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f8 For Marketers: What We’re Still Talking About

What sort of conversations did this week’s f8 Facebook Developer Conference inspire in your office?

While part of the Votigo crew was in attendance, most of the rest of us in Lafayette, Boulder and Hyderabad watched the livecast on Thursday, and have since been abuzz by the new features Facebook unveiled and riveted about the impact  for users and for marketers. Here are a few quick thoughts to recap the week that was:

Timeline: The Story of Me

Timeline is a captivating new feature (obviously), and there was plenty of internal chatter at Votigo about back-filling personal chronologies to tell a more complete story of our lives, and wondering how our grandkids may one day consume the life stories we represent on Facebook.

Marketing Impact: Tough to speculate since Timeline is a user-driven development at its purest. But brand Pages have evolved to more closely mirror personal profiles, so it’s easy to project that brands will need to be even more committed to maintaining a multimedia story on their brand Pages, and that users will Subscribe to the ones that are most engaging to them.

For More: AdAge’s Kunar Patel on how brand pages may evolve to be like personal timelines; Adam Mazmanian at SmartBrief on how Timelines, plus Subscriptions, could create powerful, targeted, measurable mailing lists for marketers.

Passive sharing and a Open Graph apps: “You Don’t Have To Like (It)”

Passive sharing is all about empowering users “to express an order of magnitude more things than they could before,”  as CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, without bombarding their friends’ streams.  In other words, you don’t have to just like something; you can read it, watch it, eat it, order it, run it, recommend it, listen to it, try it on…Users may more willingly share their tastes, since there will be more options beyond the “Like” and since sharing will be less intrusive. This evolution creates a goldmine of insight as to how users really interact with brands and products.

Passive sharing will be largely driven  by a universe of third-party apps integrated into the Timeline.  Content and commerce providers- from the oft-mentioned Spotify to other music, video and content apps, to games, to commerce and beyond- tap into Timeline’s “frictionless” environment by asking users to define what they want to share on Facebook.

Marketing Impact: Potentially enormous.  The ease with which users can access apps from within Facebook cements the network’s sheer influence as a driver of  media, products and services. Seeing your friend’s Netflix recommendation, what your family is reading on CNN, that your colleague just turned in an 8 mile run via Nike+, or your significant other’s Amazon wishlist updates will drive far more interaction with outside brands than Facebook already does.

The Open Graph- what users experience once they visit the third-party app or site- could be even more powerful. Marketers must be extremely thoughtful about design for Facebook users, from the verbs they choose for passive sharing within Timeline to the level of influence they show when a user visits them. Does a retailer like Levi’s show you which of your friends visited the page, or who actually bought something? How does CNN define who read a story or watched a video?

For more: LA Times Technology blog on this “new class of apps;” the NY Times Somini Sengupta and Ben Sisario on Facebook and Influence.

For marketers, what hasn’t changed at all is that brands have a tremendous opportunity to tap into the time consumers spend  and the increasing depth of information and influence they exchange on Facebook. Regardless of what users share, how rich the media looks, and how ingrained branded apps are in the experience, for brands there is no substitute for  authentic, meaningful content offerings to engage the Facebook audience.

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