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Facebook新功能毁掉一个行业

Facebook新功能毁掉一个行业

Ryan Holmes 2012年07月16日
众所周知,Facebook永远都处于测试状态,做出重大改版也不是稀奇事。问题是,这种做法可能会扼杀掉一个快速成长的行业。比如Facebook最近为Facebook Pages应用推出的Timeline就给专为各大品牌设计登录标签的细分行业带来了灭顶之灾。在此之前,它的市场价值已经达到了10亿美元之巨。

    众所周知,马克•扎克伯格似乎永远把Facebook保持在测试状态。每推出一批新功能,许多用户都会感到高兴,但也总不免会有些用户感到别扭。然而对于企业来说,哪怕十分微小的升级也可以对企业的盈亏产生重大影响。

    比如Facebook最近为Facebook Pages应用推出了一个叫做Timeline(意为“时间线”)的功能,它主要可以被各大品牌用来与消费者进行互动。从表面上看,这个变化并不是什么惊天动地的事。简单说来,从今年3月30日开始,Facebook已经正式弃用了旧版的Pages格式。旧版的Pages允许企业设置一个“标签”作为静态的登录页面——这就像是一个漂亮的店面门脸,可以吸引消费者。用户可以通过这个页面点击不同的标签,来欣赏照片、视频、广告片或其它定制内容。

    不过Timeline功能改变了一切。首先是标签已经被最小化了,更重要的是,企业无法再自行设置默认登录页面。对于各大品牌来说,通过打造第一印象吸引消费者的机会已经没有了。现在用户首先在Pages上看到的是一个流动的、不断变化的由近期的贴子和评论组成的时间轴。(如果有些品牌想要突出特定内容,他们仍然可以把一篇贴子在Timeline上“置顶”最多一周的时间。)

    然而,下面才是最有趣的事情。据一家名叫PageLever的研究公司介绍,自从Timeline推出之后,Facebook Pages上各种标签的用户点击率下降了53%,着实令人震惊。PageLever公司的创始人杰夫•维德曼在接受新闻网站Mashable采访时解释道:“由于现在的系统不提供将标签设为默认视图的功能,大多数用户永远不会再看到标签了。我们已经听到不少用户称,他们根本没有意识到Timeline推出后,标签仍然继续存在。”

    那又怎嘛一个难?容我细细道来。这么多年来,难以数计的公司都在帮助各大品牌设计这些默认登录标签的视觉效果和感觉,当然也包括Facebook Pages上的其它标签。他们吃的就是这碗饭。我说的并不只是那些夫妻作坊式的设计工作室。让我再提几家有名的:像Vitrue(今年5月刚被甲骨文以3亿美元收购)、Context Optional(2011年5月以5000万美元被收购)和Buddy Media(今年6月作价6.89亿美元被Salesforce收购)这种公司,他们的业务中有相当大的一部分就是为企业用户定制这种标签。光是这三家公司的市值加在一起就超过了10亿美元。

    现在,差不多就在一夜之间,就因为Facebook的布局做了一个貌似微小的修改,他们的业务模式中有相当大的一部分就要付之流水了。(科技博客Betabeat的杰西卡•罗伊甚至因此猜测,这是不是就是Buddy Media急着把自己卖出去的原因。)因此现在相关新闻的留言板上都在热议一个类似的问题——现在大家是不是该点起火把,手拿钢叉,去找Facebook算账——为什么不肯见好就收,非要断大家的财路?

