Mandy Boyle

Facebook Changes: What eCommerce Store Owners Need to Know

In the past week, we’ve all heard rumors of our most widely used social network charging for service, something about a timeline, and the possibility of streaming media content within Facebook. As with any change an organization makes, there will always be rumors and misinformation. So, if you’re still looking for answers to some of your most burning Facebook questions, I hope this post will help to clear things up.

What Changed on Facebook?
The question should really be: “What didn’t change on Facebook?” Last week, a new user interface was rolled out, not to mention, a few additional Facebook features. Here’s the scoop thanks to recap posts on Mashable, Inside Facebook, and several other tech news outlets:

New Design: The new user interface launched prior to Facebook’s other announced changes, including a whole mess of new features, including a real-time updating feed, smart lists, a modified news feed, character limits, posting options, and some adjustments to the way photos and videos display. Love it or hate it, this new design is here to stay. As for a full recap of all of the new feature roll outs, Inside Facebook has some great posts tracking the changes.

Subscribe Button: This was one of the first changes to roll out, and it’s an interesting feature for most users, as it allows for you to follow the public updates of others, regardless of whether you’re Facebook friends. Your subscriber numbers and the number of people you’re subscribed to will appear on your profile page, much like Twitter. If you’re looking to build influence or establish yourself as a thought leader, this feature can prove to be very useful.

News Feed Control: With the new design, users now have more control than ever over their news feeds, therefore, businesses who use Facebook pages to connect with customers should be conscious of what’s posted. The News Feed now sorts information; putting updates that it feels are most relevant to you in the Top News section. Frequent activity or common interactions, like updates from FarmVille, are now sorted into a panel on the upper right, which updates in real time (kind of like a Twitter stream). This new panel is called the Ticker and it’s designed to keep all lightweight information separated from the news you’d rather see, like new photos or relationship status changes.

Timeline: I’ve dedicated a whole other paragraph to Timeline because this is one of the most significant changes for all users. Scroll down for more info.

Like: You don’t just have to “like” something anymore. With Facebook’s launch of Facebook Gestures, you can now turn any verb into a button with a little help from Facebook’s partners and developers. You don’t have to like Superbad. Instead, you can let your friends know that you’re watching Superbad. Many observers have pointed out that this could lead to an explosion in oversharing, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Media Content: Facebook has partnered with a variety of media networks to deliver more content within the actual Facebook platform so that you can watch TV and movies, listen to music, and read news with your friends without ever having to leave the site. Some of the partners include Hulu, Spotify, Yahoo! News, and The Washington Post. The Ticker will tell you what your friends are reading, watching, or listening to so that it doesn’t clog up your news feed.

Privacy: There’s also been a change to privacy, specifically dealing with apps. Facebook apps need to only ask permission once to share stories on your behalf. Previously, apps had to ask you for permission every time they shared information about you. Now, the first time you authorize the app, it will tell you what it’s going to share about you and from then on, it never has to ask you again.

What is Timeline?
One of the biggest announcements Facebook made last week was on the addition of something called Timelines. Every Facebook user will get a Timeline, which serves as a scrapbook of your life. Each Timeline will be a stream of information about you, including the photos you’ve posted, all of your status updates, the apps you’ve used, the places you’ve visited on a world map….that’s just a sampling.

But perhaps the most significant part of this feature is the fact that you can post things from the past because the Timeline goes back to your birth. Add in baby pictures, scans of elementary school report cards, invitations to your first birthday party…it really is a scrapbook of your entire life leading up to this point. As for information overload, Facebook will compress these “scraps” of information so that you’re only seeing the most interesting parts of your history when you look at the interface, which, consequently can be customized by interacting with the content on the page.

Timeline is still in beta and will be opt-in to start with when it’s fully released. However, it’s projected to become the new default profile page later on.

Will Facebook be Charging?
Contrary to widespread media panic, Facebook will NOT be charging for service. Facebook responded to the rumor on its official page: “A rumor on the Internet caught our attention. We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It’s free and always will be.”
eCommerce store owners and users alike should be more cautious of their Facebook usage as a result of this rumor, as more phishing and spam scams have popped up, asking users for personal or payment information. To ensure the safest experience in using Facebook, you may want to adjust your account setting so that you’re using secure browsing. Otherwise, play it safe.

How Do these Changes Affect Store Owners?

The key takeaways from these new Facebook changes are:

• Take extra care when updating business pages. People can now cut out uninteresting pages from their news feeds. Be engaging, offer up relevant information, and be conversational. The more social your page is the better.

• Brands can’t just broadcast. These new changes have made Facebook more of a lifestream than anything, so it’s key to remember that your Facebook business page and any apps associated with your brand can’t be used to just broadcast messages. Your business page has to weave into the fabric of someone’s life by offering value and interaction.

• Remember that marketing is storytelling. When a customer chooses to “like” a page, he or she is putting a vote of confidence in your brand and acknowledging that this brand is part of his or her life. Think about how your business plays into the story of someone’s life and use that perspective to develop content that your customers will want to share and interact with.

• More targeted advertising. With some of Facebook’s new Open Graph applications, it’ll soon be possible for businesses to target users who’ve shared media consumption information. This lets advertisers reach consumers with their content who might not have “liked” a related page. Read more about this advertising possibility.

BONUS: Also announced last week, Facebook will be giving $10 million in free advertising to small businesses. Stay tuned!
If you still have questions or want to learn more about Facebook’s changes, Mashable has a few great posts that can help:

Facebook Changes Again: Everything You Need to Know
How Facebook Timeline Might Radically Change the Look of Brand Pages
What Facebook’s Changes Mean for Marketers
Facebook Reveals Major Updates at F8

What questions do you have about the new Facebook roll outs?

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