Facebook and the Challenges of Search

facebook-searchMission statements, simple as they are, sum up the fundamental differences between Facebook and two of its main competitors, Google and Twitter. Google looks “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Twitter wants people to “share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” Facebook, for its part, “helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”

Right now, none of these goals is particularly less important than the other. They all matter to the future of the web. But as Facebook seeks to outperform its rivals in the quest for advertising dollars, it needs better search. And with the new real-time search engine Facebook launched this week, that’s exactly what users got.

However, despite the big improvements that were released this week, Facebook still faces tremendous challenges as it seeks to make a dent in the search market. While Google’s search isn’t particularly social, it still dominates overall query volume and continues to print money for the Internet giant. Advertisers across a variety of categories generally see a solid ROI, and Google continues to invest heavily in search innovation, making it a relentless competitor. Microsoft, a Facebook investor who also has a bundling deal with Facebook to include Bing web results on Facebook search results Pages, is also investing heavily in research and recently struck a deal to take over Yahoo’s search infrastructure.

Twitter’s search tool has matured greatly, too. After Twitter’s acquistion (and integration) of Summize last year, users have learned to search the real-time stream in new ways. For example, people can search using hashtags, a symbol (#) Twitter users employ to categorize topics. They can also search for posts on products, and discover “negative” or “positive” tweets about them. Furthermore, Twitter’s robust ecosystem of applications enhance ways in which people can query the service.

With this tough competition, Facebook knows a big key to its future rests in search — which, before the update this week, has been a marginal part of the site. With the new search product, Facebook now offers something that Google can’t: The ability to search for what your friends have said on a certain topic or product. On the Facebook search results page, your friends’ status updates, videos, pictures and other pieces of rich content are shown when you search for big news items or a new movie.

This is a huge advantage for Facebook over its competitors in several search categories. Google can only return results that its algorithm has generated based on inferred link authority and content relevance. As for Twitter, while you can use applications (like TweetDeck) that allow you to wall off your friends from all the strangers and acquaintances you might follow, it needs to find ways to improve identity and filtering in order to show results from people you know and trust most.

In the future, helping users search for what their friends have said on monetizable topics like products will be attractive to marketers looking to serve up advertisements, though the model in which Facebook does it will need to be refined.  As we’ve also noted, Facebook could take some notes from Twitter and expand the capabilities of its real time search by letting developers access APIs and build added functionality on top of the site.

Conclusion

But Facebook still faces some challenges around search, an important technology area for the company’s future. At this point, the introduction of a new, helpful search tool will require some old-fashioned awareness building to let users to know it’s there and learn how to use it well. With any piece of technology people have used for a number of years, they become used to what it does well, and utilize it accordingly.

Facebook has always been a place to communicate with friends. By and large, it hasn’t been a place to actively search for what people are saying around products, much less the web in general. As we’ve seen with Facebook’s robust privacy settings, you can build the nicest tool in the world to help manage a key function, but it won’t matter if they don’t know it’s there or aren’t able to easily use it.

Ultimately, Facebook should stick to its strengths and not be too enticed by Twitter.  Although status update search is the strongest capability the new search service offers users, Facebook wants to expand the usefulness of its search tool beyond just friends by encouraging people to share with “everyone” more – a goal that’s clear if you look at upcoming changes to the site’s privacy settings. We’re not sure that’s why most people come to Facebook – at least just yet.

What Will Facebook Connect Mean for Online Advertising?

facebook-and-washington-post Connect

As sites continue to utilize Facebook Connect to drive viral traffic and increase registration rates, many might wonder: How will Connect generate revenues for Facebook itself?

For now, it doesn’t.

However, Facebook remains committed to growing the platform to allow publishers to more easily connect with its 250 million+ users. Facebook has enabled thousands of sites to add Facebook Connect for free, and the content people share on those sites is streamed into the Facebook News Feed, where friends can comment on it, or open it to visit the partner site.

