Over the past few weeks, Facebook has been rolling out update after update. From small changes to major redesigns, the social network’s membership has been given a number of new features with which to get familiar.

The newest changes were announced last week at f8, and the feedback so far has been mixed. While all the focus is on how these updates will affect personal and casual users of the social network, it’s important to know how the changes could affect your business.

There is still no word on how the design and application updates will affect Facebook Pages. In the meantime, page admins can leverage changes to personal profiles to increase awareness and engagement with their associated brands.

Media Is More Prominent on Timelines

Facebook has switched from an action-based focus to a more emotion-driven design by giving people a much more visual representation of their social life. A greater emphasis has been placed on images; Facebook now allows a cover image to spread across the top of a member’s profile. Content, images, and events have become more prominent than actions such as Likes and comments. Images uploaded to a profile page are now in a larger format — encouraging visitors to pay more attention to the profile.

Combined with the ability to easily add a location to an update or image, your brand or business indirectly benefits from the design update. As more people notice the new content, chances are locations will become more noticeable as well.

Should Facebook Pages receive the new Timeline design, pages would have more of a microblogging feel than an action-based feed. For example, marketers could tell stories over time, highlighting significant brand milestones. More emphasis could be put on media assets, such as images and videos, which can be more engaging that plain text.

App Integration and Ticker Increase Engagement

“People have things they want to share, but they don’t want to annoy their friends by putting stuff in their friends’ News Feeds,” explained Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. “Ticker is a lightweight stream of everything that’s going on around you.”

Previously, if a visitor Liked your page, that action would appear on his or her Facebook Wall, and friends would see it appear in the News Feed. More times than not, these types of announcements got lost in the noise, which meant that brand interaction wasn’t very visible to anyone but the original visitor. With Facebook’s recent announcement that visitors will be able to post on your page’s wall, or comment on updates without having to Like the page first, the chances of that interaction going unnoticed increases.

Facebook is moving beyond just Liking something and has introduced new actions that offer more visibility. Instead of just Liking a book or movie, an individual can now read a book or watch a movie. Facebook believes that a strong connection will be made through these actions and that friends will be more likely to notice.

All of these actions will be visible within the Ticker — instead of getting lost in the News Feed. Now, if a friend wants to listen to the same song or read the same story, that person can hover over the song in the Ticker and launch it through that app.

Facebook has teamed up with media partners, including Yahoo, Spotify, Hulu, and more. With apps providing a more social experience, the result is better content and media discovery across the network. For example, if you have an app that helps job seekers find jobs, every time an individual interacts with your app it will automatically appear within the Ticker for all of that person’s friends to see.

Use Subscriptions to Expand Reach

The recent launch of a new Subscribe button allows users to share updates with a wider audience, regardless of whether there’s a mutual friendship. Now, an individual can follow public updates of anyone on Facebook, assuming that both people have opted in to the subscription feature.

Public figures within companies, such as community managers, marketing managers, or CEOs, might benefit from additional avenues of outreach. The subscription model allows an individual’s personal brand to complement his or her company’s brand. For example, an individual might Like Kodak’s Facebook Page, but also enjoy interacting with Kodak’s Chief Blogger. Where before the Chief Blogger might have avoided adding community members as friends to a personal profile, now he or she can share public posts for those who subscribe. Additionally, brand representatives can subscribe to influential or frequent visitors, which increases the opportunity for mutual interaction.

Facebook recently surpassed 800 million users, and it appears that its growth will continue. It’s more important than ever for brands to have a presence on the social network. While the recent updates might not change how you manage Facebook on a day-to-day basis, the new features and design will likely impact the way people interact with your brand.

[Image credit: Steve Gasser]