How To Take Advantage of the Revamped Facebook News Feed

Leave it to visionary Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the geniuses behind Facebook to dish out surprises every now and then. The latest bomb? A newly redesigned Facebook News Feed. After getting raps about how cluttered its present News Feed format is, this seems to be the social media giant’s long-awaited response.

Here’s the explanation of Mark Zuckerberg himself:

“At a personal level we built a service that lets you see and feel the people and friends you care about. What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper. It should have quality public content from friends. It should have a front page and it should let you drill down into any topic you want. It should be visual, rich and engaging. It should be displayed with more than just text. From the beginning our goal with news feed was different than what any service was trying to provide. You should be able to share any type of content you want…and with any audience you want. The types you tell with photos are totally different.

Now that we all have cameras in our pockets, news feed has become primarily about visual content. Almost 50 percent of content in the news feed is visual. Now the average news feed Pages posts are almost 30 percent of the content. How we’re sharing is changing. We all want to share with friends, but want updates from publications we care about, and artists, and world leaders.”

“The best personalized newspaper” –this statement is enough to push businesses that are active on Facebook to the edge of their seats. Finally, Facebook is giving its News Feed a refresh after being virtually untouched since Facebook was launched in 2006.

This is an exciting time and an uncertain one as well. There’s no other way to digest and comprehend news as big as this but to break it down into more chewable pieces. There are three major components to this update: a more customizable news feed, a shift to image heavy presentation and mobile streamlining.

Your Feed, Your Choice

This is an unprecedented power given to Facebook users to filter what they want to see on their News Feed. “Get Facebook just how you want it with your choice of feeds” – this is exactly how Facebook describes this development. The new Facebook News Feed will have seven primary filters – four are totally new and the others are carryovers. The new filters are All Friends, Photos, Music and Following and carryovers are Most Recent, Close Friends and Games.

So, how did Facebook come up with these categories? It was spearheaded by user experience researcher Jane Justice Leibrock using a method known as “card sort.” This is a technique used to establish the way people mentally link things to each other.Recent news feed stories of the research participants were printed out and they were asked to choose those that caught their interest while the rest were discarded. Participants were then asked to segregate the stories that they picked into different stacks based on what made these stories interesting.

The results came back and Leibrock found out that the stories people complain are cluttering their news feeds are actually the ones that caught their attention. “Since people were clearly interested in these stories, our task became figuring out how to display them separately from News Feed, in a way that people would want to see them,” said Leibrock. At the end of the day, it was not really about the content, but how people are seeing the content that makes it cluttered. Creating multiple news feeds, as Leibrock stipulated, ultimately seems to be the perfect solution to this predicament.

Photos Speak Louder than Words

Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion dollars so it comes as no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg and his team is making Facebook a photo-centric social platform. “This is like going from a little Trinitron 20-centimeter TV to buying a widescreen” is an analogy used by the Facebook team to describe how visual media such as photos, videos and maps will be redefining Facebook-ing to a more immersive experience.

This redesign decision is also leveraging basic facts on how people consume information. How people make sense of the world is 90% dependent on visual cues and the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than textual data. This also explains the explosion of photo-driven social networking sites such as Instagram and Pinterest and now, Facebook has realized that it’s time to cash in on this visual revolution.At present, 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day and these comprised close to 50% of all News Feed content.

There have also been recent proofs that Facebook posts with photos are more engaging than the average plain text post. According to a research conducted by HubSpot, photos generate 53% more like and 104% more comments than the average post.

On Facebook, visual content is king.

Different Screen Sizes, Same Facebook Experience

126 million users access Facebook exclusively through mobile. This is like saying that the entire population of Japan is accessing Facebook solely through smartphones and tablets. Unless you’ve been a technology pariah, you’d know that mobile internet use is on the rise and that people are glued to their smartphones and tablets wherever they are, 24/7.

With the News Feed re-design, users can now expect to have the same Facebook experience across different devices regardless of screen sizes. Experts predicted that 2013 will be the year of responsive web design and Facebook may just be the biggest proof that this forecast is indeed correct. Navigation will improve as users can now jump from any page to any page. The News Feed layout is also keener on how majority of these devices employ the touchscreen technology which means overall user experience across mobile will improve.

New Design, Old EdgeRank Algorithm

In lieu of this earth shaking redesign project, Facebook clarified that it will not affect how EdgeRank surfaces content on a user’s News Feed. For those who are not familiar with the concept, EdgeRank is the ranking algorithm that is proprietary to Facebook. At any given time, Facebook filters approximately 75%-85% of content OUT of your News Feed and it also decides what to show you or what to “surface.” It’s the equivalent of the algorithm used by Google in deciding how to rank websites on its search results pages.