The results have been staggering for many of Connect’s early partners so far. Take these examples from the Facebook Connect Page:

  • Since implementing Facebook Connect, CitySearch, a user-generated site for reviewing restaurants and other local establishments, saw its daily registrations triple. A whopping 94 percent of users who write reviews choose to share those with their friends on Facebook, and 70 percent of those reviews who see it click on it.
  • Since adding Connect, the Huffington Post says more than one-third of its new comment sign-ups come from Facebook.
  • Joost, the online video site, says its users who connect using Facebook watch 30 percent more videos than ones that don’t. On average, they commented on videos 15 percent more of the time than non Connect users. “What’s more,” the site wrote, “Joost Facebook Connect users have invited 38% more friends than Joost users who have not participated, suggesting that Facebook’s audience may be an especially rich source of Joost.com user growth.”

The examples show how Connect increases traffic, engagement and user retention on these third-party sites, but what’s in it for Facebook?

First, Facebook receives increased traffic to its site, where it can serve up relevant advertising to users. Furthermore, however, as users utilize Connect across multiple sites, Facebook becomes the place where people manage their identity on the Web, and the platform over which many websites get a large chunk of their traffic.

But it’s hard not to wonder if Facebook might not want Connect to play a larger role in the growth of its advertising revenues in the future. Earlier this year, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said he expected to see “70 percent growth in revenue year over year” in 2009 and that Facebook will be “cash flow positive in 2010.” Entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, who sits on Facebook’s board of directors, said Facebook will see $500 million in revenues in 2009.

As Facebook sends millions of page views to third-party sites, would it be reasonable to ask those sites to serve ads from a Facebook ad network that combines the power of profile targeting found in Facebook Ads with contextual targeting offered by many traditional web ad networks?

And as the third-party sites seek to have as much content as possible pumped into users’ News Feeds — could Facebook ask for compensation based on the amount of posts published into the feed, or give more prominence to feed items from advertisers?

Either of these strategies certainly seem feasible.

Facebook could also eventually want more information from third-party sites, especially as it relates to search.  If Facebook could have access to this data, it could help them serve up more relevant advertising on Facebook to those users.

All of these scenarios remain “what ifs” at best. In the winter, Facebook said it “does not have access to information or activities that occur on the third party site, but Facebook is generally aware that a Connect user is interacting with one of the partner sites, and it does reserve the right to examine the information about those sites that pass through Facebook itself.”

Conclusion

Facebook Connect offers many opportunities for additional advertising-related revenue streams for Facebook, many of which leverage Facebook’s proprietary data. Facebook Connect could allow Facebook to build the groundwork to become increasingly competitive with contextual ad networks in the next 2-3 years.

MySpace’s Inflection Point

myspace-logoAs Facebook becomes the most popular social network worldwide, MySpace, once deemed as its main competitor, must now undergo a rigorous effort to reinvent itself and hit a more focused audience. That seemed to be the thought of News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch, who, during a meeting of technology and media executives this week in Sun Valley, Idaho, said he thinks MySpace needs to be refocused “as an entertainment portal.”

It’s hard to imagine the media mogul is satisfied with his purchase of the social site. In recent months, it’s clear News Corp has hit a critical inflection point as it concerns MySpace’s future. Since it bought the site for $580 million exactly four years ago (July 2005), key metrics have recently held flat or fallen, as Facebook has continued to garner more user interest and media attention.

This week, we were reminded of the gravity of MySpace’s decline. According to Comscore numbers, MySpace seems to be falling in key areas.

  1. In May, Facebook caught up to MySpace’s unique visitor count. In June, it surpassed MySpace greatly; Facebook claimed 77 million unique visitors, while MySpace had around 70 million.
  2. Page views, one of the important metrics where MySpace still outpaces Facebook, dropped by 10 percent in June from the previous month, to 32 billion. Facebook now sits at 21 billion, increasing 12 percent in May.
  3. And worse, people are leaving. MySpace lost almost four million unique visitors in June, a huge jump from the 700,000 unique visitors it lost in May.

Internally, it’s also been a tough time for MySpace. In June, News Corp cut 30 percent of MySpace’s staff, and MySpace’s longtime founder and CEO Chris Delwolfe exited amidst a larger executive shakeup spearheaded by new CEO (and former Facebook CRO) Owen Van Natta and News Corp Digital Media CEO Jonathan Miller.

