Last week, Facebook released a new feature that Slate magazine called a “fiendish plot.” It referenced the new emoticons that Facebook users can now tag their social status updates with. Facebook, naturally, doesn’t advertise the new feature as a fiendish plot but a customer experience improvement, calling it “a new, more visual way for people to share how [members are] feeling and what they’re doing…”
Members can now select different emoticons to express exactly what it is they’re doing or how they’re feeling as part of their status updates. We can still choose simple emoticons that express basic feelings such as happy, sad, tired, excited, and so on but it’s the activity-based emoticons that have pundits all in a frenzy and marketers salivating. These new emoticons tell your friends what you’re “listening to,” “reading,” “drinking,” “watching” or “eating.”
Why is Facebook adding this feature?
Facebook claims that this new feature enhances the user experience by simplifying the act of sharing their interests and activities with friends. However, it’s no secret Facebook does nothing without an eye towards how much information it can collect – and share – about its members. Facebook is a business after all. As any good business, it has to generate revenue. In this case, member information equals revenue.
I don’t doubt that social media users will jump on this new feature, even though Facebook alerts users that the details they include in their updates could show up elsewhere on the site. In other words, it’s yet another way for Facebook to collect data about people for targeted advertising purposes.
Why is this important to marketers?
The “wisdom of crowds” phenomenon has become somewhat of a misnomer for marketers. Influence marketing strategies have tried to capitalize on the power of the collective voice and opinion of the crowd, yet with so much noise and distortion in social channels, there are too few case studies that show a measurable impact on direct sales.
Brand marketers are starting to reverse their thinking on crowds; instead of surfing the wave of public sentiment, they’re diving to uncover the nature of the relationships and conversations between individuals in that groupthink. My experiences have shown there’s a greater opportunity to sway purchase decisions by leveraging smaller, niche communities based on personal relationships and factors than by gaining the attention of large masses of people across all social channels.
Facebook’s new activity-based emoticons allow Facebook – and eventually the marketers they sell this data to – more efficiently identify the actions taken and sentiment experienced when people in specific relationships discuss their products and services online. It adds greater context to online dialogues, which in turn represents greater opportunity to solicit advocacy and influence that impact directs sales.
Sensei Debates: What do you think of Facebook’s new emotions? Fiendish plot or improved customer experience? Are we sharing harmless information or giving away too much?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego