native iOS platform was a big blunder as far as the mobile app is concerned. All that is a thing of the past now – Facebook recently launched a native iOS version of its app for both the iPhone and iPad and soon there will be a native Android version available as well. The new app is much lighter, faster and some of the icon animations (when you Like something) is much slicker. What is exciting for brand fanpage managers is that Facebook has also launched a ‘Pages’ app that allows one to manage fan page conversations and receive Page alerts on mobile – so you could be having dinner outside and yet be alerted about a potential brand crisis that may have erupted on your page and chose to respond to it immediately from the dinner table!
4. Facebook Mobile Ads
Facebook recently announced that more than half of its 955 million monthly active users access the service on some mobile device and ever since the company went public, investors have been breathing down the company’s neck to monetize this large catchment audience. In June 2012, Facebook began allowing marketers to buy the “Sponsored Stories” ad unit on mobile, which meant that user-trigged social ads could be served in a Fan’s newsfeed.
Come August, Facebook unveiled its first non-social mobile ad unit to promote apps. These ads are not triggered by user engagement and appear in a fan’s news feed and when they click on the ad, they are taken to the app store.
Thus far reports suggest that the mobile ads are doing far better than their desktop counterparts (as is the case with mobile search and display ads). Early studies indicate that mobile click throughs hover around 0.79% in average in comparison to 0.327% CTR for desktop feed ads. Now not only is this an exciting opportunity for brands to successfully reach out to a new, larger audience base, but this could potentially be a cash cow for Facebook eventually. Given the higher CTRs, Facebook was able to generate 2.5x the revenue from mobile ads in comparison to desktop ads. eMarketer Inc. projects that in 2012, Facebook will rake in US$72.7 million from US mobile ads alone – 2% of its annual revenue & 2.8% market share; but this is expected to exponentially spiral up to US$387 million in 2013, increasing market share to about 9% of all US mobile ads.
5. Facebook Ad Exchange
Are you a big fan of the Google Display Network and it’s Re-marketing feature? If yes, then you should be very excited with what Facebook has to offer through its latest product – Ad Exchange (FBX). According to FBX, which was beta-tested with 16 partners, fans can expect to see more ads on Facebook for a company whose sites they have visited. When they visit a site of a brand participating in FBX, a cookie will follow them, marking them for better-targeted ads on Facebook. This could be a gold mine for brands as this provides a brilliant real-time, social opportunity to reach out to better prospects and increase conversion. More so we understand that unlike other ad units, fans can’t opt out of FBX ads – at least not yet! And the initial beta test results look very promising indeed.
6. Ad Targeting based on Phone Numbers & Email
As marketers we all have our own segmented customer databases that we use for our direct mailing campaign – these lists perhaps include details about close customers, customers on the fringe, prospects and other partner entities. But unfortunately its very possible that most of these people that we know and are close to in the real world, maye not be our “fans” on our Facebook FanPage.
Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if Facebook allowed us to target these people with whom we share a real relationship with? Get ready as Facebook has begun rolling out this feature globally and soon all brand fan pages would be able to take advantage of this and make their CRM experience extremely social.
7. Page Post Targeting Enhanced
Effective marketing revolves around segmented communication and finally Facebook has paid heed to this mantra. Starting July 2012, Facebook now allows brands to paint “different strokes for different folks” through enhanced page post targeting.
Fan Page can now custom target each Page Post based on age, gender, interests, education, relationship status, language, location etc. This is an extremely neat feature as each Page Post can now be laser targeted to the right audience and copywriters can craft specific messages for different target audiences.
8. Scheduled, Unpublished & Editable Page Posts
Every brand custodian likes as much control as possible for the brand messaging, copy and image content as well as the timeliness and location of the message delivery. Somewhat related the aforementioned enhanced Page Post Targeting feature, Facebook has given fan page custodians a bit more control:
1. Page Admins can now schedule Page Posts in advance – this is very much like the features provided by 3rd party platforms like Hootsuite. This is pretty handy as the page admins could prepare their content roadmaps in advance and feed them into the queue and let Facebook handle the timely delivery of each Page Post.
2. Facebook now allows admins to make Page Posts that go “unpublished” on the wall or the newsfeed. These can be stored for either future use as targeted Sponsored Stories or targeted enhanced posts.
3. Lastly a feature we all careless folks would love – Facebook now allows us to edit a particular post in retrospect. This feature is available for personal users as well. What a relief!
9. Sponsored Search Results
If Google decided to encroach Facebook’s space on social media; Facebook has decided to punch back in the domain of search. Given the tens of millions of search queries (albeit of a very different kind compared to that in Google) that take place on that tiny search bar on top, Facebook has decided to monetize that space through Sponsored Search Results. These sponsored ads will be triggered based on the search keyword entered and will primarily be used to promote Pages, Places and Apps. Yet another opportunity for brand marketers to increase the relevant visibility in a social context.
10. LogOut Page Ads
Ever wondered if there is a way to stalk and follow your fans once they exit the realm of social media on Facebook? Now Facebook allows display advertising on its log out page as well. But for the moment we suggest you stay out of this as this property is exorbitantly expensive – This digital billboard space is rumoured to require a minimum daily adspend of US$710,000!
A lot of people had started writing off Facebook post its disastrous IPO but the fact remains that if the above innovations are any indication, the social network is not hear to play to the Wall Street gallery – it would rather tread its own path and deliver solutions that would make sense to the consumer and brands alike.
Having said that, we at Happy Marketer believe that from a marketers stand point, a lot is left to be desired especially from a perspective of creative freedom, market segmentation and brand control. We will continue to follow the developments that happen at Menlo Park and do look out for my next blog post that will aim to enumerate a marketer’s wishlist for Facebook!