But MySpace can still carve out a good spot for itself as a social site where people connect around common interests, namely music and other arts. Nevertheless, MySpace’s traditional point of differentiation over Facebook – it allows for extreme user freedom and customization – has also been a burden to growth beyond a certain point.

First, in terms of identity. While the vast majority of personal accounts on Facebook are authentic and geared toward personal communication, many MySpace accounts are more oriented around marketing or promotion of some kind. This changes the way people can use the site significantly.

Second, in terms of design. MySpace users are given much leeway in how they design their pages, and they are often loud in their design as a result. Some users enjoy that freedom. Facebook, on the other hand, has gone down a more Apple-like, simplistic design. While it allows for customization via application boxes and tabs, ultimately, you can’t alter the design of a Facebook profile or home page as drastically. Because MySpace sports an open-canvas design, a typical band page (for example) has music, video and other pieces of rich content flowing all over the place; it’s not restrained to a tab like that of a Facebook Public Profile. The backgrounds are not just blue and white; they’re dark, light, and everything in between.

This is not necessarily good for efficient communication, however, and that could explain MySpace’s decline. Many don’t want to take that much time to maintain such rich profiles and home pages, and they prefer the more sleek design of Facebook and other social networks to manage their personal data and streams because it requires less time. Consequently, MySpace will become less of a site to connect with friends and more a site to follow groups (namely music).

Conclusion

For MySpace to survive, it must move more with Facebook rather than against it. Eventually, it should abandon the notion that people want to build robust profiles on MySpace and connect with their closest friends there. Instead, they should harness more niche communities that form around music, film, literature and the arts in general. This will mean a modest profile presence for users (perhaps even letting users easily link to their Facebook profile and others), and focusing the activity stream on events and discussions around shared interests. Such a model should continue to be a good fit for many types of advertisers, especially those promoting national and local events.

Why Facebook Is Changing Online Video, Television

Before the internet, the only way to make television social was by inviting friends over to watch your favorite show, the Superbowl, a movie, or other major events. But as the use of online video has grown at a staggering rate, websites are increasingly able to let people around the world interact with friends using social technologies like Facebook Connect.

The opportunities to make online video experiences more social are huge. Nielsen estimates that the amount of total online video streams grew by 41 percent in the last year alone.

The early use cases of video sites implementing Connect have illuminated the power of the platform for this purpose:
  1. During the inauguration of President Barack Obama, CNN ran Facebook’s “live stream” widget inside its website. As viewers watched the president’s speech, they could log-in using their Facebook ID and update their Facebook status messages. These messages appeared next to the video running on CNN.com. More than two million people updated their status.
  2. During the NBA All-Star game, TNT implemented a similar Facebook Connect integration so viewers could watch the game and make comments as it progressed.
  3. Within Facebook, celebrities and companies have utilized Facebook Connect to make online video more social. In May, the popular teenybopper band Jonas Brothers created a tab in their Public Profile that allowed users to experience their new single and comment on it. The band obliged their fans by engaging in the conversation themselves.
  4. michael-jackson-facebookOn Tuesday, CNN will broadcast the memorial for Michael Jackson and allow people to update their Facebook status message.
  5. Video sites like YouTube, Joost and Hulu have made it possible for people to share video using their Facebook identity.

Facebook’s “live stream” widget has two tabs: One that shows status updates from everyone watching, and the other shows the status update of your friends. The second is the most immediately useful.

The fact you can watch an event like the president’s inauguration from your living room in San Francisco and hear what your friend in Boston has to say about it has immediate value for everyone – and is an especially effective way to increase engagement for publishers. But the interface could be customized even more, using Friend Lists. If, for instance, 150 of your friends were watching a World Series game or the season finale of Lost, you might want a tab to interact with your five closest friends and nobody else.

While the “Everyone watching” view makes it easy to discover what people around the world are saying about a particular event or program, it can be a bit noisy.

The implementations we’ve seen within Facebook to date, such as the Jonas Brothers, have been very effective at bringing traffic and attention back to Facebook Pages. If users visit the Page to chat, there is a good chance they will engage with other bits of content. However, bands shouldn’t feel constrained to keep everything within the borders of Facebook. They should run the video on sites all over the Web (like the inauguration and All-Star game examples), and stream updates back to the public profile.

