@nickhirst and I share a regular Admap column which focuses on new technology that marketeers should get their heads round. This July - the column unpicks Facebook's F8 conference.
F8 is the biggest event in the Facebook calendar where they announce key updates to their platform, all of which are a closely guarded secret. During the first F8 in 2007 Facebook announced the launched of the social graph – the foundation for the algorithmic wizardry that powers Facebook today. In 2010 they launched their API and in 2011 Timeline. Then came a long period of silence.
On April 30th 2014 Facebook held their first F8 in three years – a live event, a live streamed show and now fully watchable on the Facebook Developers site. Marketed as a return to Facebook’s roots – a conference for developers by developers - it had many updates also critically important to marketeers. Here are some headlines...
Advertising on Facebook, whilst not the most creatively rich opportunity, is one of the most targeted and sophisticated advertising solutions out there. Facebook know so much about their users you can segment and target down to minutiae. At F8 they launched the Facebook Audience Network (yup, FAN) which enables you deliver Facebook-powered ads to a broader user base, across a wider variety of devices – outside of the Facebook platform. A clever move as this will deliver a lot more revenue for Facebook who took a modest $2.6 billion in ad revenue in Q1.
Smaller news but also key – one of the biggest barriers to Facebook Apps is the lack of robust privacy controls. To access an App you have to sign-up to a legion of permissions or you simply cannot access it. At F8 it was announced that consumers can now choose what they want an App to access and more fundamentally choose to access it privately, so they can check out whether it is of interest or not, before going for full access. Facebook Apps are struggling as a marketing tool and perhaps this will breathe a bit of life back into them.
But there is a bigger strategic reason for Facebook holding an F8 after three years of silence. The landscape is hugely different to 2011 when Facebook was king – we now have new platforms emerging - Snapchat, WeChat, Pinterest – and existing platforms getting bigger and better – Twitter and Google(see lowdown March) – which means the landscape is fragmenting. The reality is Facebook need to both stay ahead and be seen to be staying aggressively ahead. Events like F8 are critical to Facebook doing just that.