By George Whitely, Stephan & Brady, www.stephanbrady.com
While the grumbling over Facebook's fickle attitude toward privacy settings has escalated into a roar within the social media community, its ever-changing platform indicates good things for B2B companies using the site for marketing purposes.
Facebook programmers are working to make the site more connected to the internet as a whole. The introduction of Open Graph earlier this year allows information to be shared on Facebook from thousands of websites.
The Open Graph protocol enables you to integrate your Web pages into the social graph. Once your pages become objects in the graph, users can establish connections to your pages as they do with Facebook Pages. Based on the structured data you provide via the Open Graph protocol, your pages show up richly across Facebook: in user profiles, within search results and in News Feed. – Facebook
The new Open Graph plug-ins allows you to add social tools to your website including a "Like" button, an activity feed, recommendations, a login button, comments and a live stream.
Adding these plug-ins makes the pages on your site a partial extension of Facebook itself. The "Like" button, for example, turns any of your pages into a Facebook Fan page, with users then sharing the link with their network on Facebook.
With the switch from declaring yourself a "fan" of a page to "liking" a page, the little thumbs-up sign has suddenly gained more power as a marketing tool. By declaring they "like" something, Facebook users share your information with all of their connections and allow them to leave comments. With the Open Graph model, a website can push information (such as special terms or other purchase incentive offers) directly into the newsfeed of everyone who has indicated that they "like" the brand, even without the user having to log into Facebook.
For the most part, these changes all provide a very valuable resource to marketer's user data:
For every user id, Facebook keeps a log of the IP address that accessed the account, the date and time, and what exactly the user did -- clicking on an advertisement, looking at someone else's profile, posting a photo or sending a message to a friend, etc. – The Washington Post
And there are a lot of users providing data. According to a July 23 article in The Washington Post, Facebook now boasts 500 million users. "This means that more people are on Facebook, which got its start a mere six years ago, than live in the United States, Canada and Mexico combined."
According to Andrew Nusca, a writer for tech and business site ZDNet.com, networks like Facebook will become even more important for the huge amount of data they index. "This is a data game, this is a war over data," Nusca said. "That Facebook knows what you like or don't like… That's why they changed those pages, because they can look it up. They're tags."
As Facebook continues to make changes to its platform (let's face it, we know they will), it will be important to stay on top of what these changes mean for B2B marketers.