Conclusion

All these use cases have been an admirable start in marrying online video with Facebook Connect. It will only be a matter of time before more customization options become available. The sharing of status messages during these events seems like just the beginning too. If online video sites could make use of other pieces of Facebook content, such as pictures, that could be very interesting. You could share pictures of your Superbowl party with your friends half way across the world, and that is very powerful.

All in all, Facebook Connect is starting to make a big impact in the way online video is watched and shared.

Analysis: Facebook’s New Privacy Settings a Major (and Risky) Step Toward Openness

fblogosmallThe upcoming changes to Facebook’s privacy settings will allow users to control who they share information with every time they post a piece of content to the site. While Facebook executives noted they want to “simplify” the process in which users share content with specific friends, the new settings are most likely aimed at making the site more public in nature.

In our detailed guide to managing your privacy on Facebook, you can see how the controls currently operate today. In general, you can best control the content people see by utilizing Friend Lists and the “customize” feature in the privacy console, which users access by choosing “privacy settings” in the upper right corner of the homepage.

For example, if you created a Friend List comprised of work colleagues, you could prevent that entire group from seeing your Status Messages. By clicking on “customize” under the status messages category on the privacy settings page, you can give all your friends access to your status messages, except certain friends or a friend list you choose.

Are the controls complicated today? It depends on who you ask. Media reports (and now Facebook) like to call the current controls “complex,” but they’re really not if you spend a few minutes using them. The issue really might be a lack of awareness of their existence. According to the New York Times, less than a quarter of Facebook users regularly change them.

The current settings do have a cumbersome flaw, however. Say, for instance, that the majority of the time you don’t want to share status messages with your work friends, but that occasionally you have one you’d like them to see. To do so, you would have to revisit the privacy console page to give them access. Presuming you’d want to revert back to blocking their access again after that particular post, you would have to visit the privacy console page yet again.

Under the new privacy controls, you can make a decision with whom you share each individual post, without the need to revisit the privacy settings page. Now, you will be able to select whether you share it with everyone, friends of friends, just friends, or “custom” (specific friends or groups of friends you choose). This is a big step toward greater openness, and, if implemented properly, it delivers on Facebook’s promise to simplify the process.

But the new privacy controls also seem to reveal Facebook’s desire to more aggressively compete with completely open services like Twitter. Specifically, the “everyone” feature will make more posts available for anyone on the Web to see. While executives said such posts won’t be indexable by search engines yet, we expect that they will be soon.

Conclusion

The ability for users to share with “everyone” will be one of the most significant changes Facebook has ever undergone as a site — and it’s a risk. Since Facebook’s inception, many users have enjoyed the ability to share with their friends and networks rather than the whole public web in general.  It seems unlikely to us that attitude will change overnight.

Furthermore, how Facebook sets the default for these new settings will matter a great deal. An “everyone” default will surely lead to people sharing information unknowingly. It will lead to user backlash that could be more widespread than the site changes of past that, for all the noise, only drew the attention of a small minority — mainly media, privacy organizations and industry followers. On Twitter, the presumption is that information will be public. On Facebook, people assume they are sharing between friends. Changing that paradigm too suddenly or without very clear user education and explanation could have massive repercussions for Facebook’s future.

Facebook Lobbies Washington on Privacy

uscapitolAs Facebook works out the ideal privacy model for the site, the topic became the center of conversation in Washington D.C. this past week. Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, testified before congress about the social network’s privacy policies. Meanwhile, the Washington Post profiled the lobbying efforts of Timothy Sparapani, former senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who joined Facebook as its director of public policy back in March.

Privacy and the management of user data has begun to catch the attention of lawmakers. Facebook, Google and other companies in Silicon Valley have begun revving up their lobbying efforts to ensure that any future privacy laws don’t impede upon their business models, which rely heavily on advertising.

The addition of both Sparapani and Kelly to Facebook’s staff was welcomed by members of the privacy community, who have often been critical of Facebook. Most recently, Facebook experienced a backlash from users when it revised its terms of service. Many perceived the change to imply that Facebook would hold onto users’ data even after they cancel their memberships. Facebook reverted to its original terms of service, claiming users own their data, and later had a user vote to reflect what the new terms of service should be.

