Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What The New Facebook News Feed Design Means for Pages

On Thursday March 6th, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook announced a brand new design for the News Feed. He compared the new look to a newspaper, saying how when people want to read about Sports, they can flip to the Sports Section, and one of the goals of this new design is to reduce clutter and allow users to choose what content they see.  Zuckerberg said, “What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can.”
Another key point was Photos. Zuckerberg discussed how photos were one of the most commonly posted items to the News Feed, so now users will be able to choose a specific feed of just Photos.

Facebook updates
An example of the new larger photos in the feed
New feed options will include a Games feed, Photos, Most Recent, Music and a Following feed which will include pages and people that users are subscribed to. The current News Feed design will still exist, and these new options will be added.  
What it Means for Pages: 
Naturally, news of the update stirred a lot of controversy and many people have been commenting on whether the changes will have positive or negative effects on brand pages. Mike Maghsoudi of Post Rocket said, “Luckily for pages, the following feed includes both people and pages, so if fans go there to see the latest posts from Justin Bieber or Jessica Alba, they are likely to see yours, as well.”
This point brings up many positives of the new layout, where users who want to read updates from celebrities, sports teams, or news outlets will now have to visit the Following feed. In addition, if users want to see updates from a friend’s small start-up or indie band, they will also have to visit the Following feed, and will see updates from brands. The flip side is the possibility that users will choose the Friends only feed more often than they will choose the Following feed, but many believe this will balance out over time.
Content Strategy:
For brands already utilizing an image-heavy content strategy, the new design will benefit them greatly, as images will now be much larger and more prominent. The new design emphasizes photos, and Facebook hopes this will encourage users to spend even more time on the platform—also benefiting brands. An additional consideration is that now updates in the Following feed will appear brand after brand.
Take, for example, a holiday such as Mother’s Day—the importance of unique and engaging content will be tested when many brands write about similar topics. Facebook has said that the algorithm they use in the News Feed will not be changing. However, based on the importance placed on the new larger and more engaging photos, brands will likely have to compete even harder in the news feed. If we assume that users will continue to use the Main News Feed, the biggest change will simply be the larger photos, and opportunity for higher engagement with these more prominent updates.
The changes have left many brands wondering where ads will appear. Facebook has confirmed that Sponsored Stories can appear in any feed. Just as the photos will be larger in all feeds, ads will become larger as well. This provides a great opportunity for brands to take advantage of more space on screen.
Additionally, Facebook will now be offering more targeting to each specific feed. So advertisers can choose a Games feed or Music feed based on their targeting goals. Even though advertising will still exist in the all of the new feed choices in addition the current ‘Main’ news feed, if users do split their time into the new feeds, the user base will become much more fragmented, and possibly harder to reach.
Some blogs have also spoken of possible opportunities for brands to sponsor specific feeds. For example, it would make sense that Pepsi as such a music-focused brand would sponsor the Music feed. Facebook has not confirmed this possibility at this point, but have simply said that the opportunity has been discussed.
Facebook sponsored stories
An example of a Sponsored Story with the new design
What’s Next:
The new design began rolling out on March 14, 2013, and impatient users can get on a wait list. The new features will roll out to desktop first, with mobile apps to follow within a few weeks. It remains to be seen how users will react regarding advertising—Facebook has confirmed some allegations and suspicions but have still left many wondering. It is likely that an official word from Facebook about advertising will come shortly.
For now, the best course of action for brands is to evaluate their current content strategies, and discuss how they might take advantage of new or optimized advertising opportunities. As more details emerge about the new design—and as users begin getting the design— brands can take further action.


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