What the New Facebook Newsfeed Means for Marketers!

11 Mar

Facebook unveiled its long-awaited changes to the news feed today, and it looks to be the most major overhaul of the look and feel of the site since, well, the original news feed was introduced in 2006.

The new feed will be rolled out to users over the next few weeks, but if you want to impress your friends by being the first on your block to get it, you can sign up for the waiting list and beg to be let in here.

In the meantime, here’s the major things to expect from the new Facebook (Nasdaq: FB):

A unified design

It used to be that the experience of using Facebook was very different across devices — using it on the Web was different from using the mobile site, which was different from using the iOS app, which was different from using (god help you) the Android app. While those designs have gotten closer, there was still a lot of fragmentation in Facebook land. No longer. The new design is supposed to look exactly the same across devices, although to start it’s only being rolled out on the Web. It will be moving to iPhones and iPads after that, and then predictably to Android last.

Personalized newspapers, a web design trope that won’t die

Mark Zuckerberg introduced the philosophy behind the new news feed with a chestnut that will be familiar to anyone whom has been following Internet content companies for any length time — wouldn’t it be great if there was a newspaper that only had those news stories that were most relevant to you in it?

Putting aside the fact that people who regularly read their news on paper represent a rapidly shrinking group, the new design is more newspaper-esque than feed-like. Rather than showing all content in a single column, arranged chronologically or by the dark magic of Facebook’s ranking algorithm, it splits it into sections by type: activity by friends, posts by news organizations and things you like, posts by people you follow, music, etc. The goal is clearly to make the act of engaging Facebook more dynamic and engaging, so that rather than scanning down a single column until you start seeing posts that you’ve already read, you flip between content types as the mood takes you.

That’s good for Facebook, of course, since it will probably mean more time on site. But it could also make for a more relevant and engaging Facebook browsing experience — if you just want the news, you won’t have to slog through a lot of pictures of your friend’s kids anymore to get at it.

Lots more multimedia, lots more professional content. Lots more ads?

One thing that will be immediately noticeable in the new feed is how dominant multimedia is now. Photos, which used to just be bigger than everything else in the feed, will now be huge. Facebook is saying that the minimum size for photos should now be about 550 pixels wide, but recommends images that are as large as 1,500 by 1,500 pixels. “‘Mo pixels = ‘mo bettah,” said Facebook developer advocate Christopher Blizzard. Facebook is also going to be highlighting video, which will get a large player that plays right in the feed.

That of course leaves open the question of advertising, since more and richer media generally means more and richer ads. There’s a lot of potential for Facebook around video ads especially, which are extremely attractive to mainstream brands because they’re similar to produce to the television ads they understand and tend to have higher engagement than static banner ads.

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