Facebook update increases pressure on marketers

Recently Facebook unveiled a string of significant changes to its social media platform, affecting both users and marketers alike. There is no doubt that the new changes will have significant effects on the usability of the site and therefore marketers will have to reassess how they use the platform to engage with their target audience.

Marketers will now need to be more strategic in their marketing practices ensuring they provide a rich and valuable user experience to successfully integrate themselves into consumers social lives.

The changes mean that Facebook users no longer have to rely on the usability attribute “like” to comment and interact with a page. Whilst this may come as a blow to many marketers, who rely on this usability attribute to increase brand awareness on the platform, it will ultimately lower the barriers to engagement and we are likely to see higher levels of participation.

A timeline has also been unveiled, replacing users profiles with a timeline of events, however again “likes” will not be included in this – again reducing the importance of the “like” function. Furthermore users will now have greater control over their news feeds – determining what they want to see.

Thus, brands which may be deemed “boring” will have a lower visibility. Brands will need to strive harder to ensure they are providing valuable content to consumers to prevent them from being pushed off the news feed.

Facebook’s recent changes are an attempt to maintain customer loyalty and engagement in a space that is becoming increasingly competitive. However, the success of Facebook today is partly due to learnability – the process in which users become familiar with a site, feel it is easy to use, and so use it frequently.

Therefore any significant changes made to the platform are likely to be met by resistance from users. This has been made obvious by the creation of numerous protest groups on Facebook in which millions of members have teamed together to express their displeasure with the changes, demonstrating the importance of the process of learnability.

By drastically altering these usability attributes, Facebook runs the risk of losing valuable users, to whom the changes are aimed to benefit.

The same process will apply to marketers. Marketers will have to reassess how they communicate with their audience, and will have to work much harder to gain visibility in the desired “news feed position”. Whilst the new changes will at first provide many challenges to marketers as they struggle to come to grips with the changes and barriers imposed, it will also provide a host of opportunities.

Marketers will need to deploy new tactics to add value to the customer – integrating the brand socially into customers lives. Brands will have to be creative in how they engage users, moving away from old usability attributes such as “likes” and introducing new means of engagement such as gamification strategies.

The Facebook changes are still in a phase of implementations, however these are likely to significantly shape the usability and learnability for Facebook members and marketers alike. Whether these will be good for marketers and user in the long term, we will just have to wait and see.

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A successful young entrepreneur, Trenton started his business at the age of 25 in 2003 from his bedroom, looking at the usability of websites and working with clients to improve them. Now a web-user consultancy looking at usability as well as accessibility and employing 16-17 people, Trenton has led the business to success - experiencing a year-on-year growth of over 300 per cent since inception. Prior to founding Webcredible, Trenton studied commerce at the University of Birmingham.