The EdgeRank algorithm is hinged on three criteria. First is affinity which is the measure of how close you are to the creator of the story. Second is weight which is dependent on the number of likes, comments and shares a story or a post gets. Third is time decay which basically means that the value of a story decreases over time.

According to Facebook, the redesigned News Feed will not affect its EdgeRank algorithm but as mentioned, photos get more likes and comments than an average post which is critical in terms of determining a story’s weight.

New News Feed, New Facebook. New Strategy?

Definitely. It is obvious how Facebook is trying to innovate how it delivers the best social media experience to its one billion users worldwide. While there are threats to its position as a leader in the social sphere from the other big players and even the emerging ones, Facebook still has a stronghold of that coveted top spot.

This means that Facebook is still the most powerful arsenal businesses have for social media marketing and everyone needs to keep up with these latest changes.

While the spanking News Feed is yet to be rolled out and its effects yet to be determined, it just takes a forward looking perspective on how this development will affect social media marketers and postulate ways on how they can adapt.

Time to Create Your Own Visual Stockpile

Before the rise of image-driven social networking sites such as Instagram and Pinterest, photos were considered accessories or add-ons to social media status updates. And even with Instagram and Pinterest, businesses still neglect the importance of using images as primary social marketing elements. This is especially true for small businesses that don’t have their own bank of proprietary images.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to employ an army of photographer and graphic designers just to keep up with this Facebook visual shift. Just look at those Facebook memes that went viral. Do you think a highly paid graphics team produced those? Not really. Read about basic photography on the net or ask someone from your team to do so. Then purchase a really nice point and shoot camera and you’re all set up. The story behind the photo is what matters.

Another simple technique to keep up with this is to convert the Facebook status updates that you’ll usually post using text and convert them into images. It can be as simple as typing something on Powerpoint and saving the slide as a JPG or GIF file. You can learn basic Adobe Photoshop if you want.

There’s really no excuse for you not to be able to adapt, unless you’re allergic to change.

Ads Should Show and Tell

When the new News Feed was officially announced last March 7, Mark Zuckerberg and the whole Facebook gang were mum about how this revamp will affect advertisements and advertisers. It was when prodded with the question did a Facebook rep give a short and sweet answer as published in an article by Rachel Metz of the MIT Technology Review. The response was: “The idea of making things richer, more immersive, includes ads.”

It’s not a definitive answer, but is sure is foreshadowing of times to come. This is the opinion of TechCrunch’s Josh Constine: “Here’s how the design changes will affect advertisers, though. Facebook cleaned up its UI to give more space in the central feed for photos. When businesses buy feed ads that feature a photo, those photos will be bigger.”

The takeaway is simple. Facebook earn through advertising and for sure, the financial geniuses behind the company will take into consideration revenues from advertising before making any more to redesign. The message here is still a whisper, but it’s clear: advertisers, be ready with your killer photos as they will be the stars of the show! Compelling copy will still be needed, but it’s no longer enough.

According to experts, this might open an opportunity to an untapped market of Facebook advertisers. For example, luxury brands fashion brands and luxury resorts who invest heavily on top of the line product photography may seriously consider reusing their magazine ads for Facebook, now that the real estate for images on the social network has just gotten bigger.

Copy Covers Images

When the new News Feed is rolled out, one of the key changes on how Facebook display stories is that the textual element of a story or a post will be displayed on top or as an overlay on the photo it accompanies. While brevity and succinctness are Twitter’s territories, it seems that Facebook users need to be a little more laconic as well.

Be straightforward and at the same time witty and creative. In the shortest way possible, convey your message and make people understand what you want them to do. Let the image speaks for itself.

Build Strong – or Stronger – Relationships with Your Brand Advocates

Because of the segmented News Feed categories, there is a huge chance that your Facebook message won’t be seen when your Fans use a specific filter. In fact, technically speaking, the only segment that your Facebook posts have a really good chance of being seen by your Fans is if they choose to view their ‘Following’ news feed which of course, a tightly contested

That being said, the need for businesses to build strong relationships with their customers on Facebook is more important today more than ever. More specifically, you have to engage with your brand ambassadors, your brand advocates, your brand evangelist your Super Fans.

Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 rule? This is a concept related to efficiency which basically states that 80% of the outcomes you’re getting is the result of 20% of your efforts. Using the same thinking, investing extra time and resources in producing good Facebook content that will directly target the 20% of your Fans that really love your brand will increase your chances of being seen across different News Feed sections.

It’s taking advantage of content virality and the multiplier effect of social content. They share your content to their friends. Their friends share your content to their friends. The friends of their friends share you content to their friends. You get the drift.

Now, your content can be seen when your followers go to their Close Friends News Feed or their Photos News Feed or their All Friends News Feed. By producing content that engages your brand ambassadors, you are able to cover more social media acres than you possibly could alone.

Time for a Facebook-Pinterest Synergy

No social network is an island. Twitter feeds appear on Facebook. Instagram updates are posted on Twitter. All roads lead to synergy, convergence and integration and the new Facebook News Feed brings another dimension to this scene.

Now that Facebook is transforming into a photo-centric channel, one of the third party social network or application that will be feature prominently is Pinterest. Business owners and social media marketers pay attention. If you don’t have a Pinterest account, create one now and make sure to link it to your Facebook profile.

According to data, 98% of Pinterest users have an active Facebook account. Here’s the deal maker: among all Pinterest users, 21% have purchased a product after seeing an image of it on Pinterest. Talk about hardcore and concrete ROI.

By marrying your Pinterest strategy with your Facebook strategy, you can drive more people to your Pinterest profile and reap the benefit of higher conversion. Schedule your Pinterest posts in conjunction with your Facebook updates so each can build on one another. For example, if you’re selling winter garments, you can probably post a Facebook update with images of the Top Five Ski Resorts in Aspen. A few minutes later, you can probably add new photos to your Pinterest profile showing your latest winter clothing collection. It has to be logical and messages should amplify each other.

Location, Location, Location

Who knows that this real estate mantra can now be applied by social media marketers? With the new visually stronger Facebook News Feed design, Facebook Places which is Facebook’s version of Google+ Location and Foursquare and other geo-tagging and third party check-in apps will be more visible.Just like images, maps will now be displayed much bigger, hence more attention-grabbing and more engaging.

By encouraging your customers or clients or even window shoppers to check-in to your business, you are strengthening your business’ presence in the ‘Close Friends’ and ‘All Friends’ news feeds. Further, when Facebook Graph Search is fully rolled out, this will even be more vital, especially for local business. For instance, if you use Facebook Graph Search to look for an “Italian restaurant,” it’s almost 100% sure that Facebook will return with a list of Italian restaurants near you and where your friends have previously checked in.

Obviously, this will not only impact your Facebook presence and there’s a high potential that this will drive foot traffic to your business as well.

Spruce Up Your Cover Photo

This is something you might want to invest a little on professional photography. In the old News Feed layout, when a friend of your “Liked” a page, a demure logo or profile image will show up; nothing visually arresting or compelling.

However, in the overhauled News Feed design, your profile picture along with your cover photo will be displayed. That being said, your cover photo should be able to tell a story in itself. It should build your brand equity and convey what your brand is in literally a snapshot. Are you a high end brand? Do you put a premium on professionalism? Are you the beacon of trust in your industry? Whatever your unique selling proposition is, it should be capture by whatever cover photo you choose to use.

Facebook’s News Feed Spring Cleaning: Boon or Bane?

Based on historical trends, Facebook users, businesses and advertisers alike will welcome this development with careful strides and for some, with disgruntled groans. But when the dust has settled and everyone already got the hang of it, the Facebook universe will welcome this development as it did in the past. Social media marketers Gary Vernaychuck said that everything in online marketing starts out dubious and this one is no different. There will always be a period of resistance, followed by a period of adjustment and finally, acceptance.

Now, whether this change will be beneficial for marketing or not remain to be discovered. Keep in mind though that before Facebook even became a marketing platform, it was a venue where real connections and real relationships among real people were built and cultivated. According to Facebook, this new design will enable people to share beautiful stories that they won’t event noticed that something design-wise has changed because they are just so engrossed connecting with people.

If this is Facebook’s ultimate and absolute goal, then this new News Feed design has a noble cause which brands should take upon themselves as well. Providing people with the best brand experience online should be your primary goal, your prerequisite to achieving your business objectives, which in most cases, is to generate leads or gain more customers.

That being said, whether this change is for the best or worse, change is an uncontrollable marketing force and it’s either you cope with the change or drown in it. If you want to move forward with your Facebook marketing efforts, there’s really no option.

So, are you in or out?