On March 7th, Facebook announced the biggest change to its popular News Feed feature since its launch in 2006. In the big announcement, Mark Zuckerberg compared Facebook to a newspaper: “Our mission is to give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper in the world,” Zuckerberg said. In response to recent claims that Facebook has lost touch with its users, the updated News Feed is an attempt to bring back control and personalization to its enormous user base. As is the case with all updates to Facebook, many users will complain and brands will speculate about what it means for their business.
But, by bringing multiple feeds, bigger visuals, a cleaner interface and consistent design, there’s surely a lot to love about Facebook’s latest update.
How does this update impact the user experience?
There’s no doubt that social media has taken an image-heavy turn in the past year. With the obvious success of image-focused networks like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram, Facebook’s photo offerings were beginning to look outdated.
With that in mind, the biggest change users will notice in this News Feed update is increased space for bigger, richer images to be shared.
Images will now fill 552 pixels across the News Feed, instead of 403 pixels, giving users more opportunity to showcase their photo albums and personal moment.
Additionally, the added image space rolls-over to content shared from sources outside of Facebook. For example, content shared to Facebook from Pinterest, Quora, and Instagram will get a visual boost too, making the Facebook experience more visually attractive no matter what content is being shared.
Furthermore, users will experience refined control of the Feeds they wish to see on their home page. TechCrunch explains that the new feeds will be sorted by how frequently you check them, for easy access. They include:
– All Friends – a feed that shows you everything your friends are sharing.
– Photos – a feed with only photos from your friends and Pages you like (including Instagram).
– Music – a feed with posts about the music you and your friends have played.
– Following – a feed with the latest news from the Pages you like and the people you follow.
– Games – a feed dedicated to games being played by your friends.
Essentially, other than in the “default” News Feed view, Facebook will not decide what shows up on your home screen as it has done in the past.
With the potential for more fine-tuned control, users should feel more connected to what they’re seeing on Facebook and why they’re seeing it. This should greatly improve the user experience, putting the power back in the hands of the people sharing content. Josh Constantine of TechCrunch sums the benefits of multiple feeds nicely: “Overall, users simply have more choice now. If they want to see content from businesses, it’s easier to do so now than it was before. If they don’t, they can skip them.”
How will Startup Businesses be impacted by the redesigned News Feed?
Images will play an even larger role for businesses using Facebook for marketing after the News Feed update. As mentioned above, Facebook is going to provide a lot more room to display images in all their glory. But, because users will now have the ability to control what news streams they pay attention to, brands on Facebook are going to have to do an even better job at providing high quality, relevant visual content if they want to stand out.
Ryan Tate, of Wired, emphasized the importance of quality visual content for businesses after attending the launch event on Thursday: “A redesign like the one unveiled [on Thursday] could potentially boost the attention directed at posts from news publishers and businesses. Showing large images and videos, as the new design does, gives extra importance to professionally shot photos and videos like those regularly commissioned by news organizations and advertisers.”
As seen in the screenshot below, Sponsored Stories and Suggested Posts (ads) will be displayed significantly larger than before in the new News Feed. If you think of the new News Feed like a newspaper, the importance of well-designed ads becomes clearer. No one reads the New York Times expecting to see half thought out advertisements, or off-topic messaging. Readers expect quality content.
From now on, advertisers and businesses will need to take advantage of visual content if they want to succeed on the News Feed, but that doesn’t mean they should forget about all the other Facebook marketing best practices that still stand.
If anything, business owners and marketers on Facebook should be more thoughtful about what they publish. Now, having the option to view a “Friends Only” feed, users will easily be able to completely ignore your brand’s posts. Page owners should carefully rethink their content strategies and ensure that they are posting relevant photos, updates, and links to their target audience. Brands that don’t run the risk of becoming pushed aside, or worse, “Unliked” by users.
Aaron Friedman is the CEO of Fanpage Toolkit, which he started developing in 2009. Aaron is responsible for setting overall product strategy and architecture, as well as direction for the company. He leads the design of Fanpage Toolkit’s core platform and technology infrastructure. Prior to Fanpage Toolkit, Aaron spent more then 15 years as an Information Technology leader in Digital Strategy and Financial Service based companies. He has served roles as a CEO, CTO and Information Architect… responsible for designing complex Internet Systems, Technology Infrastructure and Web- based application systems/platforms.
Image Credit: Pcworld.com