Yesterday Facebook announced a completely revamped News Feed, designed to be clean and minimalistic in appearance and to function as a “personalized newspaper.” According to Mark Zuckerberg, the new design is based on three main pillars: visual stories, choosing different types of feeds and providing the same experience on mobile and desktop.
The new look also adds increased opportunity for users to customize and filter their feeds (including a view that excludes Page content), and varies the size of individual items based on their popularity among the user’s friend group. Thumbnails of friends who have interacted with news feed items are also featured prominently alongside each piece of content. There’s also a new sleek left side menu designed to encourage deeper exploration beyond the latest News Feed items.
These changes come first to the Desktop Facebook experience, which is rolling out gradually starting yesterday, followed by a new iOS update which is expected to arrive in a few weeks, and then an Android update some time thereafter.
The PN Connect team has analyzed what information is available on Facebook’s layout and functionality changes as well as initial reactions within the technology community, and prepared a quick reference to help you prepare as the new experience rolls out.
What are the most important changes to know?
There are a lot of nuances to the new News Feed, but much of it can be boiled down to a few key points:
- Users can sort by different types of feeds: The new News Feed enables users to select feeds focused only on news, music, photos, media, or even people who are following you but are not your friend. All of this is meant to help users drill down on the content they’re most interested and find more like it.
- Ability to filter/optimize what appears in your News Feed: Users can not only customize content by type, they can also filter by all posts from friends only, all posts from pages only, or all posts from people they’ve subscribed to. This is available for both desktop and mobile.
- News Feed content will be arranged visually by popularity: The size of each story within the News Feed will be affected by the number of contacts who have liked it. Thumbnails of the friends who shared each item will appear on the left side of the item, where you can hover over faces to see comments.
- Highlight popular Pages in an easy-to-find location: Facebook’s new layout will make it easy for users to sort only by Pages as one of many filtering options available on the News Feed. But as with everything else, the prominence of where a Page is displayed within that feed depends largely on the popularity of the Page and its content.
- Links aren’t going away – they get a facelift as well: Link stories will have larger thumbnails and slightly longer snippets, so while photos are clearly being emphasized here, link sharing will still be an important part of the ecosystem.
What is the likely impact of these changes for brands?
Facebook’s stated goal for these changes is to enhance user experience, to “give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can.” More specifically, it’s clear that these changes fall in line with Facebook’s ongoing efforts to place greater emphasis on visual content, maintain and increase dwell times within their walls, combat Facebook fatigue and provide users with a greater sense of control over what material they see.
Though all of its outward promotion of these changes focused on users, Facebook of course expects many of these changes to have trickle-down benefits for brands on Facebook, and particularly advertisers. Although brand Page updates can be filtered out in one particular view, there’s no indication that sponsored stories and promoted stories can be filtered out. Further, some analysts point out that as photos and stories get bigger, by definition ads (both inline promoted content and sidebar ads) within Facebook get bigger as well. Brands already accustomed to publishing highly visual content should have more pixels to play with.
Facebook is undoubtedly hoping the exaggerated dimensions of photo and video content will also further separate the wheat from the chaff – underperforming content may surface less often the main news feed, but may also have greater opportunity to surface and spread within niches of fans based on the multiple new feeds and the greater visual weighting of liked content.
Jeremy Harrington (@jharr), Voce’s Vice President of User Experience Design, got a quick reaction from one of Facebook’s lead designers.
What should I do to be ready for the new News Feed?
Since Facebook will be rolling out the new changes gradually (much like Graph Search), start by signing up for the waiting list and encouraging your teams and clients to do the same. This will help assure you have a body of testers early on who can help investigate what works best from a user perspective.
There are a number of outstanding questions about just how this will work and what it means, such as how organic and paid reach of items will be impacted, whether analytics will be available for individual news feeds, whether users can filter out Likes, and what the default experience will look like if users don’t customize their News Feed. The answers to these and other questions will likely become more clear as Facebook rolls out the new News Feed to all users over the next several months.
PN Connect will follow the rollout and continue to assess impact and recommend course adjustments as appropriate for our clients and teams.