Advertisers can’t help but Like Facebook’s redesign

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Facebook’s design overhaul is likely to hike up the cost of advertising on the site, but the premiums look to be value for money.

Mark Zuckerberg and his band of merry coders have completely overhauled the way the site looks, feels and ultimately how users will engage the social network.

As Facebook builds on its already impressive list of official partners, users will have fewer reasons to navigate away from the site, as they can listen to music, read the news and watch films all in one place.

Zuckerberg revealed yesterday (22 September) that Facebook broke internet records last week, with half a billion people logging on to the website in a single 24 hour period. That daily number of active users is likely to increase as members find more reasons to access the site beyond spying on and socialising with their friends.

Discovery is an important aspect of the new design. If I see that my friend Toby is listening to the Rolling Stones in the newly-added “ticker” stream in the top right corner, I can immediately tune in and listen to the same song myself. Facebook will even give Toby a virtual high five for allowing me to discover the track by posting something to his news stream.

Another important configuration is that once users have opted-in to certain apps, Facebook will begin to share their habits – be they reading books, watching films or discovering new recipes – autonomously in the ticker, without having to actively “like” them or having to write a status update. In fact, “like” can now be replaced with more active verbs such as “watched” or “listened” so interactons can be customised by brands.

Both features add up to a huge amount of data gathering on Facebook’s part; fantastic news for advertisers who are looking to define targeted audiences.

With all this data available, advertisers can turn app usage into relevant Sponsored Stories and sidebar ads.

Brands don’t even need to think outside the box: users that have listened to Pulp on Spotify could be targeted with the latest Eurostar campaign starring Jarvis Cocker; people that watched The Real Bruce Lee film on Daily Motion could be targeted by Amazon promoting the late martial art star’s boxset; readers of the Guardian’s environment section could be served an ad by Greenpeace, and so on.

Partner brands have the obvious benefit of extending their reach as users share their activity, which will encourage take up from their other friends.

However, much of the activity will be seen in the ticker, which Zuckerberg himself described as the “lightweight stream of everything that’s going on around you”. He also added there are some things people want to share, but “don’t want to annoy their friends with in the news feed”.

These “things” are users’ activity with apps and brands, which now seems relegated from the news feed to the rolling side bar that even now moves so fast it is difficult to read every update.

One question brands thinking of partnering with Facebook on apps will need to ask is: will this partnership mean that our loyal fans – the ones who plug us on their profiles and write on our page wall – don’t feel the need to actively engage with us?

This teething problem will be allayed by the fact that Facebook offers users the chance to customise which of their interactions with the site can feature on their profile page.

If a user feels that reading an article on the Independent was tantamount to them having a good year in 2009, they can display this on their profile, which will change its appearance to look more like a scrapbook of their entire lifespan on Facebook than a list of recent activity. Obviously, this requires someone with a lot of time on their hands.

Despite some initial hitches, which will no doubt be address in F8 version 2.0, Facebook’s overhaul isn’t just a lip service update with some fancy pictures to differentiate itself from Google +, it will make that particular competitor irrelevant.

Facebook’s latest update is the first serious sign that it is to become truly ubiquitous. As the update slowly rolls out, more people will switch their home pages from Google and MSN to Facebook, why start anywhere else?

Advertisers would do well to get cosy with Facebook now if there are not conversations already ongoing. The constitution of the advertising on the internet is changing update by update and advertisers must make sure they are part of the revolution.

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