    事实上现在绝对不是找Facebook算账的时候。Facebook的Timeline功能对消费者来说其实是一项福利,而且对于那些想接触到消费者的各大品牌也同样是一项福利——虽然一开始看起来可能并不是这样。Facebook通过一次简单的升级,使自己摆脱了大量乏味的营销广告牌(相当于霓虹灯招牌),迫使企业更真诚、更亲密地与受众交流,给自己品牌的Page注入新的活力。简言之,Timeline欢迎的是那些符合社交媒体初衷的内容——也就是人与人之间真实、及时、有用的信息交流,而不是浮华昂贵的图片,以及令人厌烦的自我推销。

    社交媒体公司Deep Focus的CEO兰•沙弗尔在接受新闻网站Mashable的记者山姆•莱尔德采访时指出:“这是一个机会,可以让各品牌在Facebook上讲述更引人入胜的故事……它要求品牌投入更多精力控制自己的内容。”由于Timeline的照片、视频、内容、广告片和其它贴子总是在不断变动,因此它可以说是围绕着品牌和粉丝之间近乎实时的对话而打造的。总而言之,无论一个默认登录页面设计得有多好,相比之下,Timeline都是一种强大得多的推广工具。

    Mark Zuckerberg is famous for keeping Facebook (FB) in a state of permanent beta. And while each new wave of features is bound to baffle some users and delight others, for businesses even minor updates can have a major impact on the bottom line.

    Take the rollout of Timeline for Facebook Pages, which are used primarily by brands to engage with consumers. On the surface, the changes hardly sounds earth-shattering. In a nutshell, as of March 30, Facebook officially canned the old Pages format, which allowed businesses to set one "tab" as a static landing page -- a kind of flashy storefront to lure in consumers. From there, users could click on different tabs to explore photos, videos, promos or any other custom content.

    The Timeline redesign changed all of that. Tabs have been minimized and -- more importantly -- companies can no longer set a default landing page. For brands, a critical chance to make a first impression is gone. The first thing users now see on Pages is a fluid, ever-shifting Timeline of recent posts and comments. (Brands wanting to highlight specific content can still "pin" a post to the top of the Timeline for up to a week.)

    Still with me? Here's where things get interesting. According to PageLever, a firm specializing in Facebook analytics, user engagement with tabs on Facebook Pages is down a staggering 53% since Timeline launched. "Without the option to set a custom tab as the default view, most users will never see a tab again," explains PageLever founder Jeff Widman in an interview with Mashable. "We've heard from several users they didn't even realize tabs still existed with Timeline."

    So what? Over the years, countless companies were born to help brands customize the look and feel of those default landing tabs and other tabs on Facebook Pages. And we're not just talking about mom-and-pop design shops. Let me name drop. A good part of the business at Vitrue (acquired by Oracle (ORCL) for $300 million in May), Context Optional (acquired for $50 million in May 2011) and Buddy Media (acquired by Salesforce (CRM) for $689 million in June) is dedicated to customizing those very tabs for corporate and enterprise clients. Just those three companies alone are valued at more than $1 billion.

    Now - nearly overnight - a significant piece of their business model has been compromised by a seemingly minor tweak in Facebook's layout (Betabeat's Jessica Roy goesso far as to ask if that's why Buddy Media was so eager to sell). All of this begs a familiar question, being debated on comment boards: Is it time to light the torches, get out the pitchforks and -- once again -- skewer Facebook for messing with a good thing and refusing to leave well enough alone?

    Absolutely not. Timeline for Pages is a boon to consumers and, while it might not seem so at first, a boon to the brands trying to reach them. In one deft move, Facebook has purged itself of petabytes of stale marketing schlock (the equivalent of so many flashy neon signs), obliged companies to engage more earnestly and intimately with their audiences and reinvigorated its brand Pages. In short, it has privileged the kind of content that social media was made for -- authentic, timely and useful exchanges between human beings -- over glitz, expensive graphics and tired self-promotion.

    "It's an opportunity for brands to tell more engaging stories on Facebook than they can now... It puts them more in control of their content," points out Ian Schafer, CEO of highly respected social media agency Deep Focus, in an interview with Mashable's Sam Laird. Timeline, with its continual exchange of photos, videos, comments, promos and other posts, is built around a near real-time dialogue between brands and their fans. At the end of the day, this represents a far more powerful promotional tool than a default landing page, no matter how well designed it may be.

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