Facebook announced some major changes yesterday to its platform – including updates to privacy and publishing controls on user profiles, and new tagging and sharing functionality — that have interesting implications for both users of the social network and brands marketing on the platform. Users appear to benefit from new access to privacy controls and greater flexibility in tagging content with non-friend users and location-based data. The impact to marketers is more interesting, especially as we begin to extrapolate what these changes mean for reaching audiences on Facebook.

Location Tags Increase Lifetime Customer Value

Like the ability to tag friends — and beginning this week, non-friends — users can now tag content with location data and be served Deals not just when you’re in the vicinity of a business, but before and after. So in addition to retrieving a Deal at “check-in”, Deals can now be served to users before they get to the location as well as after they are long gone from the business. Marketers can switch up the types of Deals being offered from in-the-moment redemption to longer-term, push marketing campaigns that span pre and post point-of-sale experiences.

In-stream Deals Deliver More Impressions

Another plus for advertisers, Deals will be delivered to the user in-stream below the tagged post in the news feed. This move greatly increases the visibility of Deals and in-stream Deals, similar to in-stream apps, which tend to yield higher levels of engagement since users spend the majority of their time in the news feed and are more likely to engage with content there. Advertisers would see increased impression rates and could see a lift in deal redemption. Brand visibility would therefore expand as a user’s friends and non-friends share and comment on that content.

In-stream “Check-ins” Highlight News Feed Importance

Although the original Places product is pretty much disappearing, Facebook’s change to how a user “checks-in” is really a confirmation of the importance of the News Feed to its user engagement strategy. Instead of segmenting location tagging in a separate experience, Facebook has brought location directly to the feed, and along with the ability to tag people and brands in status updates, increased the visibility of global brands and the potential of local presence across the social graph. According to comScore, users spend 48% of their time on Facebook in the News Feed and Profile Pages combined and this move reflects an emphasis on improving monetization of location data by bringing it directly into a user’s core Facebook experience.

Inline Sharing Controls Affect Impressions & Engagement

Facebook has paid a lot of attention in this update to inline publishing controls that make it easier for users to know specifically whom they are sharing content with. Perhaps as a response to the method of Google+ Circles of grouping audiences, users can now choose to publish publicly, to friends, to a custom set of friends, and in the future, to smaller groups created by the user. Selecting Friends or Custom over Public could have repercussions on a brand’s search engine results and rankings.

Audience segmentation in publishing implies fewer post impressions for some friends and that has implications for marketers trying to gain stream share through content publishing and app engagement. Users may choose to limit sharing of branded content to a certain subset of friends and that could decrease impressions and engagement for brands. To ensure their messages continue to be heard and shared on Facebook, marketers need to start thinking now about improving audience targeting and content relevancy when publishing to fans.

Change is Afloat

Ultimately, these updates to Facebook will appease users concerned about privacy and moderation issues and give marketers new reasons to consider increasing local ad spend. And we think this is just a precursor to greater changes for users and marketers in the near future as Facebook looks to improve user experience and retention, increase the quantity and quality of brand monetization for marketers, and fuel revenue and growth in a maturing market.

-Lawrence Mak, Product Marketing Manager

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