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Facebook Revamps The News Feed

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Facebook just announced a revamped version of its News Feed, which it is starting to roll out around the world. The Facebook video above (supplied via CNET) highlights the key points:

1. User Controls of News Feed Content

Users Can Choose The Contents Of Their News Feed

Users can now determine exactly what populates their News Feed.

PC World explains this new approach:

The existing News Feed displays a mash-up of posts from friends alongside Facebook pages you’ve liked . Those posts include check-ins, photos, videos, and status updates in some arcane order determined by an algorithm. The updated News Feed, by contrast, separates  types of content, and lets users choose to view only photos, or only music, or only updates from businesses like yours—in other words, the pages they’ve liked.

TechHive drills into more detail about the new News Feed options:

The Music feed

One of the biggest changes to the design is the way it handles music. There’s a new feed to deal only with music-related stuff. You just choose the feed from a feeds drop-down list at the top right of the page.

Facebook News Feed

Music feed

The Spotify music your friends are listening to is now featured in the music feed. Facebook has moved your friends’ song listens out of the old ticker at the right hand side of the screen, and into the music feed.

And Facebook is doing a lot more with those Spotify listens. It looks for artists and songs that multiple friends are listening to and groups them together in an article in the news feed. The article contains a large picture of the artist, and at the left you can see all your friends who’ve listened to the artist lately. Mouse over any of the pictures and you can see what those people said about the artist.

The Following feed

Facebook News Feed

Some of these themes are continued in other feeds. In the Following feed, Facebook now builds media rich articles using content from the pages of publications or public figures you like. For instance, if you follow the Onion’s page, you might see an article in your feed with the three most recent articles from the publication. Each article has its own image, and a 20-word summary. You might also find in-page videos of public figures you follow.

The Photos feed

Facebook News Feed

Photos feed

The Photos feed simply displays all the posts that include photographs. The photos appear larger in the feed, as well as the text around them. Even the text in the comments boxes below the photos appears to be a little bit bigger than before. At the top of the Photos feed page, you’ll find a small header image that incorporates one of the images from your feed. (Actually, all the new feeds pages have these header images.)

2. Larger Pictures for More Visual Impact

Images are to be given much more priority in the new-look News Feed, for which we can probably thank Pinterest and Instagram (and the fact that, as revealed by Mark Zuckerberg, 50 percent of the content in the Facebook News Feed already comprises photos and videos). Little wonder, then, that the News Feed is being given a visual makeover.

Here’s what you’ll see if you look at a typical Facebook News Feed now:

Current Appearance of the Facebook News Feed

And how it will look once the revamp rolls out:

Larger Visual Images in Facebook News Feeds

3. Facebook Albums Look Better Too

From this:

How Facebook Albums Look Now

To this:

How Facebook Albums will look

4. New Look For Shared Stories

Perhaps the most dramatic change is to the way that links are shared on Facebook. You’ll be familar with the current appearance:

How links are shared on Facebook

Look again:

The new look for shared links on Facebook

The new Sharing layout resembles (and was probably inspired by) the table of contents of a magazine. The new look includes:

  • A much larger image
  • A more prominent title
  • And a longer summary that tells you what this article is about

Facebook is also starting to add the logos of the publishers in the corner, its own effort to add authority and credibility to the shared content.

5. Desktop Mobilised

Facebook Looks The Same Across Desktop and Mobile

This visual makeover will see Facebook adopt similar layouts across both desktop and mobile, taking advantage of recent mobile styling.

What About The Marketers?

Collectively, the changes add up to a bold new look to the Facebook News Feed, at least for consumers. But where are marketers in all this?

AdWeek reported on the reaction from the marketing industry:

Many marketers gleefully anticipated that the content-specific feeds that Facebook was reportedly prepping would improve their ability to target ads. But when Facebook announced the new feeds on Thursday, advertisers were all but shut out—many of them feeling none too happy about it. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company has yet to determine how it wants to handle ads in the four new feeds.

The ability to target, say, image-rich ads to the Photos feed, or promote a brand-related jingle to the Music Feed ads would be “definitely a great opportunity for advertisers. I don’t know why they’re not making that available right now,” said Performics global CEO Daina Middleton.

Facebook isn’t leaving Madison Avenue completely in the dark. After the announcement, the company emailed marketers with a follow-up overview of the new feeds and design “and said right now ad units aren’t going to change,” said iCrossing’s head of social media Amanda Peters, who received such an email.

Despite that outreach, “I was surprised that there wasn’t any mention of ad units [during Thursday’s announcement],” Peters said. “I think [the new feeds] do present an opportunity for new units and potentially more dynamic units, more targeted units for specific feeds. My guess is that would come very soon.”

But maybe marketers shouldn’t be surprised about a lack of initial ad talk, given past Facebook announcements regarding product changes, said MEC managing partner and social practice lead Kristine Segrist.

“I feel like historically whether it was Timeline or other big platform changes, they roll out the user experience first, get some learnings, test it in the wild, then roll out the accompanying ad products,” she said. However “the scary story for marketers is whether users have newfound controls and can choose to spend time where brands or businesses can’t be part of the conversation.”

