Posted by Justin Sadowski , Ad Ops Manager & Megan Halscheid, Director, Performance Innovation BACKGROUND Until March 7th 2012, News Feed, Facebook’s most valuable product, has remained largely unchanged (except for updates to the EdgeRank formula in September 2012). Now, Facebook has made some major News Feed updates, centered on content filtering (a “personalized newspaper,” as Mark Zuckerberg called it). Most significantly, the changes include:
- Images: A more engaging visual experience, centered on larger and higher quality photos. The update features richer content (by improving the size and quality of images and videos), with photos and photo albums at the front and center to make them more immersive, including larger cover photos. Instagram’s influence on Facebook will grow, and integration between Facebook and Instagram will be more seamless. Ads will also be larger and richer.
- Feeds: The launch of new content-specific News Feeds will enable users to access content in a more efficient and engaging manner. In the new design, articles and content from users’ friends will be more visible, and it will be easier for users to surface the most relevant content. This will reduce clutter, thus increasing engagement and reducing audience wear.
- Devices: A consistent experience across devices—the News Feed will look the same across desktop and mobile devices. Additionally, Places (i.e. where the content was posted from) will be given more prominence.
WHY? Facebook is hoping that these changes will result in increased user engagement and time spent on the site. The meteoric rise of Instagram (which now has one hundred million active users, a 150% increase since Facebook’s acquisition) proves that users will flock to single use entities if the content is relevant and engaging. Facebook’s creation of content-specific channels in the News Feed follows this trend. The change empowers participants to take more control of their networks—or at least offers the option—thus enabling them to reach the right content based on their current needs or mood. Previously, all content was fed into a single News Feed displaying—by default—the “Top Stories” for each user. Photo updates, status changes, polls and ads all fought for the same space. Content-specific feeds were cumbersome to reach, and they were only available if the user made “Lists” to categorize his/her content. While some sorting was automatic (“Top Stories” and “Most Recent,” which will remain in the new News Feed), feeds dedicated to photos, music and links were often difficult to find or use. Facebook has attempted to make similar changes in the past (by providing a real-time ticker), but many users have decided to hide this option. The new News Feed will create a more immersive experience for participants by automating content categorization, and it will look the same across desktop and mobile. Participants will now have the ability to find the content that is most relevant to the user—photos, links, music, news, video, apps—based on what their friends are sharing, filtered by what Facebook recognizes as the most engaging for that individual. In the Participation Age, we’re all information junkies. Social content and sharing has exploded, and Facebook’s move aims to sort through the clutter for you. It creates an RSS feed on your network without any necessary work. IMPLICATIONS for ADVERTISERS The News Feed update seeks to keep participants highly engaged in their News Feeds, while at the same time giving advertisers more opportunity to deliver more engaging ads to these participants. Per the changes, advertisers should keep the following in mind:
- Richer Content: Richer content means richer, larger ads. This includes increased size in photos and videos as well as article summaries and stories about brand pages. Advertisers have long sought increased ad inventory on Facebook. Increases in ad inventory began with the ability to place Page Posts and Sponsored Stories in the News Feed. Now, advertisers have more opportunity in the News Feed, which has historically been a very efficient channel. Links within Page Posts will be getting a dramatic face lift to include a logo of the publisher and a larger preview. To fully take advantage of the updates, advertisers must insure that Open Graph is implemented within their websites. Open Graph will allow any content shared from the website to Facebook to include more descriptive content, a brand logo and a direct connection between their website, Facebook page and the shared content on the redesigned News Feed. Larger cover photos may also affect Page “Likes” via Sponsored Stories, which are currently the best way for advertisers to gain Likes. Previously advertisers couldn’t add context to Sponsored Stories; they were just stories about what a user liked. With the cover photo, advertisers will now be able to deliver a brand message alongside the story about a friend liking, and thus approving, the brand.
- Content Creation: Because content filtering is the center of these changes, advertisers must create more engaging content. Brands will be required to produce even richer content, diving deeper into the participant pool. If they succeed in producing this content, they’ll be rewarded with exponential increases in engagement, as succeeding in one channel may spill reach into the “Top Story” channel, which will remain the default for Facebook users.
- Consistent Experience Across Devices: The News Feed will look the same across desktop and mobile, enabling advertisers to more easily create consistent experiences across all devices
- Increased Engagement: Engagement may increase with the changes, although overall reach may decrease (the real question will be nominal rate vs. real engagement)
- Targeting: Facebook has not yet indicated a new targeting capability as a result of the News Feed updates, but in the future, advertisers could potentially target audiences based on specific types of Feeds (e.g. music, photos).
As the changes roll out, Performics will provide updates on new opportunities for advertisers. We believe these changes will be beneficial for both the participant and the advertiser, thus creating ideal balance in the News Feed. For a full preview of the News Feed changes, visit Facebook’s News Feed Update page.