Big changes are brewing with Facebook as today many subtle changes were rolled out across the popular social network. Becoming a fan has given way to simply “Like”. This is an interesting trend and one that has longer reach than initial appearance.
Fans converted to “Like” so if a user was a fan of a brand or product that did not change. The addition of “Like” is an attempt by Facebook to expand beyond it’s platform and influence more of our behavior beyond the Facebook domain. Instead of becoming a fan of a page it is less of a commitment to simply like a page or brand and show a higher level affinity.
History has shown first with Friendster then MySpace that viability as a destination is short lived and users can be a very fickle bunch. Facebook is now focused on becoming the platform that business relies upon as well as expanding the Facebook experience first by incorporating your web history with ads it serves you but also to drive push the “Like” concept across the web via a toolbar.
Facebook Connect was a first step in the plan that furthered the reach by allowing 3rd party integration and additional dependency on Facebook. With 400 million users as a marketer why wouldn’t I want to drive interaction through this channel. The next step in the process was to launch a toolbar that focuses on distributing “Like” so that any interaction that you have outside of Facebook can connect back to your profile and further drive the value of the network. This then allows interaction wherever I may browse and the ability to share with my network.
This ties into another big rollout… Facebook Community Pages. These are not pages that map to a specific profile and don’t impact status updates. Instead they are public content from users status messages. Now updates can be friend specific or you can have access to the general Facebook population. This is an interesting play from a privacy perspective as initial research shows you can opt into sharing with the community feeds.
Another issue that shows Facebook is serious about dominating expansion was the announcement today around XAuth. xAuth is a proposed authentication standard that will limit the number of share this buttons and will automatically remember what networks you are a part of and only display those options. In theory that sounds great but two of the larger players are not on board. Facebook and Twitter are notably absent from the group that already has the support of Google, Yahoo, MySpace, and Disqus.
Facebooks noticeable absence from Google Buzz is yet another reminder that when it comes to expansion they want to be the primary. This and of course Facebook’s relationship with Microsoft. It will also be very interesting to see how Facebooks geo-location services will impact the Foursquares & Gowallas of the world. With a 400 million user base it could crush the 600,000 Foursquare users.
It will be interesting to watch how the changes in the platform, the desire to follow you wherever you may browse and add in the ability to serve contextual ads based on browsing history will impact user behavior. I see potential tied to some of the changes from a marketing perspective but time will tell if Facebook can go where few have gone before.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360