Today might as well be the debutante ball for Facebook as they looked to win the confidence of investors and businesses with some major announcements related to how advertisements will be deployed across the website. Perhaps the biggest announcement involved the implementation of ads on Facebook's mobile apps. Thus far, the mobile Facebook experience has been a completely ad-free. Not only will this affect investors but likely also elicit a reaction from many Facebookers who use the app, and by many I mean half of all Facebook users. In effect, that's basically a gold-stuffed mountain that to this point Facebook has yet to mine even a flake of profit from.
In today's presentation, Facebook very cleverly didn't come right out and say "ads are going to be on our mobile app." Instead, they've cleverly disguised the advertisements as "stories" that will appear in users' news feeds as they're published by businesses.
Earlier today, Facebook issued an email announcing that brand and business pages will now be able to keep pinned posts at the top of the page for up to seven days, an improved admin panel, and changes to the Timeline that will allow brands to "tell richer stories through bigger photos and milestones that can include dates and other content."
Also, the layout of brand Pages will be receiving a face-lift. Previews of the new layout started rolling out earlier this morning ahead of the keynote address.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg took the stage first to commence the address. She talked of how all of the pith that abounds on Facebook is related to business strategies on the social network. She emphasized the power of the individual voice, how we have less shouting and more engaging. "This kind of voice is not just one that speaks but demands to be heard," she said. She spent a lot of time not only preaching to the choir, but recyling a message to a congregation that has the message down cold: technology good, technology brings us together, and Facebook makes this all possible. More, business moguls and politicians use Facebook to directly communicate with consumers and constituents.
In short, Sandberg said, marketers shouldn't just talk at consumers, but with them. "People don't expect to be talked at anymore, they expect to be part of the conservation," Sandberg said, encouraging marketers to inclusively engage businesses to foster a "personal relationship" with consumers.
Sandberg finished up then welcomed Chris Cox, Vice President of Product at Facebook. He began with a story of Facebook's evolution from dorm room-quality digs to its palatial environs of today.
After effusing about Facebook's growth, Cox began to explain how Facebook developed the concept of connecting businesses with consumers. Cox explained how users have already begun to discuss how Facebook users are already talking about products they use or music that they listen to and how this basically presents a nutrient-rich soil for marketers to plant some seeds. Honestly, that's such an obvious description of what Facebook is becoming these days that it's a little surprising that nobody's really conceptualized it that way.
Any interaction between people and brands, Cox explained, are just as meaningful as the interactions between friends on Facebook.
Mike Hoefflinger, Director or Global Marketing for Facebook, took the stage next to introduce some of the new products that Facebook has for marketers. He used the example of Gillette razors to explain the de-personalization of business. With the proliferation of home razors, he explained, less people went to see local barbers and so the personal relationship between business and customer diminished. Facebook, Hoefflinger says, is taking that relationship "back to future" by putting customers and businesses back in touch with each other.
Hoefflinger then moved onto Pages, which he described as the "mission control" of businesses. It's how they'll communicate more with their fans and control the content of their pages, he said. It's available as of today, but Hoefflinger said Pages will be moving over to the mobile format later this year.
Not only does Pages put businesses in touch with consumers, he said, but it allows Facebook users to see how their friends are using products, as well.
In addition to Pages launching today, there's a new story type called Offers that enables businesses much easier methods to send out notifications to fans. Everything businesses do on Facebook starts with their Page, Hoefflinger said, and this is "your opportunity to express your identify on Facebook." He seems confident that the stories of businesses will become important or even sentimental to the Facebookers who like these brands.
Pages gives business four different options to insert their stories into the view of Facebook users; in other words, a more assertive way for businesses to advertise on Facebook.
Next on the reveal is Reach Generator, which is a tool for businesses to make sure that their Facebook fans see the stories spun from the businesses' Pages. Hoefflinger believes that if businesses employ this tool, they will be able to reach upwards of 75% more of their fans. Basically, it moves a lot of little stories from the business Page to the Facebook homepage that regular users see when they log in.
Premium on Facebook is the next announcement from Hoefflinger, which he says will enable brands to tell stories and communicate with Facebook members. "Marketing on Facebook," he said, "will feel like the rest of Facebook." In other words, advertising will become such a common, casual experience for consumers that they won't even notice that they're targets for business marketing. Also, Premium will allow businesses to display ads on the log-out page of Facebook after users have logged out.
Essentially, these "stories" from businesses that show up in a Facebook user's news feed sound a lot like the promoted tweets from brands that have been appearing in Twitter's stream. Just as people will re-tweet those promoted tweets on Twitter and therefore interact with that brand, Facebook is utilizing a similar approach in how users will Like brand Pages from their newstream.
Facebook's mobile app won't be missing out on stories from business Pages, either, as their stories will be appearing in feeds whenever users check their updates through the mobile app. It'll be interesting to see if this rather quiet announcement that ads will be appearing in Facebook's mobile app will be noticed by the public and, if so, how they will respond.
The understated take-away of this address to marketers is that Premium for Facebook will allow businesses to covertly deploy advertisements into Facebook users news feeds. Moreover, since those ads will be seamlessly woven into news feeds, they'll be appearing in Facebook's mobile app.
Given that the mobile domain is a previously-untapped resource of ad revenue for Facebook, this should have businesses slavering at the advertising possibilities.