“There will be a section of the new News Feed dedicated to pages that users have liked”, says Tony Bradley. However:

Borrowing the personalized newspaper analogy, that section will be the equivalent of the classifieds section.

It’s fair to assume that the users who have liked your Facebook page are at least peripherally interested in your products and services. However, people spend time on the social network to be, well, social.

Their first thought won’t be, “Hey, I wonder if that company I liked has anything new to say.” It probably won’t be their second or third thought, either.

Don’t wait for users to find you in the equivalent of the classifieds. To stay in the game and engage with your community, take your business to them. How do you do that? Use lots of photos and videos to help you business show up in the sections of the new Facebook News Feed, such as Photos, that will have the most traffic.

In other words, even in the new-look Facebook News Feeds, old-fashioned Engagement is as essential as ever.

Facebook launches Graph Search

In the finest “keep them guessing” tradition of the late Steve Jobs, Facebook had the tech journalist community buzzing over a mystery press conference scheduled for Wednesday morning. Speculation was rife: would the social giant launch a new mobile phone, perhaps, or had it acquired another key player in its ongoing battle for digital supremacy?

Now the wondering is over: Facebook’s big announcement is Graph Search, a Social Search Engine.

Finally! Facebook’s existing search engine is, frankly, not up to the rigours of searching through the trillions of entries of a billion members.

So what do we know about Graph Search so far, what makes it different to Google and what are the implications for marketers?

The first and most important point is that this is not web search, it’s social search. It’s designed to help Facebook members meaningfully sort through content that has been shared with them.

The second key point is that Graph Search is still in Beta release – Facebook is inviting users to sign up for early trials, but it’s only rolling out to a small number (in the hundreds or thousands) at first.

And the third key point is that Graph Search is the method by which Facebook intends to harness the social potential of its members’ accumulated postings (which has BIG implications for marketers).

Powered by Social Proof

For example: you want to go out for dinner tonight. What was the name of that Mexican restaurant your friend Janice loved? Now, instead of scrolling through screeds of Facebook posts — or giving up and phoning/texting Janice — you can use Graph Search to find Mexican restaurants in Wellington. Your results will include listings of restaurants that your friends who have checked in to or Liked.

You can quickly see the implications for marketers. Social Proof suddenly becomes not merely optional but essential — if your restaurant isn’t on Facebook, it won’t be caught in the Graph Search results so won’t even be part of the choice set.

The launch focused on four use cases for Graph Search: people, photos, places and interests.

Forbes, amongst many others, live-blogged these examples as they were announced by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team:

Searching people: By typing in “friends of friends who are single men in San Francisco and who are from India” in the search box, the search engine highlights those search terms and brings up a list of eligible bachelors for matchmaking purposes.

Searching photos: You can type “photos of my friends taken in Paris” or “photos of my friends taken in national parks.” The searches bring up big tiled photos of the photos in that category. Or you can just search for “photos I like.” This brings in social gestures such as the “Like” that Facebook already has that tag photos and other objects. This is also data that Facebook has that competitors don’t. You can only see the photos that people have shared with you.

Searching interests: You can type in “Movies my friends like” or “TV shows my friends like.” Clearly this section of search has revenue potential. You can also search for “Videos by TV shows liked by my friends” this will bring up just the videos that TV shows have posted. “TV shows liked by doctors” shows that doctors like to watch Grey’s Anatomy. You can also search and see what kind of music people who like Mitt Romney or Barack Obama like.

Searching places: When traveling you can search for “bars in Dublin liked by people who live in Dublin” to get local insider information. Or search for people who have been to Ireland.

On privacy: Facebook has privacy shortcuts in a button on the upper right hand corner. Click on “Who can see my stuff” then photos to see the photos I have uploaded or that are tagged of me. Or you can see just the photos I’ve hidden from your Timeline. You can also send a message to the person who uploaded the photo asking them to take the photos down. For those inappropriate photos.

There’s also a partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine included for information that can’t be found in Facebook’s Graph Search.

We’ll be covering Graph Search and all its marketing implications in our new Advanced Social Media Marketing course (details here).

Facebook Hits One Billion Users

On September 14, Facebook achieved another magical milestone – one billion monthly active users – according to an announcement earlier this week by Mark Zuckerberg. That means 1 billion users check the site every month.

Some more Facebook stats to amaze:

  • People have made 140 billion friend connections on Facebook.
  • As it matures, Facebook users are getting younger: The median age of a user joining today is about 22, down from 23 for a user who joined at the time the site hit 500 million users.
  • Facebook now also has 600 million mobile users.

Since Facebook launched, we’ve seen:

  • Over 1.13 trillion likes since launch in February 2009
  • 219 billion photos uploaded
  • 17 billion location‐tagged posts, including check‐ins
  • 62.6 million songs have been played 22 billion times ‐ that’s about 210,000 years of music

Upcoming Enhancements from Facebook

At Facebook’s September F8 Developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced a range of new features tied around the Open Graph protocol. What’s Open Graph? A clunky name for the software hooks that enable developers to link their website content back to Facebook, so that stuff people do on your website gets reported back to their friends.

What are the new features? Here’s a taster video:

For the geeks among us, here’s a link to the documentation.

These new features are still in development, but you might like to give some thought to how you might use them to socially supercharge your own website.