As you probably already know, Facebook has rolled out a new look for its News Feed, and the move didn’t go unnoticed by the media. The question, however, is how this affects marketing and PR efforts for brands and companies that use Facebook to reach out to consumers.
As we expected, and no matter how Facebook goes around it, the whole redesign was aimed at creating better real estate for ads, but Mark Zuckerberg aims a bit higher, hoping to turn the News Feed into “the best personalized newspaper in the world.” The News Feed is now topic specific – a move supposed to encourage users to scroll longer through different types of content. And the way this was designed is interesting too, revealing the thought process behind the redesign, and what it all means for an improved user experience.
The move is brilliant: everything Facebook does appears to focus on the user first, with company interests to be guessed reading between the lines. In fact, the day to day users don’t care about company interests in the end. They just want to be on Facebook to interact with their friends. For brands and marketers though, the updated News Feed puts things in a different perspective.
A good thing that comes with the update is that Facebook made it more difficult for users to unlike pages directly from their News Feed. Users can still hide posts from pages they liked, but to “unlike” a page they have to follow a complicated process of hovering over links, or to actually visit that page, and click “unlike” at the top. This helps companies better retain their fan counts, even when users decide to hide posts from their News Feeds.
With better real estate for ads, Facebook becomes even more appealing for marketers, especially after the company expanded custom audiences to allow businesses to use Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai to further enhance the ads they run on Facebook. For businesses this means better reach, as the campaigns can now be customized based on intent, rather than “likes.” Currently, the new features are only available to US marketers, but Facebook will be gradually rolling our the changes to its entire network.
Since the News Feed is premier real estate on Facebook, and according to the company, marketers can experience over eight times the engagement for ads in the news feed versus ads on the right-hand side, it is imperative to make use of the space. The best performers haven’t changed: photo Page post ads, link Page post ads, Offers, and mobile app install ads are still the most engaging. Facebook’s Optimized CPM (cost per impression) is still the best way to create ads that target people most likely to convert.
Another important aspect for marketers is that, with the updated News Feed, we can safely assumed that EdgeRank, the algorithm that controls whether a page’s posts are broadly exposed to users, was updated too. I wouldn’t necessarily say that EdgeRank was “killed” – the algorithm is still needed. But with users having more control over the stories they see in their News Feed, marketers need to work harder on creating compelling, engaging content that people actually want to see. The photo previews for each story got bigger, titles and descriptions are more prominent too – all translating in better opportunities for reach.
What marketers need now, to take advantage of these new features, are better visuals. Facebook based all its redesign on the theory that more visual stories in News Feed – from both people and Pages – increase user engagement. And Facebook encourages businesses to take advantage of the trend. For example, a restaurant could entice its followers to come in for lunch by showcasing the day’s special right before lunchtime.
There’s a new Following feed on the right-hand side of the home page, which will show to users stories from Pages they like and the people they follow phonologically. A good idea for businesses would be to create an editorial plan for posts, depending on their target audiences, to have their news appear in that feed at the right time.
Last but not least, Facebook will now be showing a Page’s cover photo as the main image, for both organic and paid Page Like stories. The idea behind this is to give more context about the Page. So marketers will need to make sure that that cover photo is as eye catching, engaging, and contextual as possible. The picture must tell a story – it’s no longer a pretty filler, it’s the best chance to make a great first impression. So start working on it now, before Facebook rolls out the updated News Feed all over its network, to keep ahead of the game.