Is the Facebook Brand Page now dead?


One thing was notably absent from last week’s F8 conference, any discussion of Facebook Pages and how these might change. To date these have looked very similar to individual’s profiles but with the launch of the new Timeline, these now have diverged dramatically. There’s no nice way of saying this - Facebook Pages now look old and behind the times compared with the new Timeline. As a social media agency working with brands, we’re actually disappointed. There is so much scope for creativity with Timelines we’d love Pages to be structured in the same way. And they’re not.

This now stands out as a real weakness within Facebook - Brand Pages should be a place that brands (if relevant to them) can express themselves in a creative way just as Profiles are for members.

A second important change in the role of the Brand Page is Open Graph and what this means for the next generation of Facebook apps. Apps, and especially how they work with the new Timeline, mean that there is significant value for Brands to develop ways to connect people through actions that they do. It is less about developing the definitive destination page for your brand or for a topic, now it is more about facilitating activities, conversations and events through an app. For Brands using Facebook creatively, they may now find that apps are more useful than Pages.

So the Brand Page is dead, right?

Well possibly. But probably not. I find it unlikely that Facebook will leave Pages exactly as they are. The creative power of the Timeline is too much for brands to be denied the chance to use it. Apps are useful, but brands that have spent time, effort and (often) money building their audiences on Facebook will want to continue to work with these people. It is true that the new generation of Facebook apps offer real change and new ways for people to interact with each other and for brands to use Facebook to engage their audience. But I predict new Pages for Brands within the next few months, new ways to engage your audience around content and discussions as well as around apps and activity.

Watch this space.

The Swarovski SCVNGR hunt - our impressions


Swarovski SCVNGR hunt LondonThis weekend, FreshNetworks checked out the Swarovski Discover Your Light event, to experience a luxury brand social media campaign using SCVNGR. SCVNGR is a check-in app that sets users tasks or “challenges” to complete at certain locations.

First impressions

On arrival at the London Horticultural Society we were impressed to see hundreds of people queued up amongst dozens of support staff and film crew.

The event space looked fantastic with a light haze of smoke and bright beam lights cutting across the vast hall. Curtains of crystals hung either side of the stage and dazzled participants with shards of light.

Contestants were seriously impressed with the decor, lighting and staging - a great way to build excitement at the start of the event.

Above the line spending to draw the crowd?

500 teams of two participated in the hunt, so we were impressed by the 1000-strong crowd. It seemed like a big pull for a social media only event, so we dug around to find out where people had heard about it.

Answers included The Metro, Grazia, Stylist, London Underground billboards and Facebook as well as word of mouth. One pair heard from a friend in another country via Twitter! Sadly then, a significant ATL and PR spend rather than social media gets credit for pulling the punters.

The in-game experience was enjoyable. Over two hours we had 42 challenges to achieve by racing between different tasks on the Discover Your Light “Trek”. FreshNetworks achieved a worthy, but not winning 69 points, enjoying the walk (and an ice-cream).

Contestant feedback was great: “It was a wonderful way to explore central London. Karen and I spotted interesting landmarks we didn’t know existed before” and “it helped me learn a lot about central London & get my bearings around the city”, said two teams we asked.

Lessons to brands considering SCVNGR

So what did Swarovski get out of this? They’ve positioned themselves as innovators in digital, and they had a positive effect on the audience: “I almost went out to buy myself a Nirvana ring as I was so gutted not to win one” one participant told us.

There were three areas we felt could have been improved:

  1. Swarovski made the good decision to give away low value freebies at their store checkpoints. However, one or two poorly briefed store staff kept freebies from participants who accidentally skipped over the task completion screen they were meant to show. An easy mistake for the participant, but it created a sense of poor customer service for a handful of people. Upset contestants being held up in the store demonstrated the need for staff to better understand the technology being deployed.
  2. The second mistake was purely organisational. An hour and a half wait that resulted from the demand on the invitation for a 12:30 prompt kick off meaning everyone arrived at once. The long wait killed some of the excitement about getting started. This could have been better managed by the SCVNGR team with an open ended start (12:30-13:30) and a hard deadline for kick-off.
  3. Finally, the SCVNGR app itself misses out on an opportunity for social sharing by embedding the share via Twitter & Facebook tools at the task completion stage. Most participants were too busy with the race to bother. It would make more sense for the app to invite you to connect social platforms with your account at sign in, allowing users to opt in to always share achievements. This would garner significantly more online buzz during big events like Swarovski’s Discover Your Light.

