Saturday, March 9, 2013

How the New Facebook News Feed Will Impact Brands

Facebook photo
“Goodbye clutter. Hello bright, beautiful stories.”

That’s how Facebook has positioned its revamped news feed announced Thursday. Facebook set out to breathe new life into the news feed and give it a cleaner, fresher, more visual appeal and personally I think they’ve got it spot on.
In case you missed it, here is what I would take as the key points of the new design:
  • Separate content feeds
  • More visual design
  • Consistent look across devices
  • More prominence to other social apps
But what do these changes to the biggest area of Facebook mean for brands? Let’s talk them through.
Separate content feeds
This is probably the biggest change in terms of how people will actually use the site. Or at least in terms of how Facebook hopes people will use the site, and this could be a challenge.
Facebook highlighted that you will have your news feed, but also separate feeds for ‘Most Recent’, ‘All Friends’ (which gives user the chance to see everything their friends are posting to Facebook again), as well as Music, Games and Photos. There will also be a ‘Following’ feed, which is where all posts from brands will appear.
The Following feed has one immediately obvious benefit to brands – Facebook confirmed that users will be able to see all posts from all brands they follow in this feed. No more only reaching 10% of your fans. But, how many users will actually access this feed? And how often? Do users care enough about what brands are saying to go to a feed specifically to see that? We’ll have to wait and see. The posts in this feed are ordered chronologically too; whether that’s a good thing or not is likely to depend largely on your social strategy.
I’ve seen a few comments already by people worried about brands being pushed out to a separate feed, but I don’t think that’s the case. While this is a dedicated feed for pages, I didn’t hear anything to suggest that brand posts won’t appear in the main news feed as they do now. I’d suspect they’ll still fit there and in the photos feed.
More visual design
As you’ll see straight away from the screenshots, the whole layout is about becoming more visual. Images are made bigger with status updates overlaying them; links have got bigger with better previews; check-ins are now shown with a map; even new friendships are shown with a cover photo.
I’d expect with Facebook’s big emphasis on showing beautiful stories, there could be changes to the EdgeRank algorithm, with visuals given even more prominence.
In a way this isn’t a big change for brands; at HPS, we’ve already been telling our clients for some time that visual stories work best on Facebook. This just becomes even more important with the new update. Bigger and better link previews should be good for brands though that are linking out to their websites, but it does mean you need to give more thought to what thumbnails will pull in with the link preview.
One big change on the visual side though is the addition of a photo stream. It’s not yet known whether brands will have a space in this, but I suspect they will. The important part of the photo feed for brands could well be if Facebook integrates Instagram into this feed too. This brings us on to the next change.
Link Preview
More prominence to other social apps
In their announcement, Facebook acknowledged that people are using other social apps outside of Facebook. With the redesign, they’ve looked to incorporate them more. I thought it was quite interesting that they used Pinterest as an example of this. Other apps you use will be featured within Facebook with a new look and feel. So with the Pinterest example, when you share your pins to Facebook, they’ll now look more like they would on Pinterest. With Facebook owning Instagram, you’d think that must get the same treatment too. This looks like good news for brands who use multiple social media channels, as it should allow you to share your content more easily on Facebook.
They mentioned this third party app integration will help you feature images, videos and text, so it will be interesting to see what they do with tweets. This is all designed to keep you on Facebook for longer, so it’s a shrewd move. More time on Facebook means more time to see adverts too.
Consistent look across devices
As with many new website designs, the Facebook team said this was built from a mobile-first standpoint. They want to make the Facebook experience more consistent across web, mobile and tablets.
This won’t directly impact what brands are doing with their pages, but it does serve to re-emphasise the importance of thinking about mobile as part of your content marketing strategy.
Personally, I think Facebook has done really well with the redesign. Every time Facebook makes changes they face public outcry, but I don’t think the changes they’ve introduced are radical enough to turn users away, yet they’ve changed enough to keep the site fresh and find ways of putting more content in front of their users. It seems like they really have listened to what users want with this.

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