20 Changes Facebook Made In 2012 That Impacted Marketers
Find our new podcast, The Social Toolkit, on iTunes.
Facebook was all about refinement in 2012.
Faced with the question of how to provide high quality, personalized experiences to a growing number of active users, the social network reworked a variety of its products and systems for increased efficiency, revenue and a stronger image.
Facebook Growth in 2012
Facebook’s 2012 was filled with growth. According to their third quarter earnings report, Facebook totaled 1.01 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2012, an increase of 26% year-over-year. Also, daily active users (DAUs) averaged 584 million for September 2012, an increase of 28% year-over-year.
While Asia and South America are leading Facebook’s growth, North America is holding its own. 189 million users are based in the United States or Canada, and 69.8% of Facebook’s US/Canadian users visit the site every day.
Also, 300,000 local businesses currently use Facebook, and the average American Facebook user is worth roughly $13.10/year to the network, an increase of nearly $2 over 2011.
Facebook News Feed
According to Facebook, “News feed is where people – one billion of them – spend their time on Facebook – in fact, 40% of their time. This is an incredible amount of time where people go to share the most important parts of their lives and to receive updates on the things they care most about – whether friends, family, or businesses.”
News feed is the center of social discovery on Facebook. According to AddThis, Facebook now accounts for 51% of all social sharing. As Facebook grows though, and more users share more content, the News feed is getting cluttered with an overwhelming volume of content.
1. The Big EdgeRank Change
Facebook modified their EdgeRank algorithm on September 20th to combat the constantly-growing clutter concern. The changes heavily penalized posts with negative feedback in order to deliver compelling, personally-relevant content to users.
2. New Post Targeting Options
Facebook also launched new post targeting options, prompting Pages to target certain content to specific audience segments. Certain content resonates stronger with certain audience members than others, and the new post targeting options provide a way for Page managers to stay consistently relevant with all their fans, even while providing a variety of messages.
3. Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories
Facebook introduced Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories for Page managers willing to pay for reaching extended audiences with specific content. By reaching regularly-engaging stakeholders through “free” organic content, and less often interested parties through paid Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories products, Facebook provided a variety of content distribution options in 2012.
According to COO Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Promoted Post ads (also known as News feed ads) were 8 times more engaging and have 10 times more recall than sidebar Marketplace ads.
4. Facebook Timeline
As Rohit Bhargava pointed out in Likeonomics, “90% of Facebook users don’t return to a fan page once they click the ‘Like’ button.” Facebook users visit your Page to get a first impression prior to clicking the ‘Like’ button, or to engage on a deeper level at a later date (oftentimes for research or customer service purposes). As such, Facebook redeveloped Pages as Timeline.
The new Timeline design included a variety of new opportunities, including Cover Photos, Milestones, Pinned Posts and Featured Posts.
5. Cover Photos
Cover photos provide Pages with a major branding opportunity. The Cover Photo can be used to build a first impression with new Page visitors, or generate positive sentiment from already-existing fans. Examples can be found here.
Other Timeline components, including Milestones, Pinned Posts and Featured Posts, offer Page managers new ways to organize their content and present it in visually-appealing ways.
6. Milestones and Pinned Posts
Facebook is big on nostalgia – the more historical information you provide to them, the less likely you are to move to another social networking platform. As such, they added Milestones as a way for brands to provide historical context to their Pages.
This feature is great for legacy brands who have fascinating tales to tell about their histories. For example, People Magazine added Milestones that corresponded with major moments featured on past magazine covers, like celebrity deaths and weddings.
Pinned Posts allow Page managers to display a post prominently at the top of their Timeline for up to 7 days. Pinned Posts are helpful for highlighting valuable content that won’t often change. Facebook also recently added Pinned Posts for Groups.
Featured Posts expand a story to the width of the entire Timeline, thereby drawing more attention to piece of content. Featured Posts highlight content that doesn’t necessarily need to be a visitor’s first impression on your Page. Unlike Pinned Posts, Featured Posts are positioned chronologically and get pushed down your Timeline as new content is posted.
7. Global Pages
For brands that do business around the world, Facebook has continued to add features and admin functionality that lets them manage their content and target content to specific countries. New Global Facebook Pages refined these efforts into a public option where pages can customize their apps, cover images and content according to the country a Facebook fan is viewing the page from.
Global Facebook pages now have global as well as country specific metrics. And one simple but big benefit is they will have one universal page URL that they can promote, since fans are automatically shown their country’s content.
8. No More Default Landing Tabs
While Facebook added a variety of new tools with the launch of Timeline, they also took away the ability to set a default landing tab for all new visitors.
Previously, Page managers could set a default landing tab that all non-fans would first see instead of the wall when they visited a Page. This is no longer allowed. Instead, users always see the main Timeline view and have to actively click through to custom apps. This means custom apps for your contests, promotions, games, media, coupons, and signup widgets may receive much less engagement from users who find their way to your Page.
