Last week, Facebook unveiled their new design for News Feed, the place where users spend the majority of their time and the main method for distributing content. This is about far more than tweaking colors and moving features. It could drastically change user behavior.
I believe that the new design will significantly improve user experience, making Facebook an addictive destination at a time when it was slowly losing such appeal among users. But how does the new design impact brands?
There are several ways that the new design will change the way that brands engage with their fans, both organically and through advertising. It’s important that we understand these changes to avoid being left behind.
Facebook users with the “old” design have two options for viewing their News Feed: “Most Recent” or “Top Stories.” Both options show the same information, but “Top Stories” surfaces the most important (based on engagement, your history and connection to the author) stories first.
The new design still offers what is essentially the “Top Stories” News Feed option, but users now have several alternatives for viewing content. Feeds currently include:
Other than the main News Feed, all other feeds will be unfiltered and in reverse chronological order.
What it Means for Brands: Based on early returns, brand content is not included in the Photos or All Friends (obviously) feeds. If users spend more of their time here, one can assume that they will see less brand content than they did before.
Facebook has indicated that brands will be able to advertise within these feeds, though one can expect such ads within All Friends, for example, would not be embraced by territorial Facebook users.
One of the initial feeds being rolled out to users is “Following,” which includes all brands and public figures that a user likes (brands) or follows (profiles).
You’ll recall that Facebook previously rolled out a Pages feed that has largely gone ignored. This, however, isn’t the same thing.
The Pages feed was impacted by EdgeRank, the unofficial name given to Facebook’s filtering algorithm. So if you were concerned about fans not seeing your content, the Pages feed didn’t necessarily help. Following will be unfiltered.
The Pages feed only included brand pages. The Following feed also consists of profiles that do not involve a reciprocal relationship.
And while the Pages feed largely went ignored, Following should at least be given a chance to succeed, since it will be featured much more prominently.
What it Means for Brands: For months, brands have been griping about the fact that EdgeRank prevents fans from seeing their content. The claim is that the act of liking a Page is a subscription. These users want to see their content, they say.
Well, Facebook has called our bluff. Do users really care whether or not they see our content? We’re about to find out.
If users want to see all brand content, they will use their Following feed. But these feeds are automatically sorted according to usage, so if they don’t use that feed it will quickly become buried at the bottom of the list.
If users don’t use Following, one can assume that they will begin seeing less and less brand content. At least organic brand content.
And even if users do use that Following feed, this may benefit brands that share bad content more than it does brands that share quality content. The regular News Feed rewarded brands that provided valuable content that users wanted while punishing those who didn’t.
The Following feed will put all brands and public figures on equal footing. That could mean getting the good content buried in a pile of bad content.
This may mean that brands need to reassess their posting frequency. If users do utilize this new feed, it may be beneficial to post more frequently.
My immediate takeaway after seeing the new News Feed design: Images are huge!
It’s not just the shared photos that take up more space. Videos shared directly through Facebook (not YouTube links) take up an insane amount of space. And link thumbnails also get more love.
What it Means for Brands: Get more visual.
We’ve been saying this since Timeline was launched for brands close to a year ago, but it becomes even more important now. Photographers and artists will benefit. Anyone with a graphic designer. Brands with Pinterest and Instagram accounts.
For months, brands thought they were getting around EdgeRank by sharing text updates to get more Reach. All along, those Reach numbers were actually inaccurate.
Forget about algorithms. Share the type of content that the new News Feed is made for. Share big, beautiful, rich imagery.
Text updates are so last month.
This also benefits visual brands when they promote their posts. But this also applies to the sidebar marketplace ads, though there will be fewer of them.
Details on how advertising will work are still trickling out, but Facebook has suggested that brands will be able to select the feeds that they want to advertise in.
What it Means for Brands: Bigger and bolder will benefit those brands with the resources to create engaging images and videos that can be used in ads.
While one can assume that the number of ad spaces overall goes up with the addition of feeds, those spaces are cut down substantially on the sidebar. As a result of increased competition, we can guess that pricing will go up as well.
If it’s true that brands will be able to advertise within any of the feeds, this could get interesting, particularly as Facebook creates more standard feeds for users.
Suddenly, advertising could get much more relevant. Music-related brands can advertise in the Music feed. Sports-related brands could advertise in a hypothetical Sports feed. Restaurants could advertise in a Food feed.
While I have my doubts about the success of advertising in the Friends Only feed, others could create great opportunities.
When users like a page, the story generated will feature a large image that includes the brand’s cover photo.
This impacts both paid and organic page like stories, and the new method does a much better job of attracting the eye. It should result in more friend of fan liking activity.
What it Means for Brands: This is a benefit for brands, assuming they have a professional, engaging cover photo. If not, it’s time to invest in one!
This is a change I’ve seen very few people mention. The new design ditches the controversial Ticker feature.I’m probably in the minority on this, but I really liked the Ticker. Most people were confused by its purpose, but I’m guessing many used it without realizing it.
The Ticker was particularly useful for anyone who didn’t spend 99% of their time on the News Feed. Because of the Ticker, I could get regular updates on what my friends were doing while being on other pages of the site.
The Ticker also was a great way to get me involved in recent discussions on old posts. If someone comments today on a post that was created a week ago, the Ticker allowed me to see that and I could jump in. But without it, this type of post would not enter my News Feed and I wouldn’t know it existed.
What it Means for Brands: The Ticker was also a way to surface user interaction with brand pages to their friends. Without a Ticker, this takes away yet another way that brands could reach non-Fans organically.
Granted, this type of engagement with brands was showing up less and less frequently within the Ticker lately, but it still hurts brand pages.
It’s still too soon to know the extent of how the new News Feed will impact brands. It could benefit us. It could make our lives more difficult. It could mean we need to spend more on advertising. The answer lies in the way that users receive the new News Feed.
What is clear, however, is that brands need to continue to challenge themselves to be more visual. That may mean investing in a photographer, videographer or designer.
Additionally, brands need to pay close attention to their metrics and opportunities. What types of content are users responding to with the new design? This also applies to advertising. If brands are now able to choose their feed, we must analyze this data closely to figure out what works and what doesn’t, adjusting and optimizing along the way.
Are you excited about the new News Feed? How do you expect it will impact your efforts? Let us know in the comments section below.
Jon Loomer is the proud father of three boys, a diehard Milwaukee Brewers fan and the founder of JonLoomer.com, a digital marketing company devoted to helping clients make a difference with social media, specifically Facebook. Whether your goals involve revenues, brand awareness, conversions or something else, JonLoomer.com can help you meet and exceed your social media objectives. To find out more, and sign up for Jon’s newsletter, podcasts, one-on-one coaching and much more, visit JonLoomer.com today.