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Facebook Unveils Retail Centre

Two thirds of the UK are now active members of Facebook. That means 27 million people in the UK have an account on the social media platform, with 19 million of this number logging in on our mobile devices. We also spend on average 7 hours on the social site, which equates to 1 in 5 minutes spent online, we’re on Facebook.

The latest stats come just in time and sit in line with a new retail initiative…The Retail Centre. This is a fairly new concept, but one that is already in place in America. Facebook aims to offer advice, useful hints and top tips on how to maximise your use and users on the platform.

It has been proven through statistics that there is a definite correlation between things that your friends online like, recommend and have previously purchased to others purchasing through these channels. Nearly 23% have tried a new restaurant, pub, or bar following a friend’s recommendation, with a larger percentage listening to similar music online to their friends.

The Retail Centre is set to release handy hints of how you can grow readership of your company on the platform, and potentially reach out to those people who are looking at friends profiles to see what they have been buying online.

Facebook changes = Graph Search

Facebook launch a search engine, updating iPad apps and the release of a Facebook phone…all the speculation of the upcoming Facebook changes this year have been rife…and all but one have been widely spoken about and confirmed by Zuckerburg.

Facebook are indeed branching out into the world of ‘search’ and are introducing their own site search, aptly named ‘Graph Search.’ In its basic ‘version one’ form, you will be able to search for your friends info, photos and find out information about your friends that you may have missed on your news feed. E.g. you can type into the graph search things like ‘friends with photos at DisneyLand, Paris.’ Facebook will be able to search through the information that you have allowed them to publish (check your settings) and show these in answer to your question.

The new Graph Search has been dubbed by Zuckerburg as ‘the third pillar’ to Facebook, after the news feed and timeline and has hinted that the search could be a business in itself…this may be when the search engine moguls twitch their tashes and have emergency talks! One thing is for certain though, Zuckerburg and the company are desperately trying to keep users on site for as long as possible, and are looking for inventive ways to keep their users accounts active.

A recent survey from Social Bakers, a social media monitoring company heard reports that in the UK alone, Facebook active user accounts dropped by 600,000 in December. Whilst Facebook boasts over 1billion users, not all of these are active, nor visit the site daily. In a time when we spend more time on Facebook and Twitter than we do browsing the web, it seems incredulous to think of a multi million turnover company are facing difficult times…but they are. Social decline is a thing that is very real and something that has the business quaking in its boots. So, it seems that this bold and ultimately huge step towards and into the search stakes has come at a good time. Facebook need to keep ‘ahead of the times’ as this is what users expect from them. However, we as users are very keen to judge and we flock to the site to express our views on all matters. This includes the outrageous decision of the timeline trickle out…most were not impressed with the forced upon timeline initially and even used the site to smack-talk it. Whilst nothing was done, and Facebook lost a few thousands members, they want to ensure that we as users are happy, and spend as much time on the site as possible.

To be seen as an ‘active’ member, we need to be making new friends, interacting with others through status’, likes, posting and commenting on photos etc. Ultimately, if you don’t add new friends, your account becomes stagnant and your user journey and experience limited. As a result, less and less time is spent on the site and you may go elsewhere. Either way, more interaction between you and your friends has been dubbed essential to continue an active account, but is this the main factor in the decision to roll out the ‘Graph Search?’ We think not.

To be frank, Facebook want you to start your online journey with them and end with them. Whilst this is admittedly just ‘version one’ of the Graph Search, we have an incline that the big boys at Google will be shifting in their seats a little more, as Facebook will aim to produce their very own onsite search engine that looks a little further outwards than what they hold on their site…

Facebook targets retail market even more

Facebook is continuing in the pattern of getting more retailer son board, and not just through advertising. Last month we mentioned they were conducting a pilot case study in the states, with brands like Starbucks, where you could buy online to send to your friends as birthday gifts etc. Facebook now seems to have gone a step further in recruiting retail affiliates and companies.

They have recently announced a new ‘WANT’ button. Much like the ‘LIKE’ button that all of us on the social media platform will be very familiar with, the ‘WANT’ button fashions the same sense of personal stampage. Retailer pages will be the first to display the button, as well as another new one called ‘COLLECT.’ These latest pilot additions form part of the new ‘COLLECTIONS’ feature for and designed specifically for retailers online. Retailers will now not only be able to keep tabs on their most popular products, but they will also be able to upload and create a catalogue on Facebook using brand new functionality of the site and its tools. Brands currently involved in the pilot study are Victoria Secret, Neiman Marcus and Pottery Barn – very large chains and brand names in the USA.

