Unless you live on another planet, you already know about the upcoming Facebook Newsfeed. Announced on March 7th, Facebook has gotten rid of a lot of clutter and instead has created a more visually appealing newsfeed. It’s probably the most radical design it has received in its nine year history and it follows a more visual layout and you can join the waiting list here.
While it’s a very exciting time for users, what does this mean for marketers and advertisers? The presentation Facebook put out only focused on the user experience, but from that alone, we can draw up a few conclusions and theories about what direction it’s going to go. While there are a lot of changes made across the board, we’ll be concentrating on what it means for marketers.
When you first set eyes on it, the similarities between it and Google+ are rather obvious. While comparing the two is rather tempting, delve a little deeper into it and you’ll notice that it takes inspiration from a number of sites and creates its own identity from it. The use of white space allows Facebook to deliver a clearer and more streamlined experience, which is a good thing since the current home page is rather busy and clustered. When you combine it with Graph Search that makes the entire process of discovery and exploration exciting.
Images for regular posts are now larger, meaning that the tactic of posting links and uploading an image so that it stands out won’t be as frequent an occurrence. Since imagery plays such a prominent part in the newsfeed – making up 50% of content in the average newsfeed according to Zuckerberg – it’s an obvious, but essential move.
The greater emphasis on this could be a double-edged sword as while most posts are images, they will need to be high quality to work. Seeing a flood of bad and low-res images could break the entire experience, but even judging by the quality of images on your current newsfeed will tell you whether this will be a problem or not.
What is perhaps more important for marketers is the fact that Facebook is making it easier for users to visit feeds. While the ‘Most Recent’ option is already there – and something that people don’t seem to realise has always been there – it isn’t as noticeable now as it is in this new redesign. This will help alleviate the criticisms that Facebook is only showing the content it wants to show, and make the option of a purer newsfeed easier to access.
The sidebar takes inspiration from the mobile app, appearing as small image tabs that expand when you click on it. It’s a small, but nifty design change that adds to the overall aesthetic and becomes more noticeable because of the use of white space.
So what does this mean for brands?
So the feed is more visual and easier on the eye, but what does it mean for marketers? Considering that the home page has been cleaned up, you could argue that ads make up most of the clutter Facebook was talking about.
While it hasn’t revealed any major changes relating to advertising, the three key factors that will determine what direction it goes are Edgerank, the different feeds, and of course, imagery.
The first thing to mention is that Facebook has said that there will be no changes made to Edgerank. While it’s updating the style, and regularly updating the algorithm that powers Edgerank, it’s not going to introduce a major overhaul simply because it’s introducing a redesigned feed.
However, it’s the new feeds that will start taking prominence as users will begin to switch back and forth between the numerous options. At least in the short-term when the lure of new features will have them experimenting and seeing which feeds people spend more time on. If it finds that more people are on the ‘most recent’ feed, ads will be adjusted so that they’ll appear in the feed. If it’s photos, then photo ads could be a possibility.
The new feeds gives Facebook a greater opportunity to see what kind of content their users are most interested in. Just because 50% of content is imagery doesn’t necessarily mean that people want a photo only feed so it will be interesting to see just how popular the photo-only feed will be over a few months.
Whether users will emigrate from an Edgerank sorted feed to a purely chronological one remains to be seen. Our guess is that people will jump between the normal, most recent and photos feed as they catch up with all updates; other feeds such as music and following would be checked every so often, but not as frequently.
On the other hand, normal ads on the home page will remain where they are, except in a more noticeable side box. The cleaning up of the page probably works better in their favour since it means that these ads will become more noticeable since there’s less to compete against. Whether a cleaner look means an adjustment to ad guidelines remains to be seen, but if the images get bigger, then that might mean less room for text. Currently, Facebook isn’t planning on changing the criteria for ads, but will move certain ads to the newsfeed if the photo is large enough (552px width).
Speaking of imagery, Facebook’s Product Manager Greg Marra posted on Facebook’s developer blog that providing high-resolution images will be essential for the best results on both Web and mobile. The dimensions are 600 x 600, with the minimum being 200 x 200 so these are worth keeping in mind when you’re putting together images for ads and uploading them.
Looking at the changes Facebook will be implementing, you can see that there’s a clear idea of the direction the site is heading. In a sense, it’s catching up with more responsive sites like Google+, while maintaining the tidiness and visuals that the likes of Twitter and Tumblr are famous for.
It being the most significant change to Facebook’s layout and the inclusion of different feeds will mean that when it rolls out, users’ reactions will be warmer than before. It will be a slow rollout and it will probably be months before you see it (remember how long it took for Timeline to arrive?), but judging by the screenshots and opinion, users and brands will have a lot to look forward to.