Pages also often used “Like-gates” on their default landing app, requiring users to Like a Page in exchange for the ability to use the app. While Like-gates are still permitted, they’re not nearly as powerful since they won’t be the first thing users see when they visit a page.
While Facebook tried to maintain quality user experience throughout its fervent growth, it also faced many challenges that garnered significant media attention. These challenges put many marketers on the defensive, answering executive and client questions about Facebook’s long-term viability and ability to overcome issues.
9. Facebook IPO
Facebook’s biggest 2012 media challenge occurred when they became a publicly-traded company. Shortly before open trading, news broke that General Motors was pulling their entire $10 million a year Facebook advertising budget. Within days of going public, their stock experienced both a meteoric rise and quick collapse.
Also, by going public, the once-quiet company had to become more vocal about its product and business development intentions in order to quell shareholder worries. Financial analyst concerns centered on mobile strategy and how Facebook was going to monetize the platform’s shift to the small screen.
Throughout the second half of 2012, Facebook became fixated on its mobile strategy. By their third quarter earnings report, they were showing dramatic improvements. Facebook posted revenue that slightly beat forecasts, and it said 14% of its advertising revenue came from ads on mobile devices. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “I want to dispel this myth that Facebook can’t make money on mobile. We are just getting started.”
10. New Laser Focus on Mobile
CFO David Ebersman announced Facebook’s mobile ad pricing was up 20% in US/Canada, and 75% of total News feed ad revenue was from mobile. Sheryl Sandberg predicted a future of more ads in Facebook’s mobile News feed.
Also according to Zuckerberg, 60% of Facebook’s monthly active users regularly access the network via mobile. 70% of mobile users visit every day. Facebook’s improved iOS app resulted in an 80% increase in News feed page loads.
11. Page Management iOS App Launched
In order to help Page managers work on the go, Facebook launched the Page Management mobile app. The app helps Page admins manage and moderate multiple pages more quickly, share behind the scenes photos and stories about customers and products, and improve Facebook interaction with users who engage with your Page.
12. Facebook Buys Instagram
As another sign of their new-found love of mobile, Facebook bought Instagram for what was originally announced as $1 billion, but ended up as $715 million in cash and stock. Since the acquisition, Instagram’s user base grew has grown from 27 million to 100 million. According to Comscore, users spent more mobile time on Instagram than Twitter.
In December, Instagram caused quite a commotion when they announced changes to their Terms of Service that would provide revenue-generating opportunities. Soon after, they had to backtrack and adjust following major backlash.
Facebook launched a variety of new revenue-generating products in 2012, including Sponsored Stories in the News feed, Promoted Posts, Premium Ads, Gifts and Offers. They also provided access to advanced advertising options, including the Power Editor and Facebook Exchange.
13. Facebook Gifts
Not an ad? Well tell that to all the hundreds of companies that now get their products automatically suggested to Facebook users anytime their friends have a birthday or a holiday like Christmas or Valentines approaches. Facebook takes a cut on purchases, a la the Apple iTunes store or Google Play. Facebook Gifts are now being promoted on mobile and the web.
14. Facebook Offers
Facebook added a cost to their Offers product, requiring Pages to purchase at least $5 worth of advertising to accompany the offer.
15. Power Editor Publicly Available
The Facebook Power Editor opened for public access, allowing new targeting options and the capacity to generate hundreds of Facebook ad variations. The Power Editor provides advertisers with a streamlined method to amplify certain content to specific audience segments and user devices through Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories.
16. Facebook Exchange
Ever shop for a product on an e-commerce website, and then see that exact product featured in a banner ad on another website? That’s called behavioral re-targeting, and it’s one of many cookie-based targeting methods. It’s a way to convert window shoppers into buyers. Facebook has gotten into the re-targeting business by welcoming a select group of 3rd party vendors into the new Facebook Exchange program.
17. Log Out Ads
Do people really log out of Facebook? Well, between libraries, multiple accounts, and shared computers at the office and home, Facebook found a large untapped audience that they could show a big ad to. The price is out of budget for most businesses, but large brands and startups have been paying $750k or more to purchase the logout screen advertising real estate.
18. Optimized CPM
Facebook made a lot of steps this year in order to make Facebook ads easier and more successful for the average person. And arguably, none of these steps were more important than Optimized CPM. It is an payment option that automatically fine tunes a Facebook ad to perform better according to the action an advertiser wants (Like, click, share, etc) and based how users are actually interacting with the ad.
19. Sponsored Results
Facebook search is no where near as lucrative to marketers as Google’s search. But just because of sheer volume, Facebook search does see a lot of impressions. Facebook apps and pages can now sponsor search results and show up at a top result for Facebook users.
20. Custom Audiences
Through their Custom Audiences feature, Facebook now lets advertisers to target ads to lists of specific phone numbers and email addresses. If a business has a strong customer list, they can now target loyalty ads directly to their customers that are on Facebook.
To try and sum up all the marketing changes made on Facebook this year is a huge task. We are sure we missed some, so feel free to add them in the comments.
What do you think was the most significant change made by Facebook this year for marketing?