1. More visual – larger images in a widened central News Feed column.
2. Customisable – choose which content you want to see in your feed.
Sign up for the new News Feed here: https://www.facebook.com/about/newsfeed.
Facebook sees the new News Feed as acting like a personalised newspaper, giving users more control over the content they can see with various filters replacing the current Top Stories and Most Recent. This customisability is in response to user feedback that the News Feed was becoming “too cluttered.”
Whilst the original Top Stories feed will continue to be the default, there will soon be a menu in the top right hand corner where users can choose All Friends, Following (Pages and people they Subscribe to), Photos (all photos from friends, including photos from Instagram), Groups, Games, Music and Most Recent (a chronological feed). They call also select geographically contextualised posts or posts from Friend Lists from a See All menu.
The new News Feed will also contain more content from external websites and apps – possibly a nod to the fact that Facebook recognises new platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest are increasingly competing with them for users’ attention.
The default News Feed will still be governed by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, and will continue to contain posts from friends, brands, and apps etc.
Visual Content Is King
Facebook recognises that photos are the most shared content on the site, so the central News Feed column has been widened at the expense of the left and right hand side columns. Photos will now appear larger, links to external websites eg. newspaper articles will now display in a richer format, check-ins will display maps, and content form 3rd party apps such as Pinterest and Instagram will also enjoy more real estate.
Facebook users are now accessing the site via mobile more than via website, and this trend is reflected in the design changes. The new desktop design takes its cues from the current mobile site and apps, with the black left hand side bookmarks column being integrated into the desktop site. The overall changes are rolling out to desktop first and mobile and tablets in a few weeks, but mobile users will not notice nearly as pronounced a change as desktop users.
Considerations For Marketers
News Feed Ads vs Standard Ads (Right Hand Column)
The widening of the News Feed column and shortening of the right hand side area of the site means that News Feed ad placements will enjoy more real estate with larger images and Standard Ads will be diminished.
Importantly, brands may choose to pay to appear in any of the new feeds, including the Friend feed, by purchasing News Feed placements. Marketers should proceed with caution in this regard, as there could be some backlash when branded stories appear in what is a designated non-branded space. Music and gaming brands can also choose to place their ads only in the Music and Games feeds where they know users are ready to interact with entertainment content.
Friends vs Following Feeds
Although the traditional Top Stories News Feed will continue to be the default feed, the option for users to see only posts from their friends may reduce the visibility of messages from brand pages. The uptake of this feature is yet to be seen. On the upside, the option to view content only from brands and public figures means that users who do select the Following feed may be more ready to engage with the stories they find here. The upshot of all this may be that Facebook is less valuable as an awareness tool, but more valuable as an engagement tool for brands – only time will tell.
The Following feed will also be chronological, meaning that Edgerank (eg. how much engagement a post got, or when a user last interacted with that brand) will no longer be a factor in the content displayed. Facebook says this is good for brands who have previously shown concern that most of their content was not being seen by their fans. However, it also means that great, engaging content will not be privileged by ‘rising to the top.’
In line with the new more visual design, cover photos will enjoy a new prominence on News Feed, and Facebook urges brands to let these large images tell a brand’s story, as they will now be the image displayed with organic and paid Page Like Stories in the News Feed. (The image displayed used to be the square Profile Picture.)
A Better Overall Experience?
Although there are some very obvious potential drawbacks for brands – the option to remove them entirely from your news feed, and the marginalisation of affordable right hand column Standard Ads – the new customisable News Feed may well be a positive move for marketers in the long run. We know that Facebook use may be on the decline, and this may partially be due to a cluttered feed overrun with marketing messages which obfuscate the original driver of being on Facebook in the first place – to keep up with friends. If these changes can keep people on the platform in the long run, then brands should rejoice – even if it means they might need to pay a little more or work a little harder to maintain the reach and engagement than they did before. The big picture is that there’s no point being front and centre on a platform you’ve spent a fortune to build up a base on if users up and leave because the experience became too commercial.
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