Facebook's move to give developers more access to users' content with a new API creates opportunities for brands, according to some senior ad execs. However they say the burden will be on marketers to create experiences people want to spend time with.
"Ultimately, this provides brand marketers and media companies many more tools to build engaging experiences for users," Michael Lazerow, CEO of branded app developer Buddy Media, said in a statement.
Another app developer exec, LivingSocial.com CEO Tim O'Shaugnessy, echoed that sentiment but added this caveat for advertisers: "You need to create a compelling experience."
He said, "If you can create an experience that people want to use, and you can get the user to say, 'Yes you can go and access the contents of my stream,' then advertisers can use Open Stream to reach potential customers."
Of course Facebook has been open to developers like LivingSocial and Buddy Media, for some time. These firms have used the company's existing APIs to build branded and ad-supported applications on Facebook. With the new API, called Open Stream, the social media giant is letting third parties provide its users with access to their feed information without having to log in. They can also control, aggregate and organize how that information is delivered.
"With the Facebook Open Stream API users will be able to use applications to read and interact with their stream," a Facebook executive wrote on the site's developer blog. "As a Facebook developer you'll also be able to access the posts you've published into the stream and display them in your application, whether it's on a mobile device, Web site or desktop."
The shift puts considerable power in the hands of developers to change how users experience Facebook, which recently hit the 200 million member mark. Developers hailed the move as an opportunity to connect with Facebook users on their own turf -- and for Facebook to steal back some thunder from Twitter, which has achieved impressive reach by letting its users access updates through third-party sites.
Indeed, the first developers expected to take advantage of the open stream are the handful that have thus far been dedicated to delivering Twitter feeds, such as Tweetdeck and TwitterFeed.
"People are already using these tools to check status updates of people on Twitter," Chad Stoller, executive director of emerging platforms strategy at digital agency Organic, said. "Now they can do this with Facebook."
Stoller characterized the move as further proof that status messaging had become a legitimate communication platform, and that Facebook needed to work at it if they hoped to remain the largest player in the space. "Facebook needs to keep up with Twitter, whether or not Twitter is a legitimate threat to Facebook," he said.
Tinker.com, an ad-supported Twitter aggregator launched by Glam Media earlier this month, became one of the first to announce it would add a Facebook stream to its site.
Ryan Roslansky, SVP of products and programming at Glam, said the Facebook Open Stream API gave marketers a valuable chance to advertise safely against consumer-generated media.
"When used in a curated, contextual environment, OpenStream will give advertisers the ability to harness a large amount of valuable user-generated content in a brand safe environment," he said.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
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