It's been six months since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walked out onto the F8 Conference stage wearing a zipped-up hoodie, jeans, and sneakers and revealed how his company's open graph would dramatically change the digital space. Since then, the 25-year-old redhead with a Caesar-styled haircut has marched his social mapping scheme further and further into new territories - most notably geo-social, search, and display advertising.
For such a short period of time, it's hard to argue that Facebook's advances have been anything but impressive. Therefore, ClickZ has compiled the chain of events in chronological order so readers can step back and analyze the developments from a long view.
Because so much of Facebook's expansion has revolved around the "Like" button, we'll start a few weeks ahead of the actual open graph announcement.
Facebook Kills 'Fans' And Embraces 'Like'
March 29: ClickZ News was the first to report that Facebook was scaling back on the word "Fan" and ramping up usage of "Like" on brand pages. We received a confidential e-mail sent to ad agencies that the social site would change the "Become A Fan" button to read "Like" in the following weeks.
Facebook flipped the switch on April 20, causing Facebook.com marketers to wonder what it would mean to their initiatives. The next day provided some of their answers, while involving other pivotal consequences for the digital advertising world.
Zuckerberg 'Likes' Open Graph, Instant Personalization Controversy Begins
April 21: During its open graph announcement, Facebook revealed plans to dramatically increase its presence on the Web by syndicating its "Like" buttons to third-party sites. "When we launch later today, we expect we'll serve 1 billion 'Like' buttons on the web within 24 hours," Zuckerberg said at the time.
The "Like" button wasn't the only social plug-in the CEO announced, as the "Share" and "Recommend" buttons were made available to websites. Like Zuckerberg predicted, publishers - and some retailers - have painted their web pages with the buttons to increase engagement. Facebook says 2 million sites have deployed the plug-ins.
The most controversial aspect from this day came with Instant Personalization's debut. The program is a deeper integration of Facebook Connect, which had allowed websites to access publicly set data attached to Facebook user IDs since 2008. Instant Personalization lets such connectivity automatically occur when visitors go to Facebook-partnered sites that have implemented it. Those so far include Pandora, Yelp, Docs.com, Rotten Tomatoes, and Bing.
Three congressmen sent letters to Facebook about their constituents' privacy concerns after these moves, while Internet-based groups threatened to stop using the social site. And major consumer news media outlets like USA Today, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal began putting heat on Facebook over privacy.
Privacy Criticisms Lead to User Control Changes, Data Accessibility Throttled Down
May 26: There was one moment when Zuckerberg & Co. took a notable step back instead of leaping ahead. In response to the building privacy brouhaha, Facebook simplified its user privacy controls while acknowledging that its settings had been too complicated. In short, the social site made it easier for users to set all of their profile information and content they post to either "Everyone," "Friends of Friends," or "Just Friends."
The Palo Alto, CA-based company also reduced the amount of basic information that must be set to public to name and gender. Additionally, turning off applications like Instant Personalization became a one-or-two-click process - though the default for users remained opt-in.
For marketers leveraging Instant Personalization and Facebook Connect, the changes meant that the available consumer data from the social site would likely slow. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg said, "People really want to share more information, if they have controls over [it]. And I really think that's where the world is going."
Facebook Enters Geo-Social Terrain With 'Places'
Aug. 18: Facebook launched its geo-social platform, Places, thereby allowing its 150 million mobile users to check in when they arrive at bars, restaurants, and clothing shops. The marketing community had been hearing since the open graph announcement in April about this potentially game-changing development.
While many considered the move to be deadly for Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah, Loopt, Whrrl, Scvngr, etc., so far those location-based marketing players have not appeared to suffer. If anything, the number of users and marketing campaigns on their platforms has noticeably increased since Places launched. And, they've all integrated with Facebook's location-based APIs; so check-ins for brand campaigns get distributed through users' newsfeeds on the social site.
A Betsey Johnson location in California, novelties retailer Stylin Online, British singer James Blunt, and the University of Kentucky are among the known brands to run Facebook Places campaigns so far.
New 'Groups' Could Serve As CRM Channel
Oct. 6: The company rolled out a new "Groups" feature that lets brands create customer segments, which will entail people seeing posts or messages that other Facebook members do not. As one possible example, a customer group could serve as an offers/campaign distribution channel.
There are also market research possibilities, as businesses could treat the groups like focus groups. Additionally, the groups' live chat option allows a brand to possibly orchestrate customer service.
More than anything, the groups give marketers options in terms of moving brand-consumer exchanges away from their wall posts and into a more discussion-friendly channel.
Facebook-Bing Deal Changes Search Game
Oct. 13: When Facebook named Bing as its fifth Instant Personalization partner, it potentially added significant value to "likes" and check-ins originating on the social site as a result of the added search distribution. And the companies' expanded search partnership gives big brands and local businesses all the more reason to invest in increasing their Facebook presence.
Bing.com has started to display pictures and names of a searcher's Facebook friends who have either "liked" a business or checked in at one via Facebook Places. In short, it's bringing a similar Facebook imprint in terms of look and feel to Bing that has for months been seen on other Instant Personalization partner sites - Yelp, Microsoft's Docs.com, Pandora, and Rotten Tomatoes.
Search links for businesses with "Likers" and check-ins will also appear in Facebook's "Web Results" section below links for People, Pages, and Groups. Zuckerberg, on hand for the announcement at Microsoft's Redmond, WA-based headquarters, talked about how people react socially online similarly to offline. "Seeing friends' faces and names, we are hard-wired to have that influence us," he said.
The CEO is awarding Facebook.com advertisers who have been spending money with the primary purpose of increasing their "Likers" base. To be clear, the more "Likers" accrued by companies, the more Bing searches for their brand will appear with Facebook-driven social context.
And agencies have already predicted their clients will be spending more budget on Facebook.com ads and Bing search efforts because of the deal.
'Like' Buttons Introduced For Display Ads
Oct. 15: Only two days later, Facebook told ClickZ that Mountain Dew and JC Penney were preliminary test partners for including "Like" buttons in ad units running across display networks.
Shiv Singh, head of digital at PepsiCo, said that viewers who click the button will not be taken away from the publisher site they are visiting. Instead, they will be added to Mountain Dew's "Liker" base on Facebook, and carry on with their article reading and video watching.
At multiple points during the ClickZ interview, Singh said display brand advertising's future could be on the brink of changing for the better. Not only will advertisers get impressions and clickthroughs for their display ad spends, he said, but also new members to their brands' Facebook communities.
When viewers tap the "Like" buttons in the ads, Singh said, "They will be saying, 'We like the brand. We are open to a two-way conversation with the brand.' It's moving the relationship from being an impression to an experience. When display advertising lets us introduce that kind of relationship, it's immensely valuable."
While the Pepsi digital head said he couldn't go into specifics in terms of what networks are being utilized and how many sites the ads will run on, he discussed the breadth of the effort.
"It is a significant [run]. It's not a random little test," Singh said. "What I can tell you is that this is very important to Facebook, and it's very important to us. We both very much believe it will affect the future of display advertising. So you can imagine that for this to work from Facebook's standpoint…they are learning, too. They wanted to make sure that this would be on a scale big enough that there would be good learnings from it. The same is true for us."
Update: This story originally stated that 200 million sites had integrated social plug-ins; it has since been corrected to 2 million sites.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
March 19, 2014