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Facebook News Feed

Executive Summary

Facebook’s News Feed design updates were announced on March 7. Mark Zuckerberg likened the new News Feed look to “the most personalized newspaper” for users ‒ evolving the design to the way users continue to share information.

  • The new layout focuses on three main components – larger images, multiple news feeds to choose from and consistency across desktop and mobile devices.
  • The new look will roll out over coming weeks, granting select users access to preview the look and provide feedback to Facebook before rolling it out to the masses.
  • For marketers, content needs to be visually compelling to break through the clutter, and posting frequency should be consistent to rise within the “Following” feed. Also, there’s speculation that there will be greater importance on visual page post ads to help break through the feeds.

Facebook News Feed Update Overview

On March 7th, Facebook announced some major changes to the News Feed, which will have a profound impact on marketers. With rumors circulating for weeks, this announcement represents a major shift into the social platform’s functionality. In fact, there hasn’t been a major overhaul to Facebook since the introduction of Timeline in late 2011. While the new design, which Mark Zuckerberg called “the most personalized newspaper,” reduces clutter and allows its users to focus more on stories from people they care about, its impact on marketing is evolving.

What Are the Changes?

The News Feed is changing in three major ways – more focus on imagery, adding multiple newsfeeds and more consistency across devices, including mobile.

More powerful imagery

In the new design, visual content is now front and center, including shared photos, articles, events and even places, and all get more prominence in the new design, to put the spotlight on what your friends are doing and sharing. For example, if several friends share the same photo, a user can flip through the stories to see what everyone is saying. Photo albums are more prominent as a whole and article stories highlight a larger image, longer summary and where the article is from.

Choices for different feeds

The News Feed today encompasses all friend activity from posting, photos and events, as well as brand activity, which makes up 30 percent of the content. With the new News Feeds, the control is put in users’ hands to display which feed they want to look through. Users can choose between several feeds including “All Friends,” “Close Friends,” “Music,” “Photos,” Most Recent,” “Games,” and even “Following,” which contains, sports, brands and public figures.

Mobile consistency

Facebook has taken some cues from mobile apps and designed the News feed with that in mind, allowing a new side navigation with more white space. The design allows for consistency across screens from phone to tablet to laptop, providing the same clean look for users.

Implications for Display Advertising

Advertisers who have historically relied on sponsored sidebar display ads as a low-cost/low-time investment tactic for tapping the Facebook audience will need to consider revamping their strategy. While the exact layout is still unknown, preliminary photos confirm that the presence of right-rail ads will be significantly downplayed, if not completely removed, with a clear emphasis on sponsored, in-feed posts.

Although this is intended to improve the user’s overall experience, it also requires an advertiser to devote more time to its Facebook advertising strategy if it plans to continue to utilize Facebook as a sustainable tactic for generating impressions/traffic/sales.

Enhanced targeting through different feeds

Instead of targeting a user’s already cluttered “general” newsfeed and competing with all of the advertisers, marketers will now be able to target themes more strategically, depending on how users filter their feeds (music, photos, sports, etc.). Not only does this help improve visibility by shrinking the advertising pool, but it creates an opportunity for better relevance and subsequent higher engagement rates.

Emphasis on visual elements

Where some advertisers currently rely on a small, right-rail display ad with character and image restrictions, emphasis on in-feed ads will require much more effort to improve an ad’s ability to stand out among all of the elements present within a user’s feed (vs. the other ads in the right-rail). Again, this likely means a higher engagement rate, but a more significant time investment from the advertiser.

Sponsorship potential

While sponsorships are only speculative at this point, they do seem like a viable option for advertisers looking for another way to capitalize on specific feed targeting – Think Activision sponsoring a “gaming” feed to promote the newest Call of Duty release.

Next Steps for Brand Pages

While the press conference didn’t focus specifically on advertising or changes to brand pages (there was no mention of any changes to its Edgerank algorithm), there are a number of factors that will clearly have an impact on marketers.  While Facebook implemented these changes to address concerns of losing user interest and reduced time spent on the platform, these changes will also force brands to spend even more money to break through and reach their consumers. This results in the simple fact that it’s going to be harder for your content to show up on your consumers’ newsfeeds.

However, the keys to being successful on Facebook haven’t changed. Brands that want to drive an impact will have to have an integrated approach, combining a paid and a creative content strategy, to break through the clutter on the platform. While we will have to work harder to make an impact, leveraging this additional visual space with content that continues to provide value and integrating a paid media strategy will result in a winning formula for brands.

Here are some tips on how to break through the clutter:

  1. Content needs to be even more compelling to break into the “All Friends” feed.
    The only way a brand will show up in the “All Friends” feed is if one of their followers interacts with a brand’s content, which makes creating shareable content that much more important.
  2. Visual content continues to gain importance.
    No, really this time. As marketers, we know engagement is increased when using vibrant photos, but now, more focus than ever is on the images we share with our audiences. Less focus on copy, more on compelling visuals.
  3. Posting strategy may need to change.
    Since all stories from pages a user follows can be sorted in chronological order now, brands may have to rethink their posting strategy and increase frequency without overloading the user with too many posts.
  4. Cover stories remain important real estate.
    Organic and page “like” stories will now display the cover photo with the new layout. The new change is designed to provide more context about the page, so it important to visually convey a brand’s message through the cover photo.

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