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Many marketers are still wrapping their heads around recent changes to Facebook pages and their effect on the way brands can interact with their users across the platform.

It‘s unsurprising that some were caught off guard by the announcement that Facebook will also be making a larger change in March, finally moving away from FBML coding in favour of a return to iframes.

While the announcement isn’t a complete surprise - rumours have been circulating since 2010 - the ramifications could ultimately be much larger for Facebook and e-commerce in general.

What does this mean for brands? 

FBML was initially utilised in order to create a uniform look within Facebook and allow more seamless integration, but a return to iframes will now enable brands to create a far richer, more immersive experience for users within the network, while also using recent changes to engage proactively with potential customers.

In essence, the move to iframes means full CSS, Javascript and standardised HTML can now be used when creating and editing pages, giving many businesses the opportunity to directly import their existing websites into Facebook.

While there are still some limitations in place, this may be of particular interest to small-to-medium size companies and multichannel players who do not yet have an extensive, established web presence.

The ability to utilise open graph data directly within pages, as well as improved niche targeting means Facebook may finally become a viable alternative to an externally hosted site.

Many companies already rely heavily on social interaction to drive revenue, and the continued rise of F-commerce has shown that businesses are happy to conduct transactions directly on their pages.

Limitations

As mentioned, there are a few limitations:

Facebook will still specify page sizes and host them within it’s familiar blue and white borders, and by retaining the message wall it’s clear that the world’s largest social network has not lost sight of what made it so popular in the first place.

In addition, brands considering a fuller presence on the network will need to think about organisational changes and ownership.

Speaking as a page manager whose own coding skills barely extend beyond ‘Duck Hunt for ZX Spectrum’, I’m happy to have an experienced tech team to fall back on, and many managers may find that they will need to improve their own coding or hand extended control directly to more experienced  programmers.

While this isn’t a problem per se, it’s worth considering whether or not this will affect your ability to roll out campaigns quickly and tweak details as they progress, especially if you are working with a larger client.

Likewise, this will have a considerable effect on businesses that utilise an external agency to manage their Facebook presence.

It's unlikely that these changes will result in a wholesale stampede just yet. The vast majority of brands will quite rightly be highly sceptical of handing full control over to Facebook.

The network has made it clear that ‘Our house, our rules’ will still apply, and it’s always been perilous to put all your brand eggs in an externally hosted basket, especially as Facebook has struggled with reliability issues when making larger changes, primarily due to the sheer amount of data and millions of external commands the network handles on a daily basis.

Facebook page optimisation

On the plus side, the changes mean that brands can now carry out far more effective and unobtrusive multivariate testing on their pages, will be more easily able to optimise directly for mobile, and will doubtless see heavy growth in the nascent field of FPO (That’s Facebook Page Optimisation to you) as brands fight to appear in Facebook’s internal search as well as on external search engines.

Combined with the uniformity Facebook provides, this again may allow smaller businesses to compete on a more even field with larger competitors.

Overall, I see these changes as a good thing for both brands and customers. Pages will become more usable and feature-heavy, with more seamless commercial transactions embedded directly, while brands will retain access to the long-tail communication and tracking that “like” enables.

Facebook itself meanwhile stands to benefit enormously.

Increased commercial potential combined with a massive and highly engaged audience mean that F-commerce is about to take a giant leap forward, and will certainly make the site a viable alternative to product-specific micro sites, if not major portals.

Matt Owen

Published 2 March, 2011 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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digitalniyi

It's amazing how much effect Facebook is having on e-commerce and brand experience. I think Facebook will continue to play an important role in helping brands engage directly with their target market. the question is, how long?

over 5 years ago

Robert Mobberley

Robert Mobberley, CEO at Peformance Motorcare Products Ltd

I agree that the moves are positive ones and allow a brand greater flexibility in how it engages with the audience. There is still however one major flaw in the move to do more on facebook and that is the negative attitude of many organisations on allowing access to FB through their networks. I agree it is highly understandable as to why this might be but if your audience is one that might be searching for your products or service during their spare time in their lunch or breaks then putting too many eggs in the FB basket or even SMEs using it as their primary web presence could be extremely limiting - just something to consider as part of your overall online strategy.

over 5 years ago

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Leigh Beckett

I'm sure the move to iframes provides greater flexibility in terms of a page's look and feel and that has to be an improvement, particularly for those who are using Facebook as their primary web presence or as a means to generate traffic and drive it to their own site. As for putting too many eggs in the FB basket, apart from Facebook's propensity for sudden major change, I don't see a problem. With almost 600 million users, 250 million mobile users and 700 billion minutes per month spent on Facebook - its a pretty big basket for any SME. Plus, they haven't even started to get clever with search yet.

over 5 years ago

Peter Gould

Peter Gould, Senior PPC Analyst at Epiphany

This is definitely a very interesting and clever move by Facebook. Allowing brands to encorporate more of their website content into their Facebook prescence can only be a good thing for businesses as they seek to take greater advantage of their Facebook followers.

Obviously just juding by some of the points made on limitations in this post, it's clear there are a few workarounds, and brands need to be aware that they may not be able to duplicate the exact same content from their main websites like-for-like and expect the results to be the same.

But the more brands seeing Facebook a viable medium in which to promote and sell (and in the cases of some brands, shifting all their online presence over to Facebook as we're starting to see), that can only be good for Facebook.

I wonder if there'll eventually become a point where consumers arrive at Facebook and see it as the one-stop shop to conduct all their online activity? That would be interesting, but I'm sure Google would have something to say about it!

over 5 years ago

Mike Gomez

Mike Gomez, SEO Analyst at Epiphany

Agree with Leigh and Pete,

I can see brands definitely leveraging this in terms of innovative social campaigns and especially from a e-commerce perspective. I can also see this being of great benefit to non profit organisations too.

It will be interesting to see if brands begin to use Facebook as their homepage (like when Skittles did with Twitter) and I think it will work to their benefit from both sentiment and sales generation – if done correctly.

There lies an issue in itself. If you are going to open yourself up to “F-commerce”, the resource and strategy needs to be there (if it isn’t already) to manage customer service, questions and more importantly improve engagement and brand loyalty.

Either way, I’m all for the roll out of iFrames and look forward to the innovation that comes with it.

P.S. Duck Hunt was amazing back in the day!

over 5 years ago

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facebook iframes

no doubt facebook iframes is a great step ahead, but what will happen to old static fbml pages. will they continue to be there?? how long will face book bear them...

over 5 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi -yes fbml pages will still remain up, but they can no longer be edited -if you want to make changes you'll need to remove the page and build a replacement using iFrames. Existing pages should stay up for... welll, as long as FBML/HTML can take the strain really.

over 5 years ago

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