Today Facebook announced it’s new layout/complete overhaul. Great summaries of the most important changes can be found at Yahoo! and at AllFacebook.com, but the question that remains is: Does the new design offer any transmedia opportunities? After all, it was also announced today that Facebook has now got over 800 million users – an immense audience, and even better possibilities of targeting particular niches due to Facebook’s unparalleled user profiling.
The good news is: Yes, there are transmedia opportunities, maybe even more than most people would have expected.
The bad news is: Some new Facebook integrations seem to be controlled by existing entertainment companies.
But let’s go through the most relevant new features step-by-step.
A) Ticker: The new Facebook will feature a real-time live ticker that shows all updates as they happen – what your friends and the pages you follow liked, posted, updated, commented, etc. The newsfeed will continue to exist, but unlike the ticker it will focus more on what people shared, not so much on real-time action.
Transmedia opportunities: The ticker offers tremendous opportunities for real-time storytelling and developments like social films. Facebook remains the biggest social network, and also possesses greater possibilities for sharing than Twitter, so having an up-to-date ticker rather than the relatively static newsfeed can improve transmedia storytelling on social media significantly and can cause even more direct and instant audience reactions. Currently, the newsfeed on Facebook takes a while to display the most recent developments, so if a user is interested in a particular real-time story he/she has to make sure they follow that story directly on its Facebook page to not miss out on anything. Having the live ticker can change this, and maybe even rope in less dedicated fans by constantly informing them of new developments in a real-time story.
B) Timeline: The timeline will replace the current profile pages. Each user can compose his/her timeline according to his/her wishes – which photos are shown, which events, and which updates, for example. As such, it gives greater freedom to all users in terms of how they present themselves, i.e. what identity they establish through highlighting some things and neglecting others. Needless to say, this is of course great for telling your personal story.
Transmedia opportunities: From what we know so far, the timeline is particularly useful for managing one’s own identity online. I do not know whether Facebook pages (for brands and and public personas) will be replaced by the timeline as well, but if they do, it offers mostly opportunities for transmedia branding and marketing. It will be easier to present a brand’s story and to control how followers see it – a great advantage compared to current Facebook pages where adding new photos and updates can quickly change the overall look and feel of a Facebook page. Identity is based on stories, and by emphasizing identity in the timeline, Facebook encourages everyone to share their own stories with others.
C) Entertainment: Entertainment becomes even more social on the new Facebook. Deals with Netflix and Spotify let users watch movies and listen to music right on Facebook without having to leave the page, while everyone is kept up-to-date on what their friends are watching and listening.
Transmedia opportunities: By integrating movies and music into Facebook, sharing and consuming entertainment content becomes even more social and collective. Needless to say, this offers great opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing and community building around content worlds. However, it remains to be seen how accessible Netflix and Spotify are in terms of distribution (particularly for indie producers) and whether they will be the only movie and music platforms integrated with Facebook. If this is the case, some transmedia producers will find themselves at a disadvantage if they are dependent on Netflix and Spotify as gatekeepers.
D) “Add to timeline” – Like 2.0: Complying with the new emphasis on managing one’s on Facebook presentation, Facebook will premier the ‘add to timeline’ button. Until now, ‘liking’ this or that page or application automatically added it to your profile page, but in the future, the ‘add to timeline’ button will allow users to manage what is shown in the timeline and what isn’t.
Transmedia opportunities: This is a great opportunity for fans to represent themselves as belonging to particular fandoms. The ‘add to timeline’ button allows them to differentiate between what movies or entertainment they just ‘like’, and what they really, really like. While this is an aspect that cannot be controlled by transmedia producers, I predict that it will be very helpful in creating fan communities.