Friday Dec 06, 2013

The Year in Facebook: Part 1

2013 keyAs we head into another year of jarringly fast advancements in social media and social marketing, we thought it might be nice to reminisce over some of the bigger shifts the granddaddy of them all, Facebook, underwent in 2013. It’s quite a list, and it doesn’t even include news related to the business of Facebook like staff changes and shareholder highs and lows.


The New Facebook Graph Search:

We all knew there was an astonishing amount of user data being collected on Facebook, 8 years worth. The question was how it would be used. Enter Graph Search. Users could now search for more than profiles. They could drill down to see friends who like Dr. Who, or friends who like Cajun that live in New Orleans. Graph Search was one of the things that started opening marketers’ eyes to the coming Big Data revolution and the need for a fully integrated, socially enabled enterprise. In September, Graph Search became even more powerful as results now included status updates, photo captions, check-ins and comments.


The Looming Auto-Play Video Ads

Considering word started coming out in the beginning of the year we might start seeing automatically playing video ads in our Facebook News Feeds, it’s interesting to note that we’re closing out 2013 without them. Marketers want more attention-grabbing ad positioning and types. Facebook certainly wants more revenue, it was projected the video ads could bring in $1 million to $2.4 million per spot. But the trick is getting advertisers what they want without chasing away the audience. In February it was predicted they’d be here by the middle of the year. In May we heard it could be as early as July. In September, the news was they had been delayed indefinitely. Advertisers were reluctant to be the first to potentially draw user wrath, Facebook debated whether the audio should auto-play as well as the video, and browser extensions were born to block the ads upon arrival.


Changes to the Timeline

You spend a lot of time looking at Facebook Timelines, right? Well regardless of how many people go to them, the Timeline got a major redesign early this year. Friends, pictures, Likes and interests and notes went into a column on the left so updates could live on the right. And no more preview boxes for Friends, Photos and Map. Those turned into a text menu bar under the cover image. Later, the About page was more customizable, so that should anyone wander onto your Timeline, they could see a better presentation of the music, movies, and books you like, this time in the form of apps.


The New News Feed

In March, Facebook updated the News Feed in the first big way since 2006. The goal? Play up images (since half of content in the average News Feed is pictures) and get quality articles from publishers in front of users. Based on what you’ve liked, you see commonly read articles about it. You also got more options about different feeds you can view, from friends only to photos only to games only. It was also built for consistency across mobile devices. Then in December, along with the stat that referral traffic to media sites soared 170%, the feed was tweaked again to show better suggested, related articles. There was also Story Bumping, which brought posts long forgotten back to the top of Feeds, fueled by new comments on them.


Hey, We Want the Hashtag Too!

No, your worlds weren’t colliding. In March, our Twitter friend the hashtag made its appearance on Facebook. Usage so far has been, let’s just call it questionable. Just as in Twitter, the hashtag can be used to surface similar topics. The move continued the interesting dance in which Facebook strives to be more like Twitter and Twitter strives to be more like Facebook.


Now With More Targeting!

There are few things that excite a marketer more than targeting, and Facebook made moves in that direction. In March they let brands target users for status updates that did not appear on the brand’s Page. That gave brands access to subsets of fans without boring the others. Facebook also rolled out Lookalike Audiences so advertisers can target people who are similar to their existing targets. In October, Facebook expanded on what they did last year when they let brands advertise their mobile apps within News Feeds. That worked, driving over 145 million installs. So the update lets them target people who have already downloaded the app for added engagement with it beyond the download.


Obviously, it was a busy year. So be sure and join us for our next post and Part 2 of the Year in Facebook.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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