Facebook Announces Timelines and Improvements to Open Graph

    by Pamela Vaughan

    Date

    September 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    facebook iconFacebook now boasts 800 million users. The hype had been building up all day for Facebook's announcement about its 'major updates' to be revealed today at f8, Facebook's 4th annual developer conference, so were eager to tune into today's livestream of the announcements.

    After a funny introductory comedy routine from Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg acting as Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg took the stage for his keynote, and the announcements have been made. The biggest announcements from Zuckerberg include an entire transformation of users' Profiles into 'Timelines' and a new version of Facebook's Open Graph that allows for better, more social applications.

    Timeline: The New Profile

    Soon, Facebook will be replacing your Profile with what it's calling 'Timeline.' Here's a quick look in the video below:

    Timeline is based on the premise that, up until this change, a user's profile mostly consisted of recent updates. In fact, 99% of the stories you shared essentially vanished on Facebook. The new Timeline view of your profile solves this problem, enabling users to feature more stories from their past, organized by points in time.

    How Timeline Works:
    • Timeline is wider and much more visual than the old profile.
    • Facebook automatically populates it with content via its algorithm, but users ultimately have complete control over what gets shown in their timeline. You can hide certain stories Facebook shows, highlight stories (by starring them) to show them more prominently, or add important stories that are missing. 
    • Users can also access a private activity log of their past Facebook activity to choose stories to add to their timeline.
    • Older stories don't vanish as new stories are added like they used to.
    • Timeline acts more like a scrapbook of a user's past and present.
    • Remember when you could add applications to your profile via boxes? Users can also now add applications to their timelines again.
    facebook timeline resized 600

    According to Facebook, Timeline is in beta and won't be rolled out to users for another few weeks. To learn more about Timeline, click here.

    New Open Graph = Better Apps

    Facebook has also made vast improvements to its Open Graph to allow users to more easily use, share, and display applications. The improvements also allow users to better discover what their friends are up to and which apps they're using. They even enable users to instantly join in on others' activity as they see stories displayed in their News Feed or Ticker. For example, you can instantly play the music your friends are currently listening to or jump in and watch the TV show they're viewing, with Facebook now integrating with services like Netflix and Hulu. Check out the video below:

    While Timeline won't be available for a few weeks, users can start adding some of the new apps today.

    Marketing Takeaways

    Sure, this all sounds really neat from a user standpoint, but what's in it for marketers?

    I think the first question on everyone's mind is, will Facebook Pages be transformed into Timelines as well? Facebook hasn't made any mention of this, but if it's on the horizon, it could mean good news for marketers. Marketers would be able to have a lot more control over what gets featured on their pages and how prominent different page elements are. This means marketers could potentially highlight certain pieces of content more than others and emphasize specific promotions, giving them the ability to better leverage and customize their fans' experience on their page.

    A More Social, Real-Time, and Personalized Experience

    For now though, what marketers should understand is how much more social, real-time, and personalized Facebook is making the experience for users. Content will now have the opportunity to spread virally faster than ever, and as users become more in tune with their friends' activities, interactions on Facebook will likely increase. This could make Facebook incrementally more powerful for marketers as users stay better connected. As a marketer, it's critical to be sharing your content on Facebook as well as making it really easy for others to share it as well. Keep your Facebook page active and engaging, and make sure your content has social sharing buttons to enable and encourage others to share what you publish. 

    Leveraging Applications

    Because it seems like applications will have a much greater impact in the new Timeline design, marketers might want to think of ways to leverage use of applications in their marketing efforts. It seems applications may start overpowering organic Facebook updates, and applications might have more stakes in Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm.

    The Possibility of an API

    It's very possible that Facebook will eventually release data from Timeline and Open Graph via an API, which could give marketers a ton of useful data and insights to use when determine how to best leverage the behaviors of their fans on Facebook.

    What do you think of Facebook's latest announcements? How do you predict these changes will affect Facebook marketing?

    intro-to-facebook

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