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Atlas by Facebook

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Facebook is relaunching its Atlas advertising programme, enabling marketers to tap into its treasure trove of consumer data. Re/Code explains:

  • Facebook is reintroducing Atlas, the underused platform it bought from Microsoft last year.
  • Facebook says Atlas can help marketers track the effectiveness of their ads around the Web; it also says it will allow them to buy ads on non-Facebook websites and apps, using Facebook targeting data.
  • Facebook makes a point of saying these ads aren’t “Facebook ads.” But it is also playing up the notion that the ads marketers buy via Atlas will be more effective than other big ad platforms, because they use Facebook’s data.
  • Facebook says it is working with lots of partners, but so far has named only two. Ad holding giant Omnicom, which already has deals with Facebook, Google, Twitter and most other big digital players, says it will buy ads with Atlas. Facebook’s Instagram will also work with the platform. The most tantalizing notion I’ve heard this week is that Facebook has talked to Twitter about joining up, and that the idea remains a possibility.
  • What’s that? You’re worried about people using your Facebook data to serve you ads? Facebook says you shouldn’t worry, because your identity will remain anonymous to advertisers and publishers — they’ll just know some basic facts about you. But really, if you’re worried about this kind of thing you shouldn’t be on Facebook. Actually, the whole Web is probably a no-go zone for you. Sorry.

From a marketer’s perspective, the Atlas initiative is an inevitable development, as Facebook attempts to out-monetise Google.

As Pando notes, there’s another important side-effect to the Atlas initiative, as the world goes mobile:

Atlas solves a technical problem that has frustrated advertisers since consumers flocked to mobile devices: the inability to see how ads viewed on one device influence purchases made on other devices because digital “cookies,” the Web’s little stalkers, can’t track smartphone activity.

Check out the video, and check out Atlas, coming soon to a marketer near you.

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Facebook Revamps The News Feed

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Facebook just announced a revamped version of its News Feed, which it is starting to roll out around the world. The Facebook video above (supplied via CNET) highlights the key points:

1. User Controls of News Feed Content

Users Can Choose The Contents Of Their News Feed

Users can now determine exactly what populates their News Feed.

PC World explains this new approach:

The existing News Feed displays a mash-up of posts from friends alongside Facebook pages you’ve liked . Those posts include check-ins, photos, videos, and status updates in some arcane order determined by an algorithm. The updated News Feed, by contrast, separates  types of content, and lets users choose to view only photos, or only music, or only updates from businesses like yours—in other words, the pages they’ve liked.

TechHive drills into more detail about the new News Feed options:

The Music feed

One of the biggest changes to the design is the way it handles music. There’s a new feed to deal only with music-related stuff. You just choose the feed from a feeds drop-down list at the top right of the page.

Facebook News Feed

Music feed

The Spotify music your friends are listening to is now featured in the music feed. Facebook has moved your friends’ song listens out of the old ticker at the right hand side of the screen, and into the music feed.

And Facebook is doing a lot more with those Spotify listens. It looks for artists and songs that multiple friends are listening to and groups them together in an article in the news feed. The article contains a large picture of the artist, and at the left you can see all your friends who’ve listened to the artist lately. Mouse over any of the pictures and you can see what those people said about the artist.

The Following feed

Facebook News Feed

Some of these themes are continued in other feeds. In the Following feed, Facebook now builds media rich articles using content from the pages of publications or public figures you like. For instance, if you follow the Onion’s page, you might see an article in your feed with the three most recent articles from the publication. Each article has its own image, and a 20-word summary. You might also find in-page videos of public figures you follow.

The Photos feed

Facebook News Feed

Photos feed

The Photos feed simply displays all the posts that include photographs. The photos appear larger in the feed, as well as the text around them. Even the text in the comments boxes below the photos appears to be a little bit bigger than before. At the top of the Photos feed page, you’ll find a small header image that incorporates one of the images from your feed. (Actually, all the new feeds pages have these header images.)

2. Larger Pictures for More Visual Impact

Images are to be given much more priority in the new-look News Feed, for which we can probably thank Pinterest and Instagram (and the fact that, as revealed by Mark Zuckerberg, 50 percent of the content in the Facebook News Feed already comprises photos and videos). Little wonder, then, that the News Feed is being given a visual makeover.

