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The Empire Strikes Back: Facebook unveils major changes to hit back at Google+

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 24th August 2011

The fight back begins here! As soon as Google+ launched last month, commentators across the (social media) world have argued that all the innovations the search giant has rolled out could be added by Facebook relatively easily.

And today, this point has been illustrated perfectly.

In one of the biggest updates to hit the world’s biggest social network, Facebook has unveiled a raft of feature additions. And in the same week the company has been called before the UK government to discuss the network’s involvement in the recent riots, many of the changes relate to privacy and the way users share information with the wider world.

What has changed?

In a blog post, Facebook outlines the main changes:

  • In line controls –  every element on a user’s page or wall now has individual privacy controls determining who can see what, such as public, friends and custom
  • Profile tag review – giving the option to review and approve or reject any tag someone tries to add to photos and posts
  • View profile as… – another drop-down allowing anyone to view their profile as others would see it
  • ‘Everyone’ becomes ‘public’ – previously, when you shared a post with the wider world, it was labelled ‘everyone’. This has been clarified now with this tag being renamed ‘public’
  • Change your mind – you can now change the visibility settings for any post after it has been published
  • Tag whoever you want – you used to only be able to tag people you were friends with or Pages/brands you had liked. Now you can tag anyone
  • Tag location in posts – add geolocation information to every post

The changes will roll out gradually to users over the next few days.

There are clear nods here towards Twitter with geolocation, tagging whoever you want in posts and generally making more information publicly available if users choose.

Take aim, fire!

But it is definitely Google+ and the move towards sharing with different social circles that seems to be the main target here. Talking about the in line sharing controls, there is this very telling line in the blog post:

“This dropdown menu will be expanding over time to include smaller groups of people you may want to share with, like co-workers, Friend Lists you’ve created, and Groups you’re a member of. These will make it easy to quickly select exactly the audience you want for any post.”

Brand implications

For brands and marketers too, there are considerations here to note. The ability for users to tag any user or brand even if they don’t follow them will have additional reputation implications, but will also present new opportunities for companies to engage on the network. Added to this, the move towards more ‘public’ posts could potentially extend the reach of branded campaigns too.

So a big move by Facebook. We’ll be looking very closely at how users take up these features and whether this will have an implication on how social media PR strategies can be rolled out.

Danny Whatmough