That's right! Today at Facebook headquarters, Mark Zuckerberg and his team unveiled some major changes, primarily to the design and functionality of the News Feed. These changes includeRich Stories, which display photos and visual content much more prominently and vividly; Choice of Feeds, giving users more control over the topics of stories they see; and better Mobile Consistency, making your Facebook experience much more seamless across desktop and mobile devices.
Let's take a closer look at exactly what these changes are, and what they mean for marketers like you and me.
Zuckerberg started off his announcement with some interesting data about the content in the Facebook News Feed, stating that almost 50% of News Feed content today is photos and visual content. As a result, the new design focuses on making each story shared in the News Feed much more vibrant and colorful to better highlight the content Facebook users are sharing. For example, photos, news articles, maps, and events will all look brighter, bigger, and more vivid. Here are some of the highlights ...
1) Photos are featured more "front and center," and photo albums have been given a facelift to tell a better story.
2) Articles you share feature a larger image, a more prominent title, and a longer article summary.
3) Stories shared in the News Feed -- whether from individual users or brands -- now also pull in elements of that person's/page's timeline, such as their cover photo, thumbnails of their friends/fans, etc.
4) Places are featured more prominently with maps.
5) Content shared via third-party apps like Pinterest get shown more prominently.
6) Video content gets displayed much bigger.
7) Better aggregation of popular content shared -- and what individuals are saying about those stories.
8) Better surfacing of top-shared articles organized around publications and about topics/interests.
Choice of Feeds
The second -- and most significant -- new feature announcement from Facebook is "Choice of Feeds," or the ability to toggle between different feeds of information by topics. It's inspired by the idea that people's News Feeds should include a mix of content from family and friends as well as news and information from the pages of businesses and public figures you follow -- but that users should also be able to filter out these messages from one another. In fact, Zuckerberg noted that currently, 30% of the content in the News Feed is content from Facebook Pages as opposed to individual users.
In addition to the News Feed you're already used to today, these new topic-based News Feeds will give Facebook users much more control over the content they see, and users will be able to switch between different feeds using a switcher at the top of their homepage.
Here's a run-down of the various new News Feeds you'll have access to. Keep in mind that you can see more in the screenshot above, but those were already available to you in the current design.
All Friends Feed: shows all posts from all friends
Music Feed: displays what your favorite musicians are posting, what your friends are listening to, what concerts are coming up, etc.
Photos Feed: shows all the photos posted by your friends and the pages you follow
Following Feed: similar to the current "Pages Feed," this displays all posts from the business pages and public figures you're a fan of, in chronological order
Finally, Facebook also announced that, with this new design, Facebook will now have the same look and feel across all devices -- mobile, tablet, and web -- creating a much more unified and simplified user experience. Most notably, the left-hand menu is accessible wherever you go within Facebook, and it's easy to navigate to the very top of the News Feed when you notice new stories have been posted.
According to Facebook, these new design changes will be rolling out slowly over the coming weeks on web and mobile (first on iPhone and iPad, and then on Android). But if you're like me and want to be one of the first to try it out, you can visit www.facebook.com/newsfeed to get on the waiting list.
What This Means for Marketers
Enough with the objective reporting portion of the post. What does this all mean for marketers? Here's our two cents ...
According to Facebook, "This change is a visual redesign of News Feed only and does not change how we surface the most interesting stories to people."
While this statement suggests that Facebook will not be making any changes to its EdgeRank algorithm, we still disagree that it won't change how content gets surfaced on Facebook. After all, if users have the choice of tuning out messages directly from the brands they Like by looking at their All Friends Feed, chances are they'll do it from time to time. The only way content from a brand page will get into a user's All Friends Feed is if a user's friends share content from that brand page.
This all also begs the question: What about Facebook ads, such as Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts? While Facebook didn't talk at all about ads in its announcement, according to an interview published by the MIT Technology Review, when asked how the new design will affect ads, a Facebook representative said, "The idea of making things richer, more immersive, includes ads." Furthermore, the article states, "Speculation about the changes include the possibility that Facebook will add additional mini-feeds segmented by content (such as one just for photos),as well as bigger,more targeted ads." Only time will tell, and we'll be sure to update you as we learn more.
From our perspective, here is a summary of the biggest takeaways for marketers from today's announcement:
Your Facebook Content Needs to Be Even More Compelling
Facebook's design changes make it much easier for Facebook users to tune out content from businesses and brands. Because this is the case, you need to give your fans even more incentive to check out their Following Feed to view your content so they can engage with it via Likes, comments, and shares, enabling you to show up in their friends' All Friends Feed. This makes it even more critical that you post content that is compelling and sharable.
Furthermore,the way Facebook is now surfacing top-shared articles sounds (to us,at least) like they're adopting a more LinkedIn Today-like method for featuring top content. This means it's in your best interest to use Facebook as a way to promote your more public-facing content -- like blog content,for instance -- to try to get your best content more viral reach.
You Should Place Even More Emphasis on Visual Content
Facebook continues to feature visual content like images and video more prominently, which means it's also more pertinent that you're sharing top-notch visual content. Brush up on your design skills, and leverage resources like our guides to creating top-notch visual content -- and infographics -- in PowerPoint. Furthermore, now that timeline creative such as cover photos are getting pulled into the News Feed, it's even more important that your cover photo is eye-catching and visually representative of your page so it provides more context and captures the attention of Facebook users (see the Fuki Sushi example in the first section of this article for reference).
You Might Want to Rethink Your Frequency
Since the Following Feed shows all stories from pages a user follows in chronological order, we speculate it might become even more important to publish content to your Facebook Page on a more regular basis. This way, users who check out their Following Feed will see your stories near the top of their feed more consistently.