Here’s what you’ll see if you look at a typical Facebook News Feed now:

Current Appearance of the Facebook News Feed

And how it will look once the revamp rolls out:

Larger Visual Images in Facebook News Feeds

3. Facebook Albums Look Better Too

From this:

How Facebook Albums Look Now

To this:

How Facebook Albums will look

4. New Look For Shared Stories

Perhaps the most dramatic change is to the way that links are shared on Facebook. You’ll be familar with the current appearance:

How links are shared on Facebook

Look again:

The new look for shared links on Facebook

The new Sharing layout resembles (and was probably inspired by) the table of contents of a magazine. The new look includes:

  • A much larger image
  • A more prominent title
  • And a longer summary that tells you what this article is about

Facebook is also starting to add the logos of the publishers in the corner, its own effort to add authority and credibility to the shared content.

5. Desktop Mobilised

Facebook Looks The Same Across Desktop and Mobile

This visual makeover will see Facebook adopt similar layouts across both desktop and mobile, taking advantage of recent mobile styling.

What About The Marketers?

Collectively, the changes add up to a bold new look to the Facebook News Feed, at least for consumers. But where are marketers in all this?

AdWeek reported on the reaction from the marketing industry:

Many marketers gleefully anticipated that the content-specific feeds that Facebook was reportedly prepping would improve their ability to target ads. But when Facebook announced the new feeds on Thursday, advertisers were all but shut out—many of them feeling none too happy about it. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company has yet to determine how it wants to handle ads in the four new feeds.

The ability to target, say, image-rich ads to the Photos feed, or promote a brand-related jingle to the Music Feed ads would be “definitely a great opportunity for advertisers. I don’t know why they’re not making that available right now,” said Performics global CEO Daina Middleton.

Facebook isn’t leaving Madison Avenue completely in the dark. After the announcement, the company emailed marketers with a follow-up overview of the new feeds and design “and said right now ad units aren’t going to change,” said iCrossing’s head of social media Amanda Peters, who received such an email.

Despite that outreach, “I was surprised that there wasn’t any mention of ad units [during Thursday’s announcement],” Peters said. “I think [the new feeds] do present an opportunity for new units and potentially more dynamic units, more targeted units for specific feeds. My guess is that would come very soon.”

But maybe marketers shouldn’t be surprised about a lack of initial ad talk, given past Facebook announcements regarding product changes, said MEC managing partner and social practice lead Kristine Segrist.

“I feel like historically whether it was Timeline or other big platform changes, they roll out the user experience first, get some learnings, test it in the wild, then roll out the accompanying ad products,” she said. However “the scary story for marketers is whether users have newfound controls and can choose to spend time where brands or businesses can’t be part of the conversation.”

“There will be a section of the new News Feed dedicated to pages that users have liked”, says Tony Bradley. However:

Borrowing the personalized newspaper analogy, that section will be the equivalent of the classifieds section.

It’s fair to assume that the users who have liked your Facebook page are at least peripherally interested in your products and services. However, people spend time on the social network to be, well, social.

Their first thought won’t be, “Hey, I wonder if that company I liked has anything new to say.” It probably won’t be their second or third thought, either.

Don’t wait for users to find you in the equivalent of the classifieds. To stay in the game and engage with your community, take your business to them. How do you do that? Use lots of photos and videos to help you business show up in the sections of the new Facebook News Feed, such as Photos, that will have the most traffic.

In other words, even in the new-look Facebook News Feeds, old-fashioned Engagement is as essential as ever.

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Social media gurus share their perspectives on 2013

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What to expect from social media in the year ahead?

Jeff Jarvis, author of “Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live” and “What Would Google Do?”, and musician and social media artist Amanda Palmer explore the impact of social on business, government, and individuals with The Economist‘s Robert Lane Greene at The Economist’s World in 2013 Festival on December 8th 2012.

Amongst the perspectives:

  • focus on the relationships, not on the technologies
  • especially with social media and privacy, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

At about 15 minutes in, Amanda talks about how she personally felt a deeply emotional connection with her fans that Twitter made possible — and that simply could not have happened a few years ago. Don’t miss it.