Facebook announced big changes to what is arguably its most important feature last week. The News Feed is getting a big update in coming weeks (but you can get access early by signing up here) with:
- A new look inspired by mobile
- More options for customization
- Both challenges and opportunities for marketers
Marketers using Facebook have a stake in the News Feed. Most users are not going to visit a brand’s page on a regular basis, but they are interacting with the News Feed. That’s where marketers have the opportunity to get their messages in front of people, and the changes will impact how this is done.
The changes are not revolutionary, but they do follow the current trend of web design, and because it’s Facebook, marketers should be paying attention. “News Feed is one of the most important services that we’ve built. It takes all the things that your friends are doing and puts them in one place,” stated Mark Zuckerberg when introducing the update.
A New Look Inspired by Mobile
Mark Zuckerberg famously stated that Facebook had become a mobile company, and the update to the News Feed follows this sentiment. Users will notice that their mobile and web Facebook experiences are seamless.
Photos take center stage.
The update to the News Feed is now consistent with the mobile app, which focused on large visuals. Now, users will have a consistent experience no matter how they choose to interact with Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg stated that 50% of News Feed content is photos and visual content when introducing the revamped News Feed, and the update follows that trend by taking anything that’s visual in nature, including photos, maps, events, news articles and even videos by making them much bigger and more prominent.
Photos and videos are much bigger and more vibrant. Facebook understands what users are engaging with and making that the focus of the News Feed.
Events are more dynamic with larger photos and highlighting attending friends.
Shared articles and third-party website content have larger images, longer summaries and bigger headlines. This includes third-party apps like Pinterest.
Now, when a story is shared about an individual or a brand, elements beyond the person or brand’s name, including the cover photo, thumbnails of friends/fans, etc. will be displayed to provide additional context.
Popular content that many users have interacted with and are talking about is better aggregated, so users will be able to easily see what others have said about a story. Multiple friends sharing the same story will be better aggregated on the left side of a story.
Less Clutter to Focus on Content.
The left-hand navigation that has been part of Facebook’s mobile application is now part of the desktop experience as well. Users will be able to access every Facebook feature without needing to go back to the Facebook home page.
More Options for Customization
The News Feed is now no longer controlled only by an algorithm (commonly called EdgeRank). Responding to critiques that users were not seeing all of the content shared by friends, Facebook has added a “Choice of Feeds” option that allows users to switch between different feeds or sections based on topic.
Users demand more control over what they see. Facebook’s algorithm, up to this point, chose what they see for them. Users are now in the driver’s seat and can choose from:
- All Friends Feed: show content from all friends
- Music Feed: view content from favorite musicians, what friends are listening to, upcoming music events, etc.
- Photos Feed: view photos posted by friends and pages
- Games Feed: see activity from friends who are playing games, such as achieving a new level
- Following Feed: view all posts from business pages and public figures followed by a user and articles shared by publications in chronological order
Other feeds are available, depending on how a user is using Facebook.
Users will still be able to access the algorithm-generated News Feed, but it will be much easier for them to filter out the messages they don’t want to see and view only the content they do, similar to a newspaper with different sections based on your interest. The algorithm-generated News Feed will continue to try to deliver the best content to show an individual user based on past behavior. While this is a feature many users have requested, it will be interesting to see how many actually use it.
Challenges and Opportunities for Marketers
Users now have much more control over how they receive content on Facebook, and this should be a big consideration for marketers. While this presents some obvious challenges around reach, it does mean opportunities for delivering a better experience and messages with more weight.
Here’s what marketers should take away:
- Mobile is leading. Facebook’s update shows that mobile is leading its decision-making as the updated News Feed closely follows its mobile counterpart. This creates a seamless experience for users and helps marketers better plan campaigns with the knowledge that the experience will be same no matter where it’s viewed.
- More engaged audience but fewer eyes. User attention will be more fragmented as they spend their time in different News Feed sections. A user who just wants to view content from Facebook friends won’t see a brand’s messages in that section of the News Feed. This will likely decrease the reach of brand posts. Although, this will also mean the users who choose to interact with the feeds that do feature brand content will be more engaged and open to brand messages.
- Brand messages carry more weight. The updated News Feed increases the size of everything, which means a brand’s messages are also bigger, including the ads. This will increase engagement.
- Facebook just answered its News Feed algorithm critics. Facebook has come under fire from brands and users for not displaying all of their content in the News Feeds of fans and friends. Facebook’s sections feature changes all of that and allows users to see what they want to see, not what the algorithm deems they should see. Now, it’s on marketers to make sure their content is what their fans want to see and then seek out.
- Images are more important than ever. Images were already important, and this makes them only more critical. With photos nearly 50% of News Feed stories, photos will only grow in importance with the updated News Feed. Marketers should invest in high-quality images. Not only does this help them stand out in this new format, it also allows their content to be displayed in more than just the “Following” section; they will also display in the “Photos” section. This also means making sure your brand page’s cover photo is eye-catching as it will be pulled into user News Feeds when people interact with your page.