Facebook News from #f8: Timeline, Open Graph Apps and What it Means

by Sharp | September 23, 2011

At yesterday’s f8 developers conference, Facebook announced several much anticipated updates to the core elements of the platform – the user profile and wall updates.

At their core, these updates encourage people to spend more time on Facebook, to take better care and interest in their personal page, and to be more open and specific about sharing everyday activities.

For brands this means a few things:

  1. There is a decreased emphasis on “likes.”  Our social measurement places a heavy emphasis on engagement levels, and this will become even more important withi the new platforms.
  2. There is an even stronger need for brands to act as publishers. It is becoming easier for users to delete content from their newsfeeds, and so brands producing timely, valuable, entertaining content is even more critical.
  3. Brands that can develop apps that tap into these new ways of sharing open up major points of potential.  Apps that allow users to track and aggregate experiences, foster discovery, and serve a long-term function will survive.

A quick summary of the new announcements is below:

Timeline is the next iteration of the Facebook Profile.  Mark Zuckerberg referred to the profile as the heart and soul of the Facebook experience, and noted that if the first iteration of the profile – basic info, school, relationship status, etc. – was the first 5 minutes of a conversation, then the Timeline is representative of several hours of a really good conversation – a highlight of the people, places, events and experiences that shape your life.  The new Timeline includes:

  • Stories:  Ability to add major life events to a timeline of your life. Content is simple and categorized by year.
  • Filters: Ability to view timeline through a range of filters. This is everything to just viewing photos, to reviewing locations you’ve checked in to each year, to developing a playlist of your life.
  • Apps and Reports: The ability to roll up activities that you’ve been engaging in over a given period of time (i.e. a list of all the meals I’ve cooked or all the runs I’ve taken this month or this year).
  • New Aesthetic: A new emphasis on self-expression that includes a cover photo, highlighted/hidden content and a more visual display.

This first update is more focused on the individual than the brand, but clearly there is a new emphasis on apps and on aggregated, valuable content, which is going to have major implications for the potential scale and visibility of really useful branded applications.

New Open Graph
Building on Zuckerberg’s concept of the Open Graph and last year’s ubiquitous “like” button, this year, Facebook announced “we are adding verbs.”  This means that users now have an expanded vocabulary through which to talk about their activities.  We can now indicate that we “read” a book, or “watched” a movie, allowing a much broader interpretation of how people connect with experiences online.

Facebook Ticker
The wall is now broken up into the the Newsfeed, which includes status updates and “top news” which can be aggregated updates from friends, while the Ticker on the right hand side includes a faster, lighter stream of all activities.

Expanded Apps
Facebook categorized the new apps and experiences, which have most immediate implications for things like media (music, movies, tv) and lifestyle (food, fitness, fashion), by three characteristics:

  • Frictionless experiences – ability to add activity to the timeline without having obtrusive prompts to share.  Once you opt-in once to allow automatic sharing, you never need to again.  These light, constant updates get fed into the ticker.
  •  Real-time Serendipity – when users click on a ticker item, they are able to instantly engage with a given friend experience, supporting Zuckerberg’s mantra that everything is better with your friends.
  •  Finding Patterns – When lots of people are doing the same thing at the same time, that activity will appear in your newsfeed (a place of higher visibility).  With that, Facebook becomes a platform for greater levels of discovery.
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