Do you have a Facebook page for your local business? Then you need to know about a flurry of changes coming to the social media site that will raise both obstacles and opportunities for local marketing. We’ve got a list of what looks like the most significant changes for local internet marketers, though this is a moving target. But before you get too wrapped up in Tickers, Timelines and Subscribe buttons, just remember this: Facebook is still all about keeping a conversation going with your customers, just like you do over the counter or on the phone every day. Here’s a look at the New Facebook:
Personal profile pages expand
Facebook is making personal pages more visual with bigger images and a new Timeline, a display of the user’s Facebook activity going back to the start. Business pages on Facebook stay in the old design for now, though there’s speculation that they too will get a facelift.
Promotion of your business may expand through new apps
In Old Facebook, a customer clicks the Like button for your page and a notice of the action shows up on the customer’s profile page; commenting or sharing requires an action by the user. Now Facebook is rolling out apps that could give you unintentional endorsements. Someday, a customer who makes an appointment for car service through an app on Facebook might trigger a notice visible to the customer’s friends, such as “Steve made an appointment at Fritz’s AutoHaus.” To start, however, these apps will focus on media, entertainment and lifestyle categories (like the recipe-sharing app Foodily).
Friend activity gets more visible on profile pages
In Old Facebook, the running record of activity on a profile page was the News Feed, the chronological display on the Wall. In New Facebook, activity can also appear on the Timeline and a Ticker, a box that sits to the side of the page and keeps a constant feed of friend activity. As Facebook describes it, the Ticker is for less important but immediate friend actions (for instance, Likes and comments) while the News Feed will display more significant activity by the profile page owner and her friends (for instance, several friends Like a business page in the same time frame).
Friend activity also gets more visible on business pages
When Facebook users visit your business page they will see a Friend Activity box that shows any comments or likes for your business from their friends. Facebook previously rolled out a Recommendations box that sits on a business page and displays friend recommendations of the business (users can create a recommendation by filling in the slot below the Recommendations box). So by all means, put a sign up in your store that says, “If you like our service, recommend us on Facebook.” Also, be sure to ask your customers in person to recommend your business and put periodic posts on your Facebook page.
The Like button may be less important
Many businesses put a lot of effort into getting users to click the Like button on the business page because once users click, posts from the business appear on the News Feed on the user’s Wall. Changes to the News Feed appear to be pushing posts from businesses out of view in favor of activity from the user’s friends. On the other hand, it may be that a business post can still get good placement on a News Feed if the user’s friends Like a business or the post is generating a lot of comments or Likes. The best protection is to create a Likeable Facebook page with interesting posts.
The Like button could get more expressive
Instead of the all-purpose Like button, Facebook apps will give users a wider variety of messages to send. Take a look at this picture of an app example from Facebook: a user can click “Cooked it” or “Want to try” next to a recipe and share that thought with friends. Someday, you might be able to post an image of an item on sale in your store and give visitors to your Facebook page the option to click “Want it” or “Bought it.”
Your website could get more like Facebook
In 2010, Facebook introduced a roster of “social plug-ins” that you can install on your website with some bits of code to give your site Facebook functionality. For instance, the Like button can appear on your site and a user can click to add your business to the user’s list of Likes back on Facebook. Expect the new changes in Facebook functionality to be available on your website – a “Want it” button could be on your online catalog.
Comments are now wide open
Any Facebook user can now leave a comment on a business page now. Previously, they had to Like the page. This is probably a good thing because it removes a barrier for people to participate on your page. A warning: Watch out for spam!
The Subscribe feature could promote you as an expert
Here’s a new feature that could benefit independent business people, such as doctors, accountants or consultants who want to publicize themselves as experts: They can add a Subscribe button to a personal profile and users who aren’t their Facebook friends can read updates to the page. Subscribers will see the updates in their New Feeds.
Facebook advertising will get more targeted
The more Facebook users click “Want” next to an image or “Read” next to an article, the more Facebook learns about their wants and interests – and you can bet that that information will be used to target ads on Facebook. Would you like to push an ad for your baby store to all the people in your area who clicked “Want” next to an image of a stroller or “Read” next to an article on strollers? We’re pretty sure you’ll be able to buy that ad on Facebook in the future.
Better metrics could help you produce better posts
The Inside Facebook site spotted this change, which Facebook appears to be rolling out: A tally of impressions of each post as part of report page that owners see in Facebook. This would be a big help in determining what kind of content is of the most interest to your audience.