The Facebook F8 conference was last held in 2011, when new products such as Pages and Timeline were being introduced as a means to strengthen Facebook’s offering to businesses. Now, the event has been refocused towards developers. In a [email protected] webinar, Peter Fasano shared a number of insights from this year’s Facebook F8, including a new range of major services which Mark Zuckerberg believes will enable brands to both scale and streamline their Facebook campaigns, not just on their Facebook Pages but also on their own sites and within their mobile experience.
“Facebook and Mobile” was the central theme of the conference, and Facebook’s mission to secure the attention and loyalty of mobile users is clear. “The mobile web is a mess,” says Fasano, pointing to the number of apps which operate in OS-based “silos”, i.e. apps which are optimised for a single operating system like iOS, Android, and Windows. This makes it incredibly difficult to engage users with deep-linked content, or cross-linking app content. Fasano stresses that marketers need to become “multilingual” in their ability to understand the principles of APIs (application programming interfaces), and of the intended interactions with these apps, in order to truly understand what the user experience is like, and be able to explain that to both clients and developers.
Ultimately, apps rule the mobile user engagement environment, as consumers prefer to engage with content via apps, and Facebook’s goal is to become a unified platform for users across all operating systems and devices. The majority of global Facebook users already engage via mobile, with over one billion app downloads. This might seem like a healthy place to start, but the fact remains that:
- approximately 66% of apps are only opened between one and ten times, before being shunted off to the umpteenth screen on the user’s phone and forgotten.
- the average number of apps on any given smartphone is only around 41, so competition is fierce if you’re building apps for your clients.
Three strategic mobile solutions were discussed at F8; Login, AppLinks and Share.
Login: One of the main concerns that people have when connecting to an app via Facebook is not knowing what level of access to their personal information they are forfeiting. The new and improved Login has been designed to “bring back trust to the blue button”, by empowering users to control permissions (including those pesky ‘I just played Candy Crush!’ published permissions) on a line by line basis, so they will know exactly who sees what. The Anonymous Login function also offers an alternative, wherein users can opt into a hassle free app trial, and potentially use their personal login later on for a more tailored experience.
AppLinks: “URLs are so elegant,” says Fasano, “they are a clear pathway to information”. The functionality to link between apps, for instance, clicking on a link in Gmail to play a specific song in Spotify, then jot down your thoughts in Evernote, has been inconceivable in the past. Deep linking between apps is now a possibility thanks to AppLinks, an open source service which aims to bring the ease of sharing a URL into apps, bringing an open web sensibility to the mobile web.
Share: Much like Login, the mobile version of the Share button has been rejigged. It now behaves exactly as it would on desktop, enabling users to add commentary to the content that they are sharing, rather than just posting with a complete lack of context. Mobile users will also be able to share links in private messages, encouraging recommendations and increasing the chances of content organically reaching people who are more likely to engage with it.
Facebook’s Audience Network (FAN) and Business Manager were also unveiled at F8:
Audience Network: After struggling considerably with mobile advertising, Facebook has launched its own mobile ad network, which offers Facebook advertisers opportunities to reach their key demographic both on Facebook and elsewhere on the mobile web. Marketers will be able to create ads in banner format, as interstitials, or native ad units, to best fit the style and design of their app or site, making the experience less intrusive and more contextualised for the target audience.
Business Manager: Facebook’s Business Manager has been launched to help brands and agencies manage Pages, apps and advertising campaigns, as well as the people who work on them. The goal here is to promote maximum visibility and accountability for content.
“Facebook isn’t an island, it’s more of a bridge,” concludes Fasano, who advises marketers to pick and choose which avenues best suit them. “Building apps is a big investment of time and money, and not necessarily something to jump into. It needn’t cost the earth to drive engagement. We now have a set of planning tools to build a business case for our clients… Think like a start-up and hack your way through this. Smart spends can go a long way.”