Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Facebook Quietly Rebranding

Over the last couple of months, Facebook has been working towards putting more news into your newsfeed. That isn't a breaking news story, but it is a very smart thing for Facebook to be doing. Tweaking what you see as all those stories flow by makes a big impact on what marketers, PR folks, and advertisers are doing on the Book of Face.

More than tweaking its algorithm, Facebook is quietly launching, what is in my opinion, a rebranding campaign. For a very long time, Mark Zuckerberg's creation has subsisted on what you and your friends are doing (and that will remain an integral part of Facebook's success).  I've noticed two things lately that make me draw the rebranding conclusion. The first has been well documented all across the web. Facebook is taking a page out of Twitter's book and introducing trending topics.

I received this feature over the weekend, and for once I think Facebook is beating Twitter at its own game. For a very long time, I've wished Twitter would do with its trending topics what you see here with Facebook's (this was pulled from my page on Monday, Jan. 27th). A short description of WHY the topic is trending makes this column infinitely more useful than just a list of topics. It gives context to what's going on so I can instantly figure out what I need, or want, to pay attention to.

That's huge if Facebook wants to play the social news game. When a big story breaks, it is often trending on Twitter within minutes; and that's where most people go to discuss breaking news. Facebook is encouraging people to do that in their newsfeed now. It's a very good idea to get people to stay on the most valuable real estate Facebook has to offer. There's another, smaller, thing I noticed that leads me to my belief about Facebook's rebranding effort. I noticed this while I was playing Candy Crush Monday night (yes. I play Candy Crush. Judge if you must.)

See what it says there at the top? "Get Important News". Now, while I might quibble with categorizing any of these (save for Womens Wellness Publishing) under "important news", Facebook isn't saying "like these pages that your friends do". It's encouraging me to get NEWS. To me, that represents a fundamental shift in how Facebook is approaching the information it presents to its users daily.

With investors to report to four times a year, and millions of owners to turn a profit for, Facebook can no longer rely on static ads. That's why you've seen the push towards paid content rather than organic reach for brands. If Facebook views itself along the lines of The New York Times or your local TV station, then why wouldn't it be pushing the people who advertise on it to pay for access to its "viewers"?

One could argue that this is even more than a simple rebranding. One could argue this is a business model shift. Will it pan out? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm willing to bet that those Princeton students are wrong, though.

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