During his testimony, Kelly highlighted the terms of service incident and how the company responded in a way that would not only be fair to users, but that would also mirror the reality of Facebook’s business model. Facebook does not reveal the identity of users to advertisers — just basic information (such as keywords) that allows Facebook to service up relevant ads.

“In offering its free service to users,” Kelly told congress, “Facebook is dedicated to developing advertising that is relevant and personal without invading users’ privacy, and to giving users more control over how their personal information is used in the online advertising environment.”

Kelly also said that Facebook was “inartful” in the way it introduced Beacon – which quickly became a major PR incident for the company. With Beacon, users’ buying actions were broadcasted to friends without their clear consent. The feature sparked controversy and drew the ire of MoveOn.org, the political advocacy group.

“We learned many lessons about the importance of user education and extensive control from the imperfect introduction of our Beacon product in 2007,” Kelly said. “As a result, Facebook continues to be dedicated to empowering consumers to control their information in both the noncommercial and the commercial context because we believe that should be the future of advertising.”

Kelly’s role in the privacy lobbying will become less significant this fall, as he runs for California Attorney General. As he campaigns, Sparapani will move to the front and center of Facebook’s lobbying efforts to help shape future legislation concerning online privacy. As the Post story detailed, Sparapani brings a high level of credibility to how seriously Facebook takes privacy: When he worked for the ACLU, he championed privacy rights on key issues. He opposed “racial profiling in airport security lines and pushed for stricter rules for how patient information should be used in electronic medical records.”

With privacy, the stakes for Facebook are high. The company has built robust privacy settings that allow users to control what friends can see certain pieces of critical information on their Facebook profiles. From a business perspective, Facebook will thrive if people feel comfortable to share information that advertisers can target their advertising against.

Some reports suggest Facebook users, on a wide scale, care about privacy very deeply, but the terms of service incident and Beacon only caught a minority (albeit a loud one) of the Facebook populace.

Conclusion

Facebook should lobby congress as much as it can to influence the legislation. Try as they may, many congressional members do not understand the complexities of legal issues facing the Web (Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ remarks on Net Neutrality still ring fresh in memory). While privacy matters, advertisements will sustain Facebook’s growth. Facebook, and any laws that congress may pass, must balance that reality.

Montana City Asks Job Candidates for Facebook Usernames, Passwords

jobapplicationThere have been ample stories about employers scanning Facebook to find unflattering pictures and content of potential hires. Well, if you find that to be an unnecessary invasion of privacy, you might be appalled if you applied for a job in the City of Bozeman, Montana.

According to a report by ABC News, Bozeman asks you for your Facebook user name and password (or any social network you might belong to for that matter). Here is the precise wording, as listed in the city’s hiring document:

“Please list any and all, current personal or business web sites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.”

Apparently, the policy has existed for nearly three years. It didn’t surface until last week, when a citizen who contacted WBZK TV in Bozeman called the station to complain how the policy clearly violated people’s privacy. Such a policy not only represents a serious ethical breach of privacy; it also violates Facebook’s Terms of Service.

After the station ran a story, the city received several calls and e-mails, both locally and across the country, expressing outrage against the policy. The city reversed the policy on Friday, saying:

“The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman”

Conclusion

The city commissioners in Bozeman were right to overturn this policy. Leaving it in place would set a dangerous precedent. Religion, political affiliations and sexual orientation come to mind as pieces of information on Facebook profiles that an employer has no business knowing about employees. We doubt we’ll see many more cases like this incident. While people want jobs (especially these days), they also don’t want to work for organizations who would violate their privacy in such a personal way.

The Washington Post Adds Facebook Connect

facebook-and-washington-post ConnectIn an effort to boost registrations and attract new readers, The Washington Post has implemented Facebook Connect on its website. By clicking on the blue “Connect with Facebook” badge on the Post’s sign-in page, users can log onto the site with their Facebook ID to peruse the paper’s content and share articles they read with friends.

The Washington Post, which has won 47 Pulitzer prices, is the most prestigious newspaper (and perhaps the most decorated news organization in general) to embrace Connect thus far. Connect could help the paper’s online efforts, which, like most of its competitors, have struggled. In the first quarter, the Washington Post Company said its online revenue totaled $22 million, a decrease of eight percent from the same time last year.