We are a little sceptical. It seems Facebook is starting to move away from what it was originally set up for and more into the business market side of things. As if Mr Zuckerburg doesn’t have enough money already, is he trying his hand at something that in future years, could ultimate make company websites obsolete? OK, so you can’t actually purchase anything from Facebook at the moment, it sends you offsite. Does this mean then that they are trying to compete directly with Pinterest, gathering items that you ‘like’ and ‘want’ to put into your sidebar of ‘collections,’ sharing these with the rest of your Facebook friends?

It seems like Facebook has now become a word and a place of ‘normality,’ where it’s almost standard that you’re part of the Facebook family. It seems that the frustration and annoyance of adverts down our sidebar has gone unnoticed and the greedy minds behind the brains are after more…money is the main driving factor here. How it works is a little more difficult, but we’ll try and simplify it as much as we can: Users will basically be offered the chance to make purchases from a retailers catalogue of products when they ‘like,’ ‘want’ or collect’ a product from the ‘collections’ section of the page. Details of product/item/interest is then shared with your friends and associates on the social media site.

Granted, at times it may seem like a good idea to marry up an item seen on the Facebook page of e.g. Topshop to a quick buying solution tab ‘Want’ or ‘Collect,’ but how much will it work? The pilot is under way and we suppose it will only be a matter of time when we can search, stalk, buy and see what everyone else is buying on a platform with over a billion users. Scary or scarily clever…we’ll let you be the judge of this.

Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger set to retire

Microsoft bosses are pulling the plug on Windows Live Messenger after 13 years in the business. MSN as it was initially labelled back in the day, saw over 330 million users chatting to friends and family on the platform, with the addition of photo uploads, video interaction and games developed over this time. The tool became an instant (excuse the pun) hit for business and personal usage, with a large number of high-school children leading the uptake.

The decision to turn off the trusty site comes just 18 months after the announcement that £8.5 billion was to be spent developing the communications software for the product. There has been speculation as to why Microsoft has taken this bold move, but the main reason is numbers and focus. Comscore analysed the data captured to reveal that Windows Messenger Live still holds twice the amount of unique users as Skype’s instant messenger facility, and ranks second behind the most popular which is Yahoo Messenger. So why the sudden decision to drop such a well-used and well-loved platform? Decline. The report suggested that the user audience stands at just 8.3 million, representing a huge drop of 48% year-on-year, where as Skype users grew within the year.

Looking at the numbers above, you may think that Microsoft are shooting themselves in the foot if they choose to get rid of the messenger tool altogether? Their answer…Skype. Skype is a similar platform Microsoft developed and launched more recently in 2003. A tool most commonly known in the travelling industry for catching up with friends and family back home for free, is growing daily, and is predicted to overtake the number of users MSN once held. Some people may think that Microsoft set themselves up for this sort of number fall when taking on two, quite similar products – ultimately resulting in brand cannibalisation. Competing products from the same company can be seen as a healthy bit of competition, but when the end goal is trying to make money for the same business, it can go a bit awry.

Either way you may look at it, it can only hold hope for Microsoft. Skype is a better and more solid platform to continue development for their other tools such as TV channelling and the X-Box, creating and allowing more versatility than MSN once held. The factor of losing out to competing business from other brands is a risk worth taking, but with the security of Facebook coming on board with Skype, creates the illusion that Microsoft may just take the top spot in the instant messenging stakes once again in the not too distant future.

Windows Live Messenger is set to ‘retire’ in March 2013 (with the exception of China), with the chance to move contacts over to Skype.

Facebook does gifts?

Facebook is gearing up to become much more than the leading presence in social media to date. It seems the social media moguls are ploughing ahead and dipping their toes in the online retail market. A US trial is taking place to send out real gifts from the Facebook platform. You can send gifts to your friends, ranging from cupcakes, stuffed bears and gift-cards for a cost.

Facebook has dabbled with a similar idea before, starting out small with sending virtual gifts to people, some free, and some for a small cost. The team are looking to go big this time, and have got some of the high-end brands on board during the trial. Starbucks – the leading coffee chain, Magnolia Bakery –New York’s most famous bakery (made even more well known through ‘Sex and the City’), and Gund – a huge bear retailer, are all in on the trial act. Only a small percentage of people are involved in the trial, but we’re looking forward to the outcome of this.

