Just when you thought you had Facebook all figured out, they change the game again. Last Thursday at the f8 conference in San Francisco, Mark Zuckerberg presented the biggest changes ever seen on Facebook.
One of the things that attracted users to Facebook in the first place was the simplicity and ease of communication with friends. Did all this change when Facebook announced their latest changes?
According to a survey being run on Mashable, 78% of its users hate the new changes. Users have turned to criticising Facebook arguing that it’s slowly turning into another MySpace. Even the most devoted fans have expressed their dislike by using the hashtag #newfacebook on Twitter.
But this is not the first time we have heard users complain about changes to Facebook. So what makes it different this time? These are not small tweaks that Mark Zuckerberg announced – Facebook is now changing wholesale. Facebook is no longer Facebook of the noughties. Previously its ambition was to connect people to each other and it’s now evolved into a place where people can connect with everything. And just as Facebook has lost its uniqueness, there is a new kid on the block. If the rumours online are to be trusted, Google+ has grown 30% in the past week.
Short term, these changes will no doubt increase interaction. But they’ve opened Facebook up to a potential long-term risk by removing the one human need Facebook first answered: to connect you to your friends simply and without interruptions.
Now let’s get into the specifics – how these changes will affect users and businesses on a daily basis
1. Timeline — Your profile becomes a scrapbook of your life
Facebook profiles get a facelift with Timeline, which is probably the biggest change for consumers as it’s the most visible. It contains three main components; all your stories, all your apps and a new way to express who you are. It is a single scrolling page that contains your Facebook existence in a chronicle order. Users will also be able to highlight significant items for their Timeline rather than including everything.
hypernaked thinks: Timeline will definitely improve the Facebook user experience through richer design and creating a better way for people to personalise their life story. For brands, this means that they have an opportunity to showcase content and make it stand out. The further back in Timeline you go, the more Facebook will compress the information so that you’re only seeing the most interesting parts of your history. This will enable brands to express themselves more visually by highlighting their greatest moments and telling their ‘life story’.
2. Killing the LIKE – Now you can call it whatever you want
The Like button is going to be turned into Facebook Gestures, which means brands can turn any verb into a button.
hypernaked thinks: The new button is going to be more personal for each brand and opens up huge customisation opportunities. For the first time brands will be able to measure different categories on Facebook. There is also an opportunity for some brands to start to ‘own’ verbs by getting users to take actions on them.
There is a downside: content that people ‘Like’ on a brand page will no longer appear in their newsfeed, meaning less viral potential for brand pages.
3. One acceptance is enough for apps
Facebook is placing a greater emphasis on applications by adding features and partnering with brands to make apps a more important part of the FB experience. When a user adds a brand app to their Timeline, it opens up opportunities for interaction and an ongoing relationship between the brand and the user. Previously, apps had to ask every time they shared information about you in your profile, both annoying and clogging your news feed with information. Now, the first time you authorise the app it will tell you what it’s going to share about you, and that’s it.
hypernaked thinks: Not a development with the greatest impact on brands, but it improves the user experience. This is also raising big privacy issues with users who haven’t been paying attention. The most important learning for brands will be to provide useful content and experiences for users to incentivise them to add a brand application to their Timeline.
4. Ticker = real time news
You may have noticed Ticker already, a scrolling feed of status updates and notifications that enables users to interact in real time. The old profile ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Most Recent’ are gone, replaced by ‘Recent Stories’ and a real time news Ticker that displays all of your friends content on the right hand side of your profile. It’s kind of a Facebook within Facebook, placing the ‘boring’ posts, like tagging and ‘Likes’ all in one feed.
hypernaked thinks: This is really the most important take-away for brands as it will impact how they reach users. The big question is what kind of interaction will fall into the Ticker, and will brands that don’t frequently engage fans lose visibility? We do know Ticker does allow users to interact with brands much faster, meaning brands will be competing more than before for precious spots in the Ticker feed. Content and engagement will be the biggest drivers in getting the top spots.
5. ‘Lifestyle app’ turns Facebook into an entertainment hub
Facebook is about to go Hollywood and partner up with brands such as Spotify, Hulu, Netflix and more, taking a new step into the entertainment space with its new ‘lifestyle apps’. Now users can watch a show on Hulu, listen to a song on Spotify, or check out a story on Yahoo News. The ticker will tell you what your friends are watching, listening to, or reading allowing users to share things as they do them.
hypernaked thinks: This new feature will see users spending more time on Facebook and sharing content like never before. For brands this means that influencing social recommendations will become even more important.
6. No need to ‘Like’ to interact on brand Fan pages.
In the past, a Facebook user would have to Like the fan page to be able to post on the wall. Now, anyone can post on the wall, whether they have Liked the page or not.
hypernaked thinks: This can lead to high levels of engagement with brands since the hurdle for interacting on a brand’s fan page will now be lower. This will have an effect on how we measure weekly impacts on Facebook, and how we measure engagement.
Additional changes that are happening
- Facebook has launched a ‘Subscribe’ button that lets you follow the public updates of others, regardless of whether you’re Facebook friends.
- Posts can now be as long as 5,000 characters – ten times the previous maximum length.
- You can create bookmarks and label favourites in the left-hand column.
- Birthday reminders appear in the upper-right side, near where you see ‘Poke’ notifications.
- Friend lists that existed before the new smart list prompts have an entirely new management interface.
- The ‘Poke’ button has become a link tucked into a pull-down to the right of the ‘Add Friend’ button.
- A thumbnail image of the user and his or her name, appears in the right-hand corner of the top blue navigation bar. When one surfs the site using a page alias, the name and main image appears in the same place.
We don’t think all these changes will redefine how we use social networking. Most people use Facebook as either a simple communication tool, whether through comments, FB messages or FB chat. They like to look at other people’s photos or if they have a bit of time to spare, scroll down through the most recent status updates. Facebook is basing its latest direction on the assumption that users will become content creators. We think it’s going to take a long time to get your Timeline looking good and we fear it might lead to a graveyard of features and apps and half completed Timelines.
Sad you missed all the fun? Don’t be! You can watch Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement.