This year at F8, Facebook once again showed that they aren’t afraid to take chances and continually re-invent themselves. The new Facebook Timeline is a radical overhaul of existing user profiles and has the audacious goal of being the historical record of your life. Together with the next generation of the Open Graph, these changes will unlock a wealth of new opportunities for brands to tap into with social applications.
But where should they start? This year we saw the launch of Google+, continued innovation by Twitter, and an entire ecosystem of developers building applications and services on top of these platforms. The array of decisions that a CMO must now make is staggering.
A recent study carried out by the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business suggests that the app economy surrounding Facebook alone (between apps on Facebook and apps that use the Facebook API) has created at least 182,744 full-time jobs and at least $12.2 billion in wages and benefits in the US.
Knowing that the only constant here is change, here are a few recommendations and predictions for CMOs as they navigate the world of Facebook apps.
Create a personalized social experience on your site
Facebook calls this concept Social Design—a way of thinking about design that puts social experiences at the core. By weaving in the social and interest graphs in ways that enrich things like content display, discovery, and navigation, brands can create more personalized, satisfying experiences for visitors.
The evolution of Social Design will occur in two ways, primarily:
- Social will no longer be a “nice-to-have,” relegated to specific pages, tucked away in page corners.
- Site experiences will become more intuitive, seamlessly personalized, and rewarding, based on factors like social and interest graph data, onsite behavior, visitor history and device data.
Begin experimenting with frictionless sharing
At f8, Facebook announced the ability to leverage the Open Graph to create and aggregate entirely new verb + noun pairings (Kevin <wants> a <product>, Mike <listened> to a <song>, etc.). Once a user grants permission to a brand’s application, the brand has a tremendous opportunity to earn social currency by integrating further into their News Feed, Ticker, and Timeline. This frictionless sharing removes the barrier of forcing a user to approve each action.
However, this innovation does not come without its potential red flags. Imagine an automatically-posted feed item about a man buying an engagement ring for his girlfriend, or others being able to see that you’re reading every single article on a competitor’s blog, or that you’re watching videos on TheOnion.com when you’re supposed to be working.
Brands should experiment with this technology cautiously, give users as much control as possible over the actions they post on their behalf, and be as transparent about all of this as possible.
Explore rich, multidirectional integration
As brands build out deeper and more enriching experiences on their Facebook pages and websites, they should continuously look for ways to let richer content flow in ways that create more value. In some of the more basic integrations using out-of-the-box Facebook plugins, you’ll see things like “what your friends have shared” boxes, article sharing features, and Facebook-powered blog comments. The content here is mostly text and images, and surrounds a few common actions (such as likes, updates and status changes), which flows in one or two directions—from Facebook to the site, and vice versa.
But there’s far more value here, and it’s being unlocked for the first time by integrations that rethink content and redraw the lines along which it should flow. The right data should pass just as easily as other content, between Facebook apps, to analytics platforms, CRM systems, and ultimately, to those that can use it to create better experiences.
What every CMO should demand
The biggest integration mistake a brand can make at this point is to create barriers between their Facebook apps, site, content and data. These barriers result in poor user experience and incomplete information. Instead, CMOs should demand two things above all else from those creating their brand’s Facebook integrations: Seamlessness of design and information sharing, and the agility and skill required to keep pace with the incredible speed of social innovation.