It seems like a natural progression for Facebook to take on, what seems like such a daunting task to the rest of us, with the gumption and drive of the big boys in business. With the social media platform notoriously known for working with companies to track what we shop for online, whilst browsing on and after visiting the site, we predict it won’t be long before we start seeing last nights browsing items pop up on the right hand side of our screens.

It has not yet been stated if and indeed when the trial will end, when the scheme becomes multi-nationals and inevitably world-wide. However, we can only assume that with Facebook being as big as it is, that it will only be a matter of time before companies sign up to the project. With shares in Facebook remarkably low considering the wealth the company holds, this is one way they are almost certain to make more on the advertising scheme of things, with top retailers paying above the odds to be listed on the social media pages.

 

 

Facebook Status Scheduling

With Facebooks ever evolving face, and customer-facing changes like the timeline coming inot play recently, it was only a matter of time before the planning aspect of changes came into play. We’ve all been hit by the changes to pages and fan pages, but now it seems Facebook has come up with an ingenious idea to actual help us! Scheduling statuses!

Facebook is rolling out this new concept of planning statuses up to 6 months in advance. Gone are the days where you struggle to find someone in the office brave enough to roll out a daily message from the company, or desperately seeking free WiFi whilst on holiday if you’re a single business owner. You simply prepare your posts and schedule it to appear on your time line at a later stage. You select a date and even down to the time of when you want the post to go live, and hey presto, there it is!
Being such good digital testers, we decided to have a play…and we are pleased to say it works! If you do need to edit your scheduled post, or indeed delete anything that may not be occurring any more, simply visit your ‘activity log,’ found under the edit your page section and make the amendments from there. For once, Facebook does something we love…really love.For more information and for instructions on how to schedule a post to your page, please visit https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=389849807718635#How-do-I-schedule-a-post-to-appear-on-my-Page-later

Facebook Promoted Posts

Looks like Facebook are making it even easier to spend money with them. Instead of having to log into their ads centre, you can now do paid Facebook promotion from within your fanpage! Sneaky, but we like it! You may start to notice the below;

Facebook Ads

Featured Company Of The Week – SKUmatic

Skumatic

Social media has become a driving force in pushing information and products to consumers you wouldn’t have been able to previously reach. The use of social media can allow you to interact with those consumers to far greater levels and vice versa, with your users pushing your products to their network and effectively providing you with endorsed advertising. Facebook is the largest social network currently online, with 901 million active users as of the end of March this year, 80% of whom are located outside the US and Canada, and is a great resource for retailers. Finding a way to incorporate Facebook into your company’s social networking can only mean good things for your business.

SKUmatic offer an integrated product catalogue specially designed for use on Facebook. It allows the automated building of store listings and product catalogues that will allow Facebook users to browse your products and find local store information via your Facebook page or click through to your company site. SKUmatic can also help provide marketers with local dealer information, advertising and promotional campaigns, Quick Response codes and more, so that you can keep track, create marketing promotions, and help grow your business through Facebook.

The product catalogue can be installed to Facebook with just one, single click, and is a self-contained application that allows visitors to browse products, ask for advice from friends, find local stores that stock their chosen item and view any promotions you may be running. The application will also track click-throughs so you can measure the effectiveness of your Facebook campaign, the Friends Advice and Shop Now buttons. In addition, every QR code generated can be monitored by the reporting module to track use by customers.

You can create and apply your own coupon codes inside the application, targeting Facebook visitors and helping to increase sales conversions. The control panel allows you to define start/end dates and customise the look of the coupon. SKUmatic also generates a Quick Response code for every product entered in to the catalogue, along with a unique mobile friendly URL to help drive customer interaction with products and promotions. You can also customise messages, embed images or video demonstrations to make the most of your QR codes and how they can help increase your business.

The colour scheme of the application is fully customisable, so you can design the page to mimic the colours of your company page or logo by customising menu headers, backgrounds, text and links, and reducing the need to pay for additional design.

Your product catalogue can be managed by brand name, customise category names and even assign brands and products to individual retailers if your catalogue isn’t fully stocked in every store. With the ability to upload function for products and category listing rules in bulk you can save time and effort while adding thousands of products in one go.

