Important: What Facebook’s imminent News Feed overhaul means for marketers

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  • March 12, 2013
Fi Dunphy

Fi Dunphy

Content and Social Strategist

Facebook’s latest overhaul is an important one for marketers to be aware of, and should influence the content they’re including in an engagement-driving Facebook content plan.

Currently, about 50% of News Feed content is visual content, so with this in mind, the latest changes are primarily to the interface and functionality of the News Feed. However, we’re now (at last!) also going to enjoy an improved and more unified user experience across desktop, tablet and mobile.

These new design changes will be rolling out slowly over the coming weeks on web and mobile – first on iPhone/iPad, then on Android – however, you can get on the waiting list here to be one of the first users to try out the new interface. Read on to find out what these updates are and what they mean for social media marketers…

Rich stories

This update means that rich (visual) content (e.g.  photos, videos, events, news articles, maps) will be displayed more prominently, appearing bigger, brighter, and (Facebook hopes) more enticing to click on.

1. Videos

–          Much more prominence – a large picture replaces the tiny thumbnail (see screen shot below).

2. Stories shared in the News Feed

–          Elements of friends’/Pages’ profile/Page (e.g. cover photo, thumbnails of their friends/Fans, etc.) will appear in stories; profile pics of those who have engaged with any content will also now appear next to stories, replacing the simple engager headcount of old:


3. Photos/pictures

–          Photos/pictures will be featured more front and centre in the News Feed;

–          Albums have been given a facelift to ‘tell a better story’.

4. Articles

–          Organisation of articles around topics/interests/publications will mean better surfacing of articles;

–          Articles featured in the News Feed will feature a larger image, a more prominent title, and a longer summary:

Article summary

5. Places

–          Places will be featured more prominently in the News Feed, and will now also include maps:

Facebook places

6. Third-party apps (e.g. SoundCloud, Pinterest)

–          Activity on third-party apps connected to users’ Facebook accounts will enjoy more prominence in the News Feed.

7. Popular content

–          There will be improved aggregation of the most popular content, with users’ comments about those stories appearing alongside.

News Feed filters

This will give users more control over the topics of stories that appear in their News Feed, allowing them to toggle between different feeds of information by topics.

30% of News Feed content is currently from Pages (as opposed to friends)

Facebook wants users’ Feeds to include content not only from friends, but also from the Pages and public figures that users Like. However, Facebook also wants to give users the option to separate these different types of content into different streams.

Feed from pages

The new News Feed filters are:

1. All Friends

This Feed will display all posts from all friends;

2. Music

This Feed will display what your friends are listening to, what your favourite musicians are posting, what gigs they have coming up;

3. Photos

This Feed will display all the photos posted by friends/Pages you Like;

4. Following

This Feed will display all posts from the brand Pages and public figures you Like, in chronological order (similar to the current ‘Pages’ Feed):

Following feed

Consistent user experience across all devices

Hurrah! Facebook is finally levelling the playing field for the UI across mobile, tablet and desktop, creating a more unified user experience no matter what device we’re accessing Facebook on.

It will now be easy for users to navigate to the top of the News Feed when they notice that new stories have been posted, and (the most important change here) the left-hand menu will now be accessible wherever you go within Facebook:

Consistent user experience

The crunch: What do the updates mean for marketers?

1. Video content is less likely to be ignored

The vast improvement to the way video is displayed means that this offers brands with useful, informative (or even just fun) video content a fantastic opportunity to get their message out there in a more engaging format, from posting handy how-tos to engagement-driving just-for-fun stuff. This will probably set the good brands apart from the not-so-good brands.

2. Brands need to post (high quality) visually rich content

The prominence of visual content in users’ Feeds means that text-only status updates will be drowned out by the noise of rich media in users News Feeds. It’s also really important that the rich-media content you’re posting is high quality, simply because its enhanced prominence will have even more influence over users’ (first) impressions of your brand. (This point also goes for your profile picture/cover photo.)

3. Brands need to post content that drives engagement

While Facebook has stated that the latest changes are “a visual redesign of News Feed only and does not change how we surface the most interesting stories to people,” suggesting that its EdgeRank algorithm won’t be changed, I think that these changes will inevitably have an impact on how content gets surfaced, just by their very nature.

If you’re content isn’t compelling enough to drive engagement, then it will be automatically relegated to the ‘Following’ News Feed, and its posts lumped together with those from all the other Pages that a user Likes.

However, if you have a decent enough EdgeRank score with a user, or one of your Fans shares one of your Page’s posts onto their own Timeline, then this is the only way that they’re going to make it into users’ default News Feeds.

I personally Like a helluva lot of Pages on Facebook, but as it is now, I never ever check my Pages feed. So – if content doesn’t show up in my News Feed, then I basically never see it…

What’s more, having just gone round the office and asked if anyone else ever checks out their Pages feed, it turns out that no one else does either. Perhaps the new emphasis on the filter functionality will change this, but how many non-marketers will know or care very much about these swanky new updates to Facebook’s functionality? Only time will tell, but no matter what, your posts need to actually be good to get seen.

4. Post frequency/timing needs to be considered more carefully

Seeing as though the new Following Feed will show content from Pages in chronological order, it’s likely that it will become even more important to publish content to your Facebook Page on a more regular – and timely – basis.

Do this, and users who check out their Following Feed will see your Page’s content near the top of their feed more consistently.

5. Consider the likely impact Facebook ads/Sponsored Stories/Promoted Posts

While ads weren’t mentioned an interview published by the MIT Technology Review, when asked how the new design will affect ads, a Facebook spokesperson said, “The idea of making things richer, more immersive, includes ads.” However, no more is said about the impact on Facebook ads/Sponsored Stories/Promoted Posts, and we’re left only to speculate.

So – it’s a fair assumption that this new rich-media focus will change emphasis (and performance) PPC ads, depending on how visual they are, so we say BE PREPARED.

If you want to talk to Branded3’s social media experts about these updates or any other aspect of your social media marketing, then just give us a call for a chat.

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