What does Facebook’s new Newsfeed mean for brands?

Falling stock earnings, the ‘Facebook fatigue’ phenomenon and industry claims that ‘teens are turning away’ have dogged the world’s largest social network in recent months. Much of the cynicism around Facebook has stemmed from edits to Timeline made last August, resulting in dismay from page owners at a diminishing ability to contact their own fans, and an increased push from Facebook to spend more on advertising.

Facebook had been criticised for filtering posts more aggressively on one hand, while offering to ease the filter for money with another.

Never one to rest on it’s laurels (the famous mantra of ‘move fast and break things’ is drummed into all Facebook employees), Facebook has unveiled a new user interface (UI) for user news feeds, in an attempt perhaps to move back towards positive rhetoric.

Announced last night by Mark Zuckerberg, the changes promise to ‘deliver a personalised newspaper, tailored to the particular interests of each user’s preferences. The new News Feed has a prominent, bold front page and is divided into a host of new sections, showcased in a menu in the top-right corner of the screen.

The new feed is designed to have the same navigation options across all devices, while there’s also a nod towards rich media, with Zuckerberg stating that ‘photos have doubled to 50 percent of News Feed stories in just under a year’. Photos and video will now show up much larger, while photos will also have text overlaid onto them, perhaps in a bid to attract eyeballs.

One of the major changes, however, will worry some brands. Previously, all content from brands, friends, personalities etc was thrown into one area. Now though, instead of just one option to sort your News Feed,  users can choose options like ‘All Friends’ to see only friends content, ‘Photos’ to see a photo stream only, ‘Games’ to see what games your friends are playing, ‘Following’ for the brands and public figures you follow, or merely remain with the old reliable ‘Most Recent’.

Of course, users can now choose to effectively opt out of seeing content from publishers, businesses and influencers whose pages they follow, thought presumably Facebook are banking on users actually wanting to see what brands are saying, or not bothering to segment their feed.

The changes have been received quite positively by the tech media, with Facebook’s stock price rising slightly overnight.

Here’s what the iteration means for brands…

Reducing friction between desktop and mobile
With over 425 million monthly mobile users (Americans now spend more time on Facebook’s mobile site than desktop), the edits have made Facebook’s UI more responsive. The new design will be streamlined across desktop and mobile, making it simple for advertisers to plan and deliver campaigns across mobile and desktop by ensuring a similar experience on each. The design will be rolled out across tablets and phones soon.

Quality of imagery and video now very important
While imagery and video have always been important considerations for brands (rich media posts receive interaction rates 39% higher than average), increasing the size of these elements within the newsfeed offers creative brands the chance to impress with photography and video content. Great social media marketing is inherently visual, and the visual nature of Facebook will only be expanded with these changes.

Impact on advertising
The updated News Feed offers additional opportunities for brands looking to place their message into the news feed. Larger ‘in stream’ adverts were announced, though not expanded on, while ads utilising photo and video will likely receive more interactions than before. A new ‘floating’ advertising section will remain similar to the previous RHS advert, and will contain sponsored stories, and targeted display ads. The updated UI contains up to 10 ad slots at least three more than the previous interface.

Meanwhile, brands will likely be able choose what stream they wish to advertise in, so a telecoms brand launching a new music service could only advertise in the ‘Music stream’ for example. More will become clear once page moderators manage to get their hands on the new ad options.

Crucially though, brands will have the option of advertising in the new ‘Friends only’ feed, meaning it’s only organic, unpaid brand posts that will be limited to the “Following” page. Cynics would say that that’s perhaps another move from Facebook to milk more advertising money.

EdgeRank still matters
Facebook still intends to rely on algorithms to select material to feature on the main part of the News Feed, though this emphasis will be of less importance on the new sub streams.  How users adapt their usage preferences will determine the long term impact on EdgeRank.

Previous News Feed edits have been dramatically rolled out within 24 hours to all pages, causing alarm bells with users. This time around though Facebook intends to roll out the changes in phases. Those interested in getting to the top of the list can sign up here.