You can also create information on individual retailers including store locations, contact information and items stocked. Fully flexible, you can upload banners, logos and images unique to each store. The Where To Buy page incorporates some of this information, along with providing a search engine for nearby retailers if users input their postcode.

By fully integrating a product catalogue, store location details, assign unique products to individual retailers, and provide customers with a means of interacting with your products and other users, SKUmatic have created an easy to use system that can help increase your sales and customer base through the use of social media.

Facebook Offers

You may have seen some new things appearing on Facebook recently – including ‘Facebook Offers‘. They are Facebook’s new attempt to help page owners drive traffic and sales. Currently free to run, but limited to a small number of pages, they are a great way of raising a page’s profile and gaining new likes.

Once the offer is live, it’ll appear in the newsfeed and in the newsfeed of those who claim it. People can comment on the offer, like it and claim it from the newsfeed.

Once someone has accepted your offer, Facebook will email the customer. They can then use that email to claim the offer!

There are loads of handy hints and tips for creating an offer here.
If your page isn’t yet set up for offers, just let Facebook know and they’ll try and get you the functionality sooner (here)

STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO CREATING FACEBOOK OFFERS

1. Go to your page. Then from the sharing tool, click ‘Offer, Event +’ to open up the offers section.

2. Choose an image for your offer – remember that these will be shared, so the image needs to work as a thumbnail.

3. Pick a really strong headline for your offer. Keep it short and sweet and to the point. This will be shared so needs to be attention grabbing!

4. Fix up your small print – how many of your offer can be bought? When does the offer end? Anything else people should know about? Don’t forget to set an expiration date!

5. Preview the post and then post it! Sit back and see what happens. Don’t forget to try different offers and test the results! See what works for your audience!

Facebook’s Timeline and How It Can Help Your Business

At the beginning of the month Facebook introduced Timeline for Pages, a new layout that will enable you to highlight specific stories or items of interest, interact with your followers to a greater degree and offer the ability for users to send you private messages. Most users are already familiar with Timeline through their personal accounts but there are some differences incorporated in to Timeline for Pages that can help your business.

Using a two-column approach that allows you to highlight important stories at the top of the page for up to seven days, Timeline signals to your followers that you want them to take note of it. Your general news feed is spread across the page with the timeline running down the centre. You can now determine what information is readily available to your audience, playing up those items you deem important and hiding anything you no longer want to appear to the public. You can even go back and fill in any gaps to ensure your users are getting a cohesive and complete view of your brand or business

We recently blogged about Insights for Pages, with Timeline those Insights will be visible in an admin panel at the top of the page, unseen by the public. Covering everything from your notifications to private messages, new likes and tips, the admin panel also provides access to the entire activity log for your Page.

The About section for your business is now front and centre, right underneath the new cover photo. Revise this section now, let your readers find out more about your company or where to find you elsewhere on the web. Utilise the cover photo to post something interesting and brand related. Facebook has strict rules on what can and can’t be included in a cover photo and, with it being the first thing your users will see, it should be carefully considered.

You can add information to the boxes to the right of your About section, previously these would have been links on the left hand side of your Page. Four boxes will always be visible, with photos being the first, but you can order the remaining three however you please. Take the opportunity to include up to twelve pieces of information or apps that are significant for your business.

Use the composer to create Milestones for key events in your company’s history such as a product launch or the opening of a new store; celebrate, emphasis and make it easy for your audience to learn about the important happenings. Milestone posts, like any posts in your feed that you star as important, will take up the full width of the page and require a photograph.

Your users will see information about friends who have interacted with your Page, offering incentive for them to get involved. By highlighting your followers and their activities Timeline for Pages is increasing your ability to interact with your fans, your comments in reply to their posts will appear here and on their feed.

Admin access levels are apparently in the pipeline, allowing you to grant differing permissions for any employees who may need to administrate your Page. This can greatly help your customer service department with the advent of private messages for Pages, allowing them access means they can do their job without requiring an intermediary.

Timeline will be rolled out for all Pages by the end of this month (March 30th). For those wanting more information on how to use Timeline for Pages there’s a handy interactive learning video linked from the help menu at the top of your Page.

Resources to help your transition:
Facebook Pages Terms – https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php
Introducing New Facebook Pages – https://www.facebook.com/help/pages/new-design / https://www.facebook.com/about/pages
Image sizes guide - http://www.supercod.com/internet/facebook-timeline-photo-size/

Here’s what Timeline will look like for pages! They are all changing on the 30th March – so get prepared!