Facebook changes: the next generation of apps


F8 Facebook Lifestyle AppsI thought Facebook had lost its firepower. I was really starting to feel that it was losing momentum and that Google+ had a chance of stealing serious numbers of users away. Yesterday, Facebook proved me wrong.

Much of the media appears to have focused on the media sharing and timeline changes. These are cool but the open graph changes and the new social object presentation surfaces that the timeline enables have even more potential to fundamentally shift the social media landscape.

The new apps and APIs enable us to define any of the socially interesting activities that people can do within our web site, mobile application or Facebook application. These are the activities that people use to express who they are, what they enjoy doing and what interests them. Mountain bikers want to record trails. Kitchen ninjas want to share recipes and the meals they cook. Fashionistas want to share the latest looks that they’ve spotted out on the streets. Programmers want to share the latest releases of their Github social coding projects.

It’s no longer a case of just liking something. It’s about filling in each of the placeholders in the sentence “Person <verb> an <object>“. Using the new apps we can define each of the verbs and objects that we want to socially enable. When a user does one of these activities, we can add it to their timeline. Using the new aggregation features, we can attractively present these activities back to the user and anyone viewing their timeline. We can show how they make the person who did them who they are and make it easy for friends to discover and explore shared interests and passions.

Facebook now enables us to define rich social objects within the graph. We’re not limited to books, movies, music, articles and such like. We can now create, interact with and present pretty much anything we like.  The new APIs allow us to define any number of custom properties against an object, from simple stuff like strings to more complex properties like geographic location and altitude. This enables us to move, or at least mirror, richer real world objects and elements of content in the graph in much more engaging and interesting ways.

Apps will now get their own PageRank (called, er… GraphRank) that will determine the prominence of their output on timelines. Only the popular apps will get the prominence to acquire new users through friend discovery. It’s going to be aggressive app natural selection. I think it changes the dynamic from flash-in-the-pan campaign applications to apps with more longevity that really help people to express themselves via their timeline. Companies need to think more than ever about the user experience and services that the user gets from the application itself and the social actions and objects that it creates and presents within Facebook. When both are just right the results will be incredible.

Building on Matt’s excellent article on what Facebook’s changes mean for brands and marketers, we’ll be looking at case studies of what will become possible for brands in the context of this new breed of lifestyle apps.

What F8 and the changes to Facebook mean for brands and marketers


Timeline beta available nowThe announcements at yesterday’s F8 conference included a few of the changes we expected to Facebook (the music service was a very poorly kept secret) and a few more radical changes that went further than we might have guessed. For brands and for social media agencies working with Facebook, now is the time to begin to digest and understand what this means about how people will use the social network in different ways and what this means for them.

Here are three initial trends that I see having an impact on brands and organisations that use Facebook and suggestions about how to capitalise on them:

1. The Timeline becomes the centre of the Facebook experience

To date, Facebook has worked by showing the latest things people have said in a single long stream of activity. If you went away on holiday for a week or two, when you returned you would see the latest things people had Liked or commented on or said. Everything else that had happened would be buried. The introduction of the Timeline changes this. It replaces a users profile with a timeline of events (status updates, photos, things they have done in apps) and then this is shared in Newsfeeds. It allows others to explore updates from friends this week, or last week, or last month. And (perhaps critically) it means that only certain actions will be highlighted here.

The Timeline will no longer show actions like ‘Liking’ a brand page. Instead your friends will see that in their Ticker, a fast-moving set of updates of every action your friends do. This means it will be buried and and brands that rely on friends if friends seeing that somebody has Liked your page to drive traffic will need to think again. This should be nothing new anyway, we all know it’s really about creating an engaging Facebook page.

Secondarily it looks like only apps that use the new Open Graph will appear in Timelines and Newsfeeds. So whilst you can now post messages based on things people do in your apps (and only need to ask their permission once to do this), you may need to rewrite part of them for this to work.

2) A new vocabulary (and new area for creativity)

Let’s be honest, ‘Like’ is not the most versatile of words. I might not want to say that I ‘Liked’ a movie, but would rather say I ‘Watched’ it. And now I can [verb] any [noun]. This is a great development and is one brands should start to think really creatively about.

There is an opportunity for some brands to start to ‘own’ verbs by getting users to take actions on them. There is also a chance to be more creative in how people interact with content. Rather than ‘Liking’ items that you want to buy, how about a more emotive ‘Want’. Then maybe Facebook could gather together all your ‘Wants’ in one place as a gift list of things that you would like people to buy you from around the web. Could Facebook be the new place for your wedding gift list rather than having it tied to one store?

3) A shift from numbers to engagement

A real focus for Facebook to date has always seemed to be getting more and more Members; we were even told proudly yesterday that they now have 800 million members globally (about 12% of the global population). Whilst this drive won’t become less important the real impact of the changes announced at F8 is to make engagement as important. The introduction of music, movies, news and the Timeline feature is really about social discovery (letting me find our even more things about my friends) and adding a social layer to my life.

Facebook is no longer somewhere I come to update my friends through a status. It is now a scrapbook of the things I do, the things I like, the places I’ve been and the people I know. I can explore this through shared interests, through music and film, through maps through photos. I can also record important events in my life (everything from a death in the family to breaking a leg!)

This is done to make Facebook more engaging, to make people spend more time using it and get greater reward from this investment. For brands this should be a positive trend. The best have known for some time that social media is about engagement. And with people spending more quality time on Facebook the brands that get Facebook right should find this means people spending more quality time with them.

Search and Social – We Should Be Friends


Guest post by Mark Johnstone from Distilled

Social media and Search add friendWorking in SEO, I often find that a company’s social media and SEO teams are practically strangers (whether they’re in-house or agencies).  In fact, I’d go as far as saying there’s sometimes a great deal of suspicion and mistrust between the two parties.

But this is crazy.  Working more closely could easily be mutually beneficial, and we’ve actually more in common that we might think.  You don’t have to look too far, to discover quite a few similarities between Social and Search…

Social Media and Search Engine Optimisation are both slight misnomers

“Search Engine Optimisation” isn’t exactly a line I enjoy pulling out at parties as it is.  It’s jargon-filled, unfortunately a bit like the industry itself.  But the name’s flawed in other ways too - you should be optimising for users, not just search engines.

Similarly, “Social Media” implies the focus is on the media, but the media is never as important as the content.  It’s about the message and the people in the conversation.

In both cases, focusing on the means to the exclusion of the end goal could result in poor decisions and adversely affect your results.

We have the same goals

At the simplest level, we both want people to view and share our stuff.  As SEOs, we love it when people link to our site, but likes and tweets are becoming increasingly important too.  And social sharing is effectively the same as linking – people are saying ‘check this out’.  And in both cases, creating valuable content is the key to making this happen.

Both social and search are forms of permission marketing, as opposed to older forms of interruption marketing.  And ultimately, we’re both aiming to increase business for the organisations we serve.

The good guys are already doing both

Those in social media creating valuable content are already building links and strengthening their site in the eyes of the mighty Google.  Good SEOs are building relationships via Twitter and blogs which they leverage to publish and share content.

Lots of people are doing it wrong

Intentionally or not, lots of people are getting social media and SEO wrong.  There’s a lot of conflicting advice in the SEO world, largely due to spammers finding loopholes to exploit until Google clamps down.

And social appears to be filled with corporate bloggers who think we want to read about their journey into work.  Or that we’re just desperate for another channel of advertising content.

Many businesses are jumping on the search and social bandwagon without any idea what they’re doing (or even what their agencies are doing on their behalf).  They’re simply doing it because others are doing it, and it sounds like a good idea.  I happen to think they are both good ideas, but it helps if you know why you’re doing them, and how they work.
In many cases, there’s a focus on tactics rather than strategy, e.g. just thinking about the next post or the next link-building campaign.  But both could benefit from considering their target audience and what they are offering in general.

In a sense, social and search are merging anyway, whether we like it or not.  Tweets and Likes are already considered part of Google’s ranking algorithm.

If you’re into social and want to learn more about search, the SEOmoz Beginners Guide is a great place to start.

So here’s to stronger collaboration in the future, building relationships, and adding great content to the web that people want to share.  Hey, no time like the present - if you liked this post, why not tweet about it? ;)

FreshNetworks will be speaking at Distilled’s free ‘meet up’ on Wednesday 5th October from 6.30pm at Gow’s Restaurant, London. The topic of the event is about how to integrate the off and online world into your SEO and social media strategy. Click here to register for the event and to find out more information.