Facebook’s moving very quickly with new updates to the News Feed and updated personal profiles around the corner with the f8 Developers Conference happing tomorrow. All of these new features are significant, but the main changes that will affect marketers in the near-term are 1.) changes in how users interact with Pages, 2.) changes in posts and the navigation bar and 3.) changes in the News Feed.
What do these changes mean? How will they affect the way we do business on the world’s largest social network? There’s no time to waste because Facebook will probably make more changes by the time you get to the end of the post.
Comments on Pages: The first big change is that users no longer need to “Like” a Page in order to comment on it. Before it was a give and take. We get your “Like,” and you get to let us know what think. The benefit of that “Like” from a marketer’s standpoint is, of course, the ability to then keep the relationship with the user going through updates displayed in the user’s News Feed.
This has now changed in a big way. Now users can “Like” and comment on any public posts, which includes posts from brand Pages. How does this affect the brand? Well, if a user sees an interaction between the brand and one of their Friends who likes a brand Page, they can join the conversation and be a part of it. They can also go to a brand’s Facebook Page wall to comment there. They can do all of this without first “Liking” the brand.
What it means: There are certainly pluses and minuses to this kind of announcement. The plus is that a Page can receive higher engagement and more interactions because of the influx of people who may have held back because they needed to “Like” the Page first. They can reach out with a question or comment, a brand can respond and then work to convert a neutral consumer into a brand advocate.
The negative side of this is that this may lead to an increase in negative content on a Page. If a crisis occurs, anyone can comment on the Page without “Liking” it first. Brands may need to rethink their moderation and community management approach to ensure they are prepared for any potential influxes of comments.
Friend Activity Tab: The Friend Activity tab that showed up on Places Pages, giving users the ability to see who of their friends checked into a place, is now being displayed on all Pages. The tab gives Likers a count of the activity on the Page from friends. Once clicked on, they can see the posts by a Page that their friends have interacted with as well as all posts by friends that mention the brand or Page.
What it means: The relevant activity of a Page is customized to the user. Pages that receive hundreds or even thousands wall posts and responses to posts can be pretty overwhelming. This feature makes it easy for Likers to see when and how their friends have interacted with a brand, in turn encouraging them to join the conversation as well because they see that their friends have been active.
Posts, Navigation Bar and Home Page
More Characters in Posts: The maximum length of a post on Facebook has been taken from 500 characters to 5,000. Comments now have a maximum of 8,000 characters. In the event that a Facebook post exceeds 5,000 characters, you can convert the post to a Note. Posts in the News Feed will only show a maximum of 1,200 characters until a user clicks on it to see more.
What it means: The increased character-limit means that deeper, long-form content can be shared easily on Facebook, creating potentially deeper conversations. It’s also a swipe at Google+, which has no character limit on posts.
Marketers should take advantage of this but do so sparingly. Short-form content tends to receive better overall engagement.
Facebook will need to be careful that long posts don’t start cluttering the News Feed.
Navigation Bar: The Facebook navigation bar no longer disappears as you scroll down Pages. Instead, it goes with you, providing easy access to any notifications, messages, requests and other features.
The profile picture has replaced the profile link. Next to it is an arrow that lets users access their settings, giving it a more streamlined feel.
What it means: This may mean users spending more time on Facebook because they can easily check notifications they receive and move around Facebook faster, which is Facebook’s goal.
Home Page Bookmarks: Now, users can hover over bookmarks on the left sidebar of Facebook to edit them or change their settings. For example, users can manage who is hidden from the News Feed, remove the bookmark or rearrange its position, edit app settings and permissions and add Pages to their favorites.
What it means: The opportunity here for brands is Page content. They want to be in the Favorites section of the Home Page. This means users will see notifications from the Page quickly and easily. The only way to get here, though, is by delivering relevant, meaningful content that users will want to stay on top of.
The News Feed is a brand Page’s best friend. It’s where you’re able to draw your Likers back in by delivering relevant content that’s front-and-center on their Facebook home page.
Facebook has made changes to how the News Feed works by combining the Top News and Most Recent feeds into one. Users will automatically see the Top News content first that will be the most relevant information since they last logged in. Underneath will be the Most Recent updates. Next to all of this in the right sidebar where Facebook chat takes place, is the new Ticker, which offers real-time updates on what Facebook Friends are doing at any given moment that can be interacted with in real-time.
Facebook compares the updated News Feed updates to a personalized newspaper. You’ll never see the same News Feed twice. You will instead see the top updates from close friends or posts that received a lot of Likes and comments front-and-center. Facebook will evaluate how long since you last logged-in and deliver Top content based on what it knows you’ve already seen and what’s garnered the most engagement.
Users can control the feature by clicking the ‘x’ next to a story and choose whether its top news material or not. Users can also make changes to their News Feeds using these ‘x’s.
Photos also display much bigger in the News Feed, potentially increasing the likelihood that users will click to view the photos.
Lastly, the Ticker in the right sidebar shows real-time activity from your friends with text updates. When users hover over an update, they can view the full story and interact with it via “Likes” and comments. The goal for Facebook is to create more shared experiences on the platform by allowing you to interact in real-time.
What it means: For users, this means that there should be something interesting to see every time they log into Facebook, which could mean more frequent visits and a less boring experience because they’re receiving relevant content.
The News Feed is becoming a “more exclusive” place to be. The goal for marketers should be delivering content that drives interactions, which will give Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm a higher value, then displaying it in users’ News Feeds.
Additional changes, include:
- A pop-up on the Home page for people with birthdays offers entry fields for posting to their wall, allowing you to post a birthday greeting without visiting their profiles.
- The Poke button is now hidden in a drop-down menu in the top right of a profile.
- The option to add text when sending a friend request has been removed.
The Fallout and User Backlash
Facebook is accustomed to users being unhappy with change, and this update is no different. These changes make Facebook feel very different than it did before and will likely change the way people interact with the platform, for better or worse. Previously, Facebook unrolled things at a slower pace, but its pace has accelerated. We’ll see how users respond to the sweeping changes. Marketers, on the other hand, need to be aware of the changes, how they’ll affect user behavior and how they need to optimize their efforts.
Change is what Facebook does, and it’s part of what’s gotten it to the point it’s at.