Online revenues similarly dropped across the industry in the final three quarters of 2008, the 2009 State of the News Media report revealed. “Of the $38 billion in advertising that the industry was estimated to have drawn in 2008, only $3 billion came from online,” the report added.

A big problem rests in newspapers’ inability to identify their audiences online, which prevents them from serving up relevant advertisements. Currently, newspaper websites create high barriers to entry for registration. Basic information (often coveted by marketers) such as date of birth and geographic location can be hard to obtain amidst people’s busy days. By adding Connect, newspapers could garner this important information quickly and with little user effort.

In addition, the comments left for articles on the newspaper sites could sport people’s real names and faces, as imported from Facebook, rather than faceless usernames with a bunch of random characters. With Connect, the action could be published on their Facebook News Feeds, increasing the chance their Facebook friends will click through to the newspaper’s website and read the article.

For now, the Post’s Connect implementation allows you to log in with your Facebook ID and share a story you read with your Facebook friends. The Post still relies on its previous commenting system for stories, however, a problem they will hopefully rectify soon.

Another issue: For me, connecting with my Facebook ID didn’t automatically import my data into my Washington Post profile. This should be a high priority for the Post if they want to leverage Facebook user data to help monetize the website. In a statement announcing the integration, the company sounds open to expanding the use of Connect on the site.

“Our long-term strategy is to move towards creating an increasingly personalized experience for our users, allowing them to carry their social network onto our site,” Goli Sheikholeslami, General Manager & Vice President of Washington Post Digital, said.

Another important benefit for newspapers could be attracting new readers. While Facebook touts people over 30 as its fastest growing age demographic, it remains a bastion for younger consumers of content, a group that hasn’t made newspapers part of its daily content diet. According to the State of the News Media report, only 31 percent of people aged 18-24 “picked up a newspaper yesterday.”

With Connect, hopefully readers of all ages will share articles, videos, and slideshows one-by-one. It might not save all newspapers and their websites, but it’s worth a try.

Six Months In: 10 of the Most Interesting Cases of Facebook Connect in Action

One of the most ambitious products since Facebook was established, Facebook Connect has pervaded the Web faster and more significantly than most ever thought it would. Since Connect became publicly available six months ago, companies from all industries have used the technology to reach their customers in a more personal way. Using Connect, people playing a game, watching a show, or reading an article can interact with their friends, family and colleagues in real-time. In short, it has started to make most major forms of media more social.

The most recent Connect partner was YouTube. It represented another landmark win for Connect, as two of the most popular social sites of the decade made it easy for their users to engage with content and share it with their friends. In fact, to date, more than 10,000 sites have implemented Connect.

10 of the most interesting cases of Facebook Connect in action, in our view, six months in:

  1. Back in January, during the inauguration of President Barack Obama, CNN utilized Facebook Connect so viewers could update their Facebook status to describe their thoughts and feelings to one another during the event. The results? More than 1,000,000 people updated their status through the site, an average of 4,000 updates every minute.
  2. Joost, a video site, embraced Connect back in December. By February, the company noted that Connect users consumed 30 percent more video than non-Connect users.
  3. Gawker, the popular blogging network, was one of the first media companies to embrace Connect. According to Dave Morin, a senior platform manager at Facebook, the company saw its login (registration) conversion increase by 40 percent.
  4. Other popular news and tech sites, including CNET and TechCrunch, also embraced Connect. As a result, whenever you comment on a story on one of those sites (while logged into Facebook), that information is published into Facebook.
  5. An iPhone user who walks by a restaurant can utilize an app called Urbanspoon to read reviews. Using Connect, he can read a review from a person he trusts more than any professional reviewer: His friends.
  6. During the season finale of the Real Housewives of New York City, fans of the show could log onto Bravo.com and comment on the show using their Facebook ID. According to Facebook, traffic on the site increased 34 percent in unique visitors and 78 percent in page views, versus the prior four-week time frame.
  7. Using Connect on of the mapmyfitness websites, Facebook users can share their favorite run, hike or bike ride with their Facebook friends.
  8. Retail websites, such as bagmaker Jansport and shoemaker Vans, allow you to share products with friends and invite them to comment.
  9. Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced Facebook Connect for Xbox. Once launched, Connect will allow Xbox players to publish the actions they take in their games to their Facebook News Feed, in the form of screenshots and replays. Microsoft’s competitor, Nintendo, launched a similiar product.
  10. In perhaps one of the most innovative moves to date, Prototype, a new video game, customized its trailer promoting the title by embedding bits of your Facebook profile into it.

