August witnessed the hulk-like mutation of Facebook into an even greater social media juggernaut. Announcing a Live Video Channel, a Questions box, and an opt-in Locations feature, the social media platform has essentially ventured into broadcasting AND prompted rivalries with search engines like Google and geo-social media platforms like Foursquare. So what do we like and dislike about these new developments—and, more importantly, what do they mean for digital marketing?
Facebook Live Video
No, this is not for you, Facebook users. Officially launched on August 13, Facebook Live is intended to provide insight into the inner workings of the site itself. During interviews with employees and “special guests”, viewers will be able to interact with each other via chat stream, and through a new Facebook Live app can add status updates throughout.
LIKE: Some streams will feature developers of the site who explain first-hand new innovations and tech, while an attached Ask a Question app will provide viewers the opportunity to digitally dialogue with the interviewee via a moderator. The channel also makes streaming easily sharable—videos are embeddable, links can be shared across other platforms like Twitter, and a tab can be added to Facebook Pages (keeping viewers on that page for longer).
DISLIKE: Facebook spokespersons have claimed that the site doesn’t want any part of showbiz—so why kick off the service with an advertorial for celeb America Ferrera’s new Sundance submission? Perhaps a smart move if you’re looking to attract more viewers, but not necessarily helpful in your quest to persuade users that the channel is not a superficial PR move.
TOSS UP: At the moment, the availability of ads on the Live Channel Page is undetermined. If they are made available separately through the site’s ad-buying platform, this could provide some prime ad real estate.
Still in beta (with the percentage who have access in the single digits), the Questions feature is a crowdsourcing service that allows users to pose a question to their Facebook peers. Queries will be categorized and eventually accumulated in relevant, searchable Community Pages.
LIKE: From a market research standpoint, this feature could provide a vast, categorized source of data that includes photo questions and extended polls. Additionally, users have the option to “follow” questions, and are consequently notified whenever a new answer is posted.
DISLKE: Though you can choose who can answer your questions (just Friends, those within your Networks, or all 500 million users), you can’t control who sees them—all questions are completely public. For non-marketers looking to ask more personal questions, this isn’t exactly ideal. And, for those who choose to keep their questions open, there’s always the danger of spam clutter (even with helpful/unhelpful flags) and unclassifiable absurdity.
TOSS UP: At the moment, Questions has yet to allow businesses to answer questions on their brand pages, though individuals can answer on behalf of their business. If integration occurs, however, brands could more effectively shape their fan’s interaction via Questions based tabs, generating discussion boards and FAQ pages.
This one’s the biggie—at least, it’s the one getting the most press. Facebook Places, introduced mid August, is a geosocial networking service that allows users to “check in” to a location using their mobile devices. Participating businesses “claim their location”, adding a description of their brand along with whatever promotional deals they’re willing to offer users.
LIKE: The service will inevitably bring more exposure to businesses, especially if independent discounts and deals are offered to users. It will also allow you to effectively watch your competition, keeping tabs on who visits and offering effective counter offers.
DISLIKE: Marketers lose out significantly when you consider the absence of the “game” type incentives available on competitor networks like Foursquare and Gowalla (aka, no “mayors” or “badges” to be won). If, however, there were these labels, businesses would be able to quickly identify their top clients and leverage Facebook’s other services accordingly—imagine getting your best customer to write a Facebook Story about you!
TOSS UP: As in all geosocial networks, most of the hullaballoo has been focused on privacy, privacy, privacy. Though you can only tag people you are with if their settings allow it, and opt-in and out as you wish, the default settings for Places are aligned with your general privacy settings (which may not be appropriate). In addition, users aren’t granted the anonymity of a clever username—their full name and personal profiles are readily accessible. While this may be good for marketers (more data, more accurate targeting), it isn’t exactly beneficial to the user.
What Do YOU Think?
Is Facebook getting “too big for its britches”? Ultimately, a great deal will be determined by how these new features will evolve—will Facebook Live earn legitimacy? Will Questions fail? Will Places force us to compromise privacy for a coupon? Feel free to post your Likes and Dislikes below.
If you’d like to hear what other social media experts think of the Live Video App, check out these articles on The Digital Home and TechCrunch.com; for the Questions box, these articles on Mashable.com, cnet.com; and for the Locations feature, these articles on Mashable.com and CBSNews.com.