Facebook’s News Feed is one of the most viewed pages on the Web. Any significant changes impact broad swaths of businesses, with sweeping consequences to partners, publishers, and users. Even without changes to EdgeRank, the new Facebook News Feed design changes will deliver a tangible performance shift to publishers and marketers.
Here is what I think we can expect, what we need to watch out for, and the emerging opportunities we should embrace.
New Filters for Feeds
Smarter feed filters are a primary feature in the new News Feed. Though many businesses have expressed concern about the “Friends Only” feed, which would remove publisher-generated posts, that viewpoint is short-sighted.
The new setup will integrate trending news relevant to user-expressed interests. That feature is a double-edged sword for publishers and marketers. On the one hand, you can likely enhance your reach by pushing posts related to trending news. At the same time, negative trending stories about your brand are now more likely to reach your fans.
The biggest transition for publishers and brands-as-publishers is Facebook’s move into the subscription space vacated by RSS readers. By combining page Likes and personality Follows into the Following feed, Facebook is placing brands, personalities, and even dedicated content organizations into the same “FrankenFeed.” Brands and marketers are going to need to make their content as compelling as dedicated content organizations do. And content organizations will have to compete with the energy and excitement of consumer brands.
While that mixed following feed may sound like a meatball sundae, I believe we may be looking at a brilliant new consumption dynamic. Those Facebook users who click over to the Following feed will find a Priority Inbox of sorts, filtering all their subscription content by personalized relevancy to them. That is a remarkable move forward and could easily become a product all its own.
The new News Feed layout is larger and richer. Images and video are more prominent. Compelling imagery and video content are vital. Larger images will be displayed in a newer, larger wrapper, so if you have the pixels, use them. Be sure to optimize your cover image, as the new News Feed will also feature your page’s cover photo in sponsored and organic Liked stories.
The redesign also puts increased focus on the social context in which the content is shared. In other words, the public is now further defining the context in which your Facebook rich media is being viewed and potentially creating exposure in unforeseen (or even unappreciated) vantage points. You can use this feature to your advantage by integrating the user comments above the video as part of the creative format.
For example, the notebook company Avery found the context of three ring binders changed after Mitt Romney's comment about "binders full of women" went viral after the 2012 presidential debates. Had that happened today, Avery could use the new feed format to create a video with the first line of a joke and an arrow pointing up, inviting people to share and comment. Viewers could then participate by adding their closing lines as a second line of the joke when sharing the video, inviting participation among viewers so they become a part of the storytelling. User participation and expression furthers the pass-along value of video.
What About Mobile?
While this upgrade will enhance the desktop experience, I believe the changes were really about the tablet and mobile handset experiences. Following the unified-responsive design trend, this update provides Facebook with a clean, cross-platform UI that is both scan-friendly and deeply engaging. The new UI is as clickable as it is touch and swipe-able. This is a huge bet on a mobile-native UI.
These new features could easily become standalone Facebook apps for mobile devices. For example, Follows could make for a great subscription reader.
Now What Do I Do?
The new Facebook holds incredible promise, but it doesn’t change any of the fundamentals for success. Rather than look for a magic bullet, sit down with your community and content managers, and ask them what you could be doing better to support them and to support your communities.
With these shifts in the News Feed design, consider investing in rich media. Video is---and will continue to be---a strong performer. The richness and relative ease of imagery makes a strong case for growing or enhancing your solutions in this space in particular. It doesn’t hurt to ask your agencies or production teams for access to the hundreds of images you have already paid to create but aren’t using.
These changes are a huge step forward for Facebook and Facebook users. It’s up to you to make the most of this incredible platform. These changes won’t change your world, but it would be foolish to ignore the new opportunities they present.