The Life and Times of a Press Release – how the new Facebook is going to impact your releases



 September 30, 2011

Facebook is changing – again.  No need to pinch yourself to see if you are dreaming or having deja vu – it’s real, and like most Facebook changes it’s going to have its friends and sworn enemies.

The minor changes are already appearing on the site. The News Feed ticker has appeared in the top right hand corner of the screen which gives you a real-time feed of your friends updates and posts. One interesting point here is that you don’t have to click on an update to read it fully. If you hover your pointer over the update then it explodes the post into a bigger version allowing you to click through to other pictures and links attached.   For a Press Release writer or PR Professional, this make the importance of an attention grabbing title and impactful first paragraph even more essential than it already was.

Next you have the Smart Lists function. This is a tribute (rip-off) of Google +’s circles feature and allows you to group your friends into specific areas of interest. For a Release writer – you can now group your different audiences together and target them all individually or collectively for your releases. An example might be if you are friends with media groups in different states and write different releases for each market – now you can send a Michigan release to the Michigan media and a Georgia release to Georgia media, etc.  You can still send everything to everybody if needed but it allows you to target your releases more effectively.

The regular News-feed has also changed. It is now organized into Top Stories and Recent Stories. Top Stories are posts that FB thinks you might be interested in and Recent Stories are just that. Top Stories will not be updated if you log in regularly but it is based on your past interaction with FB. It will ‘learn’ what topics and friends you like most and give them preference. If used properly, this will allow you to mine FB for industry or other interesting news that can better inform and improve your press releases and other information. There is no propriety on good ideas and five minutes reading might be more rewarding and creatively empowering than starring at a blank page for an hour willing creativity to pour forth!

The Subscribe Button is another addition and allows you to make your profile more viewable and accessible to the casual viewer. The creation of the subscribe button allows you to keep your FB page as a personal one, not a public page – but that will have to be a decision for you based on your own business. It does allow the solo PR practitioner to run their page as they would a business page however.

The biggest change is definitely the addition of the Facebook Timeline. Introduced as a ‘scrap-booking’ feature, it allows visitors and friends to search a Facebook page easily from the day it was created (or even earlier!) The timeline is locked in the top right hand corner of the screen and is a slider that allows the visitor to select a day, month, year to view the posts that were displayed.  If you post your press releases on your site then this is one of the easiest and most user-friendly curation tools that could have been implemented.  Every release you have written or posted on FB is now a slide away without having to click through numerous pages of ‘older posts’.

One other item to note on the Timeline – it places a premium on images and pictures. It places a large picture front and center on every page. Called the ‘cover’ – this picture is going to be more important than the profile picture because it will immediately draw the users eye to it. It is a great branding opportunity for the press release writer and can be swapped out or replaced at any time so a fresh cover picture strategy will have to be adopted immediately.  FB will also lead every post with a picture before a link or a headline so you will now have to give more thought to accompanying images along with press releases and links than you had previously if you want to drive traffic and views through FB.  Timeilne will become a de-facto visual search engine so the more engaging an image, the more likely viewers will be to click on it.

This new dimension to releases will excite the press release writer if your release is about products or anything else with a strong visual hook. It will also cause the writers of less immediately visual releases to give more thought to how they can adopt them for this new audience and lets face it, the more thought you put into your release and its marketing on social media sites and the wider web, the better.

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