Applications in Timeline: Critical Opportunity for Brands on Facebook

Many of the new updates released last week and as part of f8, including Timeline, News Ticker, and the new Open Graph functionality available for applications, do a fantastic job of working in conjunction to overturn pockets within Facebook that do not optimize social connectivity for users. By leveraging the new updates with technical advancements, brands have a unique opportunity to harness engagement with their most loyal constituents within their users’ base portal: the Timeline.

Meeting Users in Their Timeline

Marketers have a three-fold opportunity to provide a significantly enhanced social experience to reach their users in engagements not previously possible. The first issue that Facebook addressed is that users do not want to share their regular interaction with an online or application activity since the information is sent as a status message and is irrelevant to the majority of their network. The term “spamming friends” has become a casual saying when referring to a user’s disapproval of Facebook’s widespread sharing of personal status updates. One of the latest releases at f8, Ticker,  allows for the sharing through these apps to be shared in a secondary format than simply sharing to the News Feed.

Second, Reports allows for aggregated insights that are more helpful and insightful to the user. By showcasing an eagle’s eye view of activity, applications can coalesce data to tell a story or segment of a user’s lifestyle within the Timeline.

Finally (and most importantly), Timeline opens up a new area for users to add developer-made apps to “express themselves” within the “About Me” section of the new design.  While Facebook released a brand new design that features applications at the top of the Timeline, it did not release new applications to fill them. Instead, they presented the changes first to developers in order to allow third parties to create the social applications to fill this new feature and allow users to customize their experience. Facebook accurately attributes its success to many applications that were created through their open API, and they will continue to rely on third parties to craft experiences for Facebook users.

How Brands Need Respond

Facebook has created a void where Timeline applications are needed to allow a user to demonstrate their personality on their Timeline.  In response, brands need to create apps to allow the user to showcase their engagement with the brand activities on an aggregated level in a social-sharing environment. Similar to concepts such as RunKeeper, a mobile application that “makes tracking your workouts fun, social, and easy to understand so that you can improve the quality of your fitness,” users can create experiences within an inherently social experience in Facebook.

Example Applications: Open Graph

The modified open graph expands the Like button to capture a larger scale of social actions by adding an Action + Object combination. In this sample, the following action and object pairs are identified for a theoretical loyalty program Timeline application:

  • Action: Enter <-> Object: Code
  • Action Get <-> Object: Reward
These Action + Object gesture combinations allow the user to showcase their daily interaction with the loyalty program. Timeline then aggregates and displays the individual stories to tell a larger story as:
  • (Total) Codes Entered (displayed as a number summing the total of all entries over time)
  • Favorite Rewards Gallery (in which users can track their action one-by-one and rank their cumulative preferences over time, including a visual tracking component)

Here are more samples of engagement opportunities for digital actions in the Open Graph for a retail eCommerce platform and a digital movie rental program:

By allowing for excellent opportunities for social sharing on applications, applications can harness engagement within their power users’ profile page via the new Timeline. For brands that have a digital experience, applications could potentially become a more significant driver of engagement than some Facebook pages themselves.

To learn more about Facebook’s new Open Graph API, building applications in Facebook and the new Timeline, view these recommended archived video from Facebook’s f8 conference on September 22, 2011:

5 thoughts on “Applications in Timeline: Critical Opportunity for Brands on Facebook

  1. Given how big Facebook already is, it’s pretty satisfying to see how quickly a big company that needs to support nearly a billion users can continue to innovate and release new features. Many smaller companies can stop on a dime and create new features this rapidly.

    People who are complaining about Facebook’s privacy issues every time they release new features I think are really missing the boat here: all of Facebook’s features are designed to gather more data from people and encourage people to spend more time on Facebook (where they see more ads). It’s not in Facebook’s interest to violate users privacy and give this data away to other companies. This is a boon for advertisers and Facebook is really becoming indispensable to most businesses. You’ve already got tons of companies at for example that do nothing but promote Facebook pages. You’ve already got big brands putting Facebook logos on their TV commercials. I think there are huge branding opportunities with Apps especially as Facebook gets more and more ingrained in society and it rapidly becomes the internet for people.

    Once Facebook tackles search (it’s inevitable with how much data they collect) and perhaps tackles commerce (Facebook is just scratching the surface with how much commercial activity could potentially happen right on there) they legitimately have a shot of not only overtaking Apple, but becoming a trillion dollar company. Zuckerberg is often criticized, but he’s created a huge business here and should be commended for how well it is being run right now.

    • Great ideas. I agree that the nimbleness of the company is remarkable.

      “All of Facebook’s features are designed to gather more data from people and encourage people to spend more time on Facebook (where they see more ads).” >> This is true. And, gather data they will. Once “send to Timeline” is enabled in app activity, I even expect my own activity to increase significantly.

      I too see the potential in apps – if only because it best bridges the social/mobile divide. I’m surprised overall that Facebook’s mobile application has not better satisfied this need, but perhaps we will see some changes for that next week.

      Do you think that they can tackle search? I was browsing celebrity photos earlier this evening (guilty pleasure) and inadvertently browsed Picasa albums instead of Google Images. The results were awkward to view and simply didn’t have the volume I needed. I don’t know how Facebook will tackle search as they are still limited to containing content within the domain, but it’s definitely a terrain to watch in the future.

      Really appreciate your feedback. Where is the best place for me to follow your material in the future?

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