Earlier in the year I made a mistake – I tried to write about Facebook Home when it was brand new. So far, it hasn’t really worked out as planned for the Android launcher from Big Blue.
Nonetheless here’s the article, which originally appeared in the spring edition of Greenlight Digital’s magazine…
The Impact of Facebook Home
Despite describing his company as a “mobile first social network”, up until now Facebook’s mobile offering has been largely fragmented and unreliable; a main Facebook application, with separate apps to improve features such as messaging, managing brand pages, photographing and even Poking. Although Zuckerberg has regularly assured consumers that “it’s not the right strategy for us…to build a phone”, anticipation had built prior to their most recent summoning of press to their Cupertino base around what their latest mobile release would involve. They announced Facebook Home.
Home is not a standalone application, rather it’s a Launcher for Android which adds a complete integration layer on top of the Android OS. Users will witness a complete overhaul of their phone’s UI and Facebook are promising three standout features: Cover Feed, Chat Heads and App Launcher to place people, rather than applications, at the centre of your mobile experience.
Although their intention is to place people at the forefront of mobile devices rather than applications, it appears that with Home, Facebook are placing additional emphasis on quality; of relationships and of content (not too dissimilar to the way Google rolled out Panda and Penguin updates to add additional weight to the quality of a link back to your site when organising SERPs). Their mechanism for doing so is fronted by a dynamic home and lock screen (Cover Feed), populated by imagery and content from your friends and pages that you’ve liked. Without the quality of this content being to a high standard, users of the Android launcher may very quickly be turned off; unless your network is populated exclusively of professional photographers, it’s highly likely your home screen will become inundated with pixelated images of your friend’s babies and food.
Equally, users of Home may find themselves scrutinising the quality of relationships they maintain within Facebook (between friends and brands). Once the relationships become the focal point of a device you use as often as your phone, it may soon become apparent that there are many connections that just don’t warrant the exposure Home could give them.
What could Facebook Home mean for brands?
Zuckerberg has already expressed his intention to use Home as an opportunity for brands to purchase premium advertising real estate. The potential for this assumes the success of Home and uptake by Android users. However, were we to make that assumption, what impact does it have for brands?
1) Focus on quality content
Your brand’s latest update could find itself front and centre, in the palm of your customers hands when they glance at your phone. With this in mind, the quality (resolution, visual appeal, lighting etc) needs to be better than it’s ever been if you’re to stand out and grab your customers attention. On the contrary, if the quality is poor, you will not only be losing an opportunity but also may find yourself losing fans and engagement.
2) Focus on building a better relationship with your customers
By investing in the relationship with the people who use your Facebook page, you’ll be building a foundation of trust that will bring your fans to a place where they’re more receptive to your content; a place you’ll need to be in if you don’t want your fans to grow tired of seeing your content on their phone home screen.
3) Promoted Content
How Facebook intend to use Home for promoted content is yet to be announced, although Adam Mosseri, Facebook Product Director, says “We’re designing a lot of really high-quality ad units for Cover Feed.” At this stage I would anticipate it to involve the opportunity for Brands to pay a premium rate, above that for Promoted Posts, to reach their existing fan base through Home. Anything other than this and we could confidently say that Home will become nothing more than opt-in spam.
What other opportunities could Home introduce?
Inadvertently it’s possible that Facebook have heralded in a new a dawn of opportunity for brands. And it doesn’t involve Facebook Home.
Currently the Android ‘launcher’ marketplace is relatively small; instead consumers opting to trust and use the built in UI. With this in mind and, again, assuming the success of Home, it could raise awareness and drive adoption of the launcher marketplace.
With more consumers realising the potential of a Launcher, this could open the door for brands to take a leaf out of Facebook’s book and build their own. I know, for one, that if a brand, company, band or sports team were to build an app that afforded me the opportunity to have a mobile experience centred around them, I’d be keen to take it up, especially West Ham.
Facebook Home is new, and there’s more to it than just the Cover Feed. Chat Heads, for example, allows messaging to take place in an overlay on top of other applications so you never have to stop what you’re doing to chat. Equally, the Cover Feed could always be turned off. However, once you take that away and reduce the Launcher to just Chat Heads and App Launcher (which is just a menu), what’s really left for users to get excited about?
Regardless of whether Facebook Home is popular, brands could do a lot worse than improving quality of content and investing in fan relationship. By getting this right your brand page and content will become a far richer and rewarding experience. And if Home proves popular, you’ll be in a great place to leverage what it potentially has to offer.