Welcome Home. Or at least this is how Facebook beckons users towards its newest development, Facebook Home. Commonly mistaken as the much-anticipated Facebook phone, Facebook Home is in fact a mobile operating system powered by the social giant. Layered atop the existing Android system, Facebook Home will be pre-configured into the settings of the new HTC First; in addition, the “family of apps” will become available for download to select HTC and Samsung phones on April 12th.
There are three main features of Facebook Home. Cover Feed mimics the original News Feed right at the forefront of your phone, taking over your home and lock screens. Simply turning the phone on or pressing the home button activates the stream of posts from your friends, revealing everything from status updates and photos to links and (later) ads. With this, the system also sends notifications straight to the home screen, utilizing iconography to decipher between types and swipe-ability to dismiss the unimportant. The second feature is aptly named Chat Heads and refers to the user’s ability to continue messaging friends and family even while using other apps. Profile picture bubbles, signifying conversations, can be dragged and re-organized across the screen. Lastly, the App Launcher is where your “most important apps” are found, including Facebook and its cohort of partners (such as Instagram and Spotify). Most importantly, however, the App Launcher consists of the classic Facebook options of Status, Photo and Check-In to allow for constant interaction with the social platform.
With this announcement, brands now find themselves asking the same question as they did during the recent reveal of Facebook’s new News Feed: What does this mean for us? While the new News Feed is much more inclined towards benefitting brands, it seems that Facebook Home can go either way–presenting both pros and cons.
As I alluded to earlier, the Cover Feed will incorporate ads in the future, allowing brands to reach consumers in the most direct of ways. With the existing dependency on mobile, advertisers will reach users constantly without requiring them to take that initial step and open the Facebook app first. It will bring advertisements to the forefront, assuming that it is done seamlessly and in good taste. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s product director, assures the press that Facebook is
designing and working on a lot of really high-quality ad units in [news] feed already. [They] will bring those to Cover Feed and make sure they are aligned with the aesthetic and quality bar of everything else in Cover Feed.
With this, brands will also be happy to note that Facebook Home translates into constant consumer login. For a while now, advertisers have been battling the limitations of cross-device advertising and lack of mobile cookies; Facebook Home solves this by creating a system into which the user is incessantly tuned in. Business Insider’s Jim Edwards further develops this notion by stating:
What Home achieves is to make Facebook the main user interface for the operating system of the phone. Facebook becomes your main home screen and your main messaging service. Home users will almost never log out.
Furthermore, when speaking to advertisers and ad buyers about their reactions to Facebook Home, Edwards discovers that they are thrilled for various reasons. The benefits they foresee include increased usage from Facebook addicts, image-based integration into the home screen, the double-click “like” (which will increase interaction and data), location tracking and an overall extension of social networking into the mobile sphere.
Taking the pros across national borders, Facebook Home also promises to be beneficial for brands present in the emerging markets of Nigeria, India, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. According to a research done by Upstream and YouGov in these areas,
31 per cent of respondents from emerging markets would like to purchase a phone designed by a social network… [and] 19 per cent would be happy to receive advertising messages daily on their phone.
In areas where users are dependent on the mobile sphere for internet access, Facebook Home is great news. These are markets where social interconnectivity is forged upon mobile connectivity and where advertisers depend on the developments presented by those social and mobile providers. Those brands will benefit from the increased usage and availability of consumers that will most likely accompany Facebook Home’s introduction.
On a more negative note, concerns have been voiced regarding Facebook Home and its potential effect on brand development. For example, AdWeek’s Christopher Heine wonders if brands will be less inclined to invest in proprietary apps because of Facebook Home. In essence, the extra layer poses an extra step to Android users when attempting to access apps other than the ones that Facebook presents front-and-center. As Jim Edwards reveals, this is a fantastic coincidence since Facebook is economically dependent on its mobile app install ad format, which brands use to promote their mobile products throughout users’ news feeds. Therefore, we can come to the conclusion that as app awareness decreases, brands may be required to invest more in the visibility and discoverability of their apps. If not that, then money fueling brands’ (proprietary) app developments may be redistributed towards mobile advertising if Facebook Home is deemed more effective.
At the end of the day, the true insecurity lies within users’ reactions. Some, such as GigaOM’s founder Om Malik, have warned that Facebook Home is a complete infiltration of consumer privacy and might lead to negative feedback from the community. However, The Next Web’s Martin Bryant responds with the opposing opinion: Advertising is a frustrating and unbeatable reality in our world, so it might as well become accurate and better-targeted. Summed up beautifully by mobile ad server Jumptap’s CEO, George Bell,
This launch not only speaks to [Facebook’s] future direction, but adds both complexity and opportunity to the mobile advertising landscape.
We shall see which way the scale tips soon enough.