Facebook Home: What's in It for Marketers?

MENLO PARK, CA - APRIL 04:  A Facebook employee holds a phone that is running the new 'Home' program during an event at Faceb
MENLO PARK, CA - APRIL 04: A Facebook employee holds a phone that is running the new 'Home' program during an event at Facebook headquarters during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new product for Android called Facebook Home as well as the new HTC First phone that will feature the new software. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Facebook introduced the launch of Facebook Home, ending rumors of a custom-built social phone dating back to 2008. What is it and what does it mean to marketers?

Social By Design

Facebook Home is a family of software apps that makes an Android smartphone more social. This includes any smartphone running on Google's Android operating system, now over 70 percent of the global smartphone market.

In his presentation Mark Zuckerberg asked, "What would it look like if instead of a phone experience designed around apps first, we flipped it around and designed around people first?"

To do this, Facebook brought social content to the home screen -- the part of our phone that we look at over 100 times a day. "It's the soul of your phone. We think it should be deeply personal," said Zuckerberg.

The more personal experience starts with Coverfeed, a software app that lets users see their social Facebook content including status updates and photos on the home screen without swipes or gestures. Chatheads adds bubbles with our friends' faces to Facebook Messenger and SMS texts.

What does this mean for marketers and their advertising budgets? Facebook believes what's good for Facebook users is good for marketers. Since the company makes money selling the attention of their one billion fans to marketers, growing that attention means more branding opportunities.

More Time Spent

Facebook introduced the home concept to its desktop version in 2006 with News Feed, a way to make the home page "feel like home." Rather than clicking to see updates and photos, it came to us. According to Zuckerberg, frequency and time spent skyrocketed. Fans started consuming almost twice as much content overnight.

If Facebook Home has a similar impact then marketers will have more ways to get the attention of their target market. Coverfeed will eventually allow ads but for now the focus will be on building the audience.

The Next Billion

Facebook has one billion users today. The next billion will come from developing countries, but they aren't spending $500 on a new smartphone. Facebook's free download and introductory $99 handset (through its partnership with HTC) opens this market up. For marketers this means access to more people in more countries.

More Personal Data

While Facebook's privacy restrictions remain unchanged, the additional data capture is a hot topic.

With this move, Facebook aims to join the data capture ranks of Apple and Google with their iPhone and Android devices. With more data flowing through Facebook's app -- including SMS texts, GPS-tracked location, and possibly even phone usage -- marketers will be able to target mobile users with greater precision and accuracy. A featured item may be displayed as a user walks through a given store, for example.

Privacy and Permission Marketing

Facebook will never sell personally identifiable information. If they did, users would leave and marketers would follow. But Facebook Home does open up the opportunity for brands to reach anonymous fans in their target market with greater accuracy. And in all forms of marketing, on all platforms, that means the global creepy trigger gets more sensitive.

To hedge against this, marketers are increasingly moving toward permission marketing. Asking fans for permission to access their data and using it in transparent ways to serve personalized, relevant, anticipated messages -- as opposed to paid ads -- is a clear path toward increased sales, loyalty and retention.

Note: For more on Facebook Home and permission marketing, see this television interview with the author by the Business News Network (BNN), filmed hours after the Facebook Home launch.