We’ve seen a bit of dust kicked up in the past couple of weeks surrounding three announcements from both Google and Facebook about search, status updates, and an old favorite of The Internets, PRIVACY.
#1. TechCrunch reported that Google, a popular search engine, has chosen to include “public” Facebook status updates in the special, Real-Time place in regular Google search results. MySpace and Twitter updates are already showing up.
#2. Facebook just rolled out changes to their privacy settings. Upon login, people have been presented with a prompt, asking them to confirm their privacy settings to the default, recommended settings, or to keep their old ones. The default setting for status updates is “everyone,” meaning that people’s updates of “I’m eating a waffle” are now set to be indexed by Google.
Facebook claims that this is a reaction to the way that people are using the service in this interview on ReadWriteWeb. Barry Schnitt, Director of Corporate Communications and Public Policy at Facebook, gives this somewhat veiled explanation: “Because the site is changing, our userbase is changing and the world changing.”
What ever the official stance may be, it is clear that both companies stand to benefit from more updates being made publicly available, and having those updates showing up in search.
#3. The final announcement, as reported by MediaPost, will have an impact upon those that use the Facebook Pages. From the start, all status updates from a Page have shown up in the news feed of Fans of that Page. Soon, Facebook will be inserting an algorithm into that process, giving preference to Page owners that have a higher level of engagement with their Fans. (Engagement, in this case, being people “Liking” and commenting upon updates.) Simply stated, the more interaction a Page has, more of those updates will appear in Fans’ News Feeds.
What does this mean for those that operate Fan Pages on Facebook?
If your strategy has been to set one up and wait for people to make it viral, then you have your work cut out for you.
If it weren’t already clear, it should be blindingly so now: your social media strategy is a content strategy. Status updates are content. Links and Notes in Facebook get indexed. Photos on your Page will soon show up in search.
No need for alarm. If dealt with properly, it can be cause for celebration. Reach can now be extended outside of the walled garden of Facebook and into the wide open world of search. More traffic can potentially be driven to Pages and sections of Pages, like Notes, Photos, and Video.
There will be some work involved. Page owners may need to take a new approach to the content they publish to those pages.
Facebook’s new News Feed insertion rules depend on the mojo granted from comments and “Likes.” Page administrators will need to curry the favor of those Fans. To do this, publishers and content creators should apply the same SEO-friendly rules to their Facebook content and updates that are likely in place for other content:
- Clear, descriptive titles
- Concise summaries
- Relevant images, video, audio content
- Proper metadata attribution
For other content creators and publishers, these changes may be a wake-up call. Maybe the updates that have been published up to this point haven’t been that appealing. Perhaps they were posted just to post something, to stay in front of Fans. Now may be the time to look at a larger content strategy. Or, ask bigger questions, such as “What are we doing here?”
As more outlets [and changes in those outlets’ policies] present themselves, they’ll need to be incorporated into strategies, workflows, governance, and metrics. Unlike other, more static components of a content strategy, the rules and tactics in social media are more likely change week to week. User agreement changes, acquisitions, and partnerships with competitors can all force a re-examination.
Even what seems to be a relatively minor change in a single channel may turn out to have a sizable impact.