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What Facebook's Latest Changes Mean for Businesses

What Facebooks Latest Changes Mean for BusinessesFacebook recently made a number of product and platform changes that affect companies and brands that market using the world’s most popular social utility. Here are five of the latest changes you need to be aware of:

1. Privacy settings for sharing: Privacy has long headed the list of concerns expressed by users of Facebook. As a result, Facebook has made a slew of changes that give users more control over who sees the content they create and post.

What this means for your business: Facebook wordsmithed the default sharing prompt that alerts users about who sees what they’re about to post. The default setting "Everyone" was changed to "Public," and that subtle change taps into the human psyche surrounding issues related to privacy. "Public" clearly demonstrates that the public at large can view your updates, photos and more, whereas "Everyone" is ambiguous, or even folksy. That, of course, worked to the advantage of social media monitoring tools that rely on lots of public-facing content to fill their dashboards and analytic reports. The new "Public" label will likely result in fewer public-facing citations, which means businesses may have less to listen to.

2. Facebook Deals is dead: Facebook’s attempt to get in on the daily deal craze has ended. Facebook Deals, which launched in eight U.S. markets since April, has been discontinued. The company says it learned a lot from testing Deals and will continue to evaluate how to best serve local businesses. (Note that Yelp this week announced that it would exit the daily-deals space as well.)

What this means for your business: Facebook Deals was only available to merchants in eight U.S. cities, so unless your business operated in or around one of them, you won’t be impacted by this development. In any event, there’s no shortage of daily deal sites interested in working with you. 

3. Ad targeting by Topic: For businesses and brands advertising on Facebook, the company now allows you to target your ads by Topic, not just Precise Interests and keywords. Ad targeting by Topic combines overlapping Precise Interests, which in turn allow for easier targeting. For example, listing the Topic "cooking" will target Facebook users with related interests in "cooking," "cooking tips" and "cooking and eating." 

What this means for your business: If you know your target audience has a set of interests, ad targeting by Topic eliminates the need to manage a complex list of keywords. The addition of Topic targeting also allows businesses and brands to run A/B testing, or split testing, whereby you run two versions of the same ad -- one powered by Topic targeting, the other by Precise Interest targeting -- and then determine which one generates a higher return.

4. Advertising restrictions eased: Facebook now allows the promotion of legal gambling operations -- including offline casinos -- so long as such ads are appropriately targeted. The company also eased restrictions on ads promoting dietary and herbal supplements that do not contain certain ingredients, including ephedra, anabolic steroids and human growth hormones. 

What this means for your business: Lifting restrictions on what is often viewed as advertisements for somewhat unsavory offerings may case users to lump all Facebook advertisements into the same distasteful pool. Now, more than ever, truth and authenticity in advertising matters.

5. Places gives way to location tagging: Facebook is phasing out its mobile Places feature, which allowed users to "check in" to locations -- including businesses -- from their cell phones. 

What this means for your business: The impact here is minimal. Users will still be able to check-into a geographical location and take advantage of check-in Deals created by your business. But instead of using Places, they’ll use location tagging to indicate where they are -- possibly resulting in even more people tagging your businesses location.

Will these changes to Facebook help or hurt your business? Tell us how in the comments section. 

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.

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