September 20, 2011, 4:42 PM

Change is coming to Facebook

Consumers may be able to alert their friends when they want a particular product.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

Consumers may soon be able to alert their friends when they want a particular product on Facebook. The world’s largest social network seems likely to launch the Want button during its f8 Developers Conference later this week, sources tell Internet Retailer.

The Want button’s launch will coincide with several other buttons that will enable a shopper to note that he Read, Listened or Watched various pieces of content.

The new buttons will likely enable Facebook to gather more information about consumers’ behavior. The more information Facebook gathers, the more marketers can target ads at specific consumers. That’s what is leading the social network’s ad revenues to rapidly rise. Facebook’s worldwide ad revenues for Facebook will rise 104% this year to $3.80 billion, market research firm eMarketer estimates. In the United States ad revenues are set to rise from $1.21 billion to $2.01 billion.

Total revenues at Facebook, which include those from advertising as well as Facebook Credits and other sources, will reach $4.27 billion this year, according to eMarketer. That’s more than twice as high as the $2.0 billion Facebook is estimated to have earned in 2010. Ad revenues will make up 89% of the total this year, down from 95% in 2009.

When Facebook adds the new buttons retailers are likely to look to integrate new methods to spur shoppers to click the buttons, says Lou Kerner, vice president of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “Retailers will respond positively to features that give them more information about their customers, or potential customers,” he says.

Adding new buttons to its site dovetails with the social network’s announcement today that it is revamping its news feed. The news feed, which is the first page a consumer sees when logging on to the site, will feature the content that Facebook considers most important to that user based on his actions on the site, such as having interacted with someone on the social network via Messages. For a consumer who has not logged in to the site in a while, the first thing he will see are photos and status updates marked with a blue Top Story icon that notes that the content was posted when the shopper was not on Facebook. Consumers who check Facebook more frequently will see the most recent content first. 

“When you pick up a newspaper after not reading it for a week, the front page quickly clues you into the most interesting stories,” wrote Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager, in a Facebook blog post. “In the past, news feed hasn't worked like that.  Updates slide down in chronological order so it's tough to zero in on what matters most. Now, news feed will act more like your own personal newspaper. You won't have to worry about missing important stuff.”

Facebook today will also roll out a unfiltered live Ticker that features updates on what all of a Facebook user’s friends are doing at that moment, such as if someone clicked that they Like a particular brand or product.

“Ticker shows you the same stuff you were already seeing on Facebook, but it brings your conversations to life by displaying updates instantaneously,” wrote Tonkelowitz. “Now when a friend comments, asks a question or shares something like a check in, you'll be able to join the conversation right away.”

It was not immediately clear whether Sponsored Stories--an ad format on the social network that enables companies to pay to highlight posts or actions that a consumer’s Facebook friend has made that relate to the advertiser--will be incorporated into the Ticker. Facebook did include the ads in tests of the Ticker,  with “Sponsored” displayed under Sponsored Stories.

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