The examples go on from there, but we believe the world has only begun to scratch the surface of Connect. There remain many industries that could further benefit from the technology. Most urgently, traditional media companies, particularly newspapers, should embrace Connect more rapidly. They continue to have difficulty retaining and monetizing their audiences online; adding social interactions for their readers through Connect would help. Television should continue in its efforts to make their programs more social by using Connect. CNN, as we noted, has been off to a good start.

Connect would also benefit from more outreach to normal Facebook users. While the technology might seem simple and straightforward within tech circles in Silicon Valley (and the media, analysts and businesses that follow Facebook), millions of Facebook users likely haven’t the slightest idea a technology such as Connect exists. Connect adds authenticity to our interactions on the Web, and we hope to see even more interesting cases in the next six months.

Facebook Recognizes Starbucks, H&M, and Vitamin Water for Innovative Pages

Facebook Marketing Bible

If a company has ever wondered what makes a good Facebook Public Profile, they might have a new measure: The Facebook Blue Ribbon Award. Judged by Facebook’s marketing solutions group, the award is given to companies whose Facebook Pages have not only attracted a large amount of “Fans,” but have facilitated deep engagement with the profile’s main features.

The inaugural blue ribbons were awarded to the Pages of H&M, Starbucks and Vitamin Water. According to a note posted by Facebook, the marketing solutions group “looked at the most popular pages by fan count and then looked at interactions of the fans with the Page ratio (defined as comments, likes).” The awards will be issued monthly.

The three winners had some common characteristics. While many company profiles tend to serve as a way to redirect users to their home websites, the Blue Ribbon winners seemed comfortable having users spend time on Facebook. Each company uploaded original video and photos that live on Facebook. H&M showed photos for its summer line of clothing, while Starbucks uploaded videos that detailed some of its charity efforts in Africa.

hm_facebook_pages

Vitamin Water has always had pretty witty marketing efforts (just read the side of one of their bottles). Their Facebook page was no exception. One video focused on their actual product very little. Instead, it featured many of the athletes they sponsor, including Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and David Ortiz, who told the camera what music they like to listen to before or after a game. The video doesn’t have the polished look of a TV ad (and it’s also quite a bit longer). But that’s what makes it effective; it fits a more informal, social medium.

All the sites received lots of comments from fans. Rather than merely link to its corporate website, Starbucks posted content from the Serious Eats blog, which has been running a series on roasting coffee and Starbucks’ Coffee College. The posts received hundreds of comments.

Conclusion

We were impressed by the three award winners’ Pages. Moreover, the existence of this award will enable companies to learn from each other as they try to improve their Facebook marketing efforts and innovate on top of their Pages. Many Facebook users are eager to become fans of their favorite products, but finding the proper content to serve up to them isn’t always easy. This should help companies in their efforts.

Learn more about building your brand and growing your audience with our comprehensive guide to marketing on Facebook. The Facebook Marketing Bible is available at FacebookMarketingBible.com

Get the latest news in your inbox
interested in advertising with inside facebook?

Social Media Jobs
of the Day

Social Media Strategist

A Luxury Real Estate Developer
New York, NY

Newswire Editor

PR.com
New York City / Long Island, NY

Senior Social Media Brand Manager-Los Angeles Area

Brigade Marketing
Los Angeles, CA

Featured Company

Join leading companies like this one and recruit from the nation's top media job seekers on the Mediabistro Job Board. Every job post comes with our satisfaction guarantee. Learn More
 

Our Sponsors

Mediabistro A division of Prometheus Global Media home | site map | advertising/sponsorships | careers | contact us | help courses | browse jobs | freelancers | content | member benefits | reprints & permissions terms of use | privacy policy Copyright © 2014 Mediabistro Inc. call (212) 389-2000 or email us