The social network and its affiliates have rolled out at least nine changes to Facebook ads--plus a few other shifts--in the past few months.
Facebook likes change. Some of its changes affect the entire platform, while others affect only personal profiles or brand pages. Still others affect advertising, analytics, or application developers.
It can be tough to keep up--but if you're trying to use Facebook as a marketing platform, you need to stay current.
Let me try to recap some important recent changes.
Large format: Facebook begins selling large-format "log out" ads. With a price point of $700,000 per day, these ads provide big brands with a major canvas on which they are the only piece of real content. They grab the user's undivided attention, delivering an ad message more effectively. (February 29)
Self-service premium ads: Facebook debuts a self-service platform for advertisers to purchase its "new, upgraded premium ads," as reported by ClickZ. (May 23)
Sponsored stories: Ad Age Digital reports that Facebook opens up its mobile-only sponsored-story ad placements "to the masses." That means all advertisers, not just big brands buying premium ad packages. (June 5)
Real-time ad marketplace: Facebook announces the launch of a real-time, Google AdWords–like ad inventory bid marketplace for advertisers, which would target ads even further based on a user's browser data. Wrote Mashable, "For example, if a user has searched 'SUV,' and goes on Facebook, auto advertisers will be able to serve that person ads on Facebook for SUVs." (June 13)
Payvment ad service: Facebook storefront-enablement company Payvment begins offering a Facebook ad-buying service integrating "unique transaction-based data" to allow advertisers to target buyers based on a "taste graph," according to ClickZ. (June 19)
Syndication on Zynga: Facebook ads appear syndicated on Zynga.com. See screen grab at right for an example. (June 22)
Targeting based on apps: The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook will be launching mobile ad targeting based on the apps people use, which Facebook tracks through its Facebook Connect feature. (July 6)
Yahoo cross-promotion: Facebook and Yahoo announce an advertising alliance to distribute ads across each other's digital properties. (July 6)
Automated "premium" ad buys: Ad Age Digital reports that Facebook has started to automate purchases of its "premium inventory" (the "prime real estate" ads that "appear on the right rail of a user's news feed, as opposed to a user's profile page"). These ads can be bought directly through Facebook or some third-party sellers. (July 13)
One other advertising change happened during this time period, by the way--and this may have been a change Facebook didn't like quite so much. In mid-May, just days before the Facebook IPO, General Motors announced it was pulling its $10 million Facebook ad campaign. Although some observers initially interpreted this to mean that GM felt Facebook ads didn't work, a later Ad Age Digital article indicated that it was rooted in GM's desire to serve larger ads to Facebook users.
Other Facebook Changes
Facebook has also recently rolled out several other changes to its platform. Here are a few additional shifts that could affect your business:
New data and privacy policies: Facebook announces enhanced transparency of its data collection and privacy policies, and "more examples and detailed explanations ... like tips, marked with a light bulb." (May 11)
Facebook Camera: New mobile app, Facebook Camera, launches. (May 24)
App Center: Facebook launches App Center, a central place to locate its social apps. (June 7)
Third-party developer fees: Facebook begins allowing third-party Facebook-app developers to charge one-time payments and subscription fees for their apps. (June 19)
Page administration levels: Facebook enables different roles and permission levels to Page administrators. There are five levels of administration: Manager, Content Creator, Moderator, Advertiser, and Insights Analyst. (June 20)
Comment editing: Facebook begins rolling out comment editing. You can now correct fat-fingers and auto-correct mistakes. (June 21)
Scheduled posts: Business users can now schedule Page posts to appear at a future date/time. (June 23)
Page-management app: Facebook launches Pages Manager, "an app for the iPhone that helps you keep track of your Page activity, view insights, and respond to your audience from wherever you are." (June 25)
New admin tools: Users of Facebook Groups can now view who's seen each post. Facebook also launched a feature for Page administrators called "Voice Bar"--a top-of-screen reminder that you are about to take action under your business account rather than your personal one (or vice-versa). (July 11)
Don't blink! At this rate, there are bound to be more Facebook changes due out soon.
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases