By Nicole Petrak, New Media Projects & Assistant Editor
Facebook has announced an upcoming site re-design, one that will mostly shift the Newsfeed as we know it and has some interesting implications for brands. The company says users can expect an experience more like a “personalized newspaper,” where their social content will be blended with local and global content tailored to their interests. The changes come after the company has faced both a disappointing stock price and research that shows over 60 percent of users have taken extended breaks from using the site after feeling bored or unengaged.
Since more than half the content shared by users in 2011 was visual (photos and videos), the new Newsfeed will feature larger, more prominent images. It will also give individual users the ability to control what they want to view by customizing feeds – they will be able to segment content by Friends Only, Photos Only, Music, as well as a feed just for keeping up with Pages they have liked. An article in Inc.com explains:
[The new feed] lets you see all the posts of the people and brands you’re following in chronological order “to make sure that content publishers know that their fans can see every single post that they make,” Chris Struhar, technical lead of news feed, was quick to point out. For brands, that last part is a big deal. That’s because some big names, including billionaire Mark Cuban, The Wall Street Journal, Walmart, Star Trek star George Takei, and New York Times tech columnist Nick Bilton, all have complained that people aren’t seeing posts from their Facebook pages as often as they should. In fact, last weekend Bilton penned an exposé of sorts in which he wrote that while Facebook’s subscribe feature has allowed him to garner 400,000 followers, over time the number of people liking or resharing his posts has dropped significantly–from hundreds of likes to mere double-digit figures…”It seems as if Facebook is not only promoting my links on news feeds when I pay for them, but also possibly suppressing the ones I do not pay for.”
While the new layout suggests better opportunities for brands to be visible, it does change how they can be successful at that.
Using more visual content will be key. A Tnooz article recognizes that next to the imagery, the title or headline that accompanies each post is going to be the factor that drives or misses Likes and clicks. The same author points out, “Ability to see the most relevant news without clutter is what the [Facebook] team is trying to accomplish here – and with 30% of content from famous people and businesses with Pages, the business opportunity to appear in this “personalized newspaper” is enormous.”
And don’t forget the ads – after years of complaints from advertisers about the limited exposure and creativity allowed on the site, they will now become larger and more visual as well (and almost assuredly more expensive).
While not part of the recent official announcement from Facebook, sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is also testing whether to incorporate hashtags to organize content, like their competitor Twitter:
[The new feature would] allow users to click on a hashtag to pull up all posts about similar topics or events so it can quickly index conversations around trending topics and build those conversations up, giving users more reason to stay logged in and see more ads. Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, already uses hashtags, allowing users to sort photos by the symbol.
Like the shift towards including more outside content in peoples’ Newsfeeds, this indicates Facebook is herding users away from the Friends-and-Family model of sharing and towards a larger, more public content sharing space.
What do you think of the new changes? How will they affect your brand?