Last week, Facebook announced a shift in their News Feed layout and design that will impact how users consume and interact with stories. Moving forward we’ll see more robust content displays, additional opportunities to discover content, and a consistent user experience across mobile, tablet and web. These changes emphasize deeper connections and tailored content recommendations, and provide context around how content is being shared within communities.
News Feed Changes
1. A Richer, Simpler News Feed
The revamped News Feed will show richer and more visual stories with a greater importance on visuals and grouping content to provide relevance and social context. Content will appear more vibrant and larger, and will show the full story behind the content’s interactions.
- Stories overall will appear larger in News Feeds, and some photo updates will include the associated status update as a text overlay
- Stories about adding friends, Liking Pages, or following new users will contain the cover image of that profile/Page to give more context and drive people to engage
- Check-ins will now appear as rich full maps that showcase the location in a larger format
- When multiple people share the same article/video/photo, the story will appear prominently in the News Feed with a focus on the content and the connections that drove interactions
- Upcoming events and the most-shared content from media websites will appear grouped in the new layout to package the most popular and relevant stories
2. Choice of Feeds
Users can now choose from a series of content feeds via the right-side navigation bar. Facebook has pre-created several feeds, and any lists that have previously been created (such as “Close Friends”) will appear within this navigation. The order of how the feeds appear is based on how often a user accesses each feed. The initial feed options will include:
- All Friends Feed – Shows all friend activities in chronological order
- Music Feed – Shows what a user’s favorite musicians are posting, what their friends are listening to (via apps like Spotify and Rdio), music news (album releases, trending stories etc.) and what concert events are happening nearby
- Photos Feed – Contains all the photos that both fans and brands are posting on Facebook, and content from third-party applications (e.g. Instagram)
- Following Feed – This section replaces the “Pages Feed” and displays activity in chronological order, showing all the posts from Pages and public figures that the user is following
- Most Recent Feed – A feed dedicated to the most recent activity from friends, brands and followed accounts
- Games Feed – A summary of all the game activity from a user’s friends
- Users Control What They See: Facebook’s goal is to enable users to customize their experience on the revamped platform, which they compared to a personalized newspaper where users can choose what content they want to receive and see more of that content in their feeds. While the News Feed adjustment hasn’t shifted the algorithm for brands, there is still a clear emphasis on delivering content that will resonate with Facebook communities and receive high engagement. There continues to be a higher value on driving advocacy, interactions and nurturing brand enthusiasts who are proactively engaging with your content.
- Photos and Visuals are Even More Important: Facebook shared data that revealed the percentage of News Feed stories with photos grew from 25 percent at the end of 2011 to almost 50 percent in early 2013. The new layout has reimagined the way photos appear and how they are shared within the feed. It is clear that the development of the Photo Feed is an indication that Facebook wants richer content that helps tell the full story. Facebook is encouraging brands to use the highest quality photos possible optimized for mobile and web browsing (600×600 pixel images are the advised size, and photos should be no smaller than 200×200 pixels).
- More Opportunities for Brand Content to Succeed: The launch of diverse content feed options means that brands will have more opportunities to be included in the feed lists located on the right-hand sidebar. A brand may appear in multiple lists including Photos, Following and Most Recent Feeds, offering more touch points for the user to connect with the content. The revamped layout will also encourage users to discover new content to help enrich their experience within News Feeds. At this time, paid opportunities are not available in the Following Feed, but this will become an offering later this year.
- Image Display Options: Cover Photos were initially meant to be the welcome mat for a brand’s Timeline Page, but with this change, Cover Photos will be more prominent in News Feeds and interactions. Since the Cover Photo will have more visibility within the News Feed on Page Like Stories, it is important that the photo is representative of the brand and invites users to join the community. This change will affect both organic and paid Page Like Stories.
Page posts and ads will also display differently based on the size and quality of the photo. Some photo updates will render the text status directly on the photo as a white text overlay while others will display the status update similarly to how it is currently displayed in News Feeds. In order to have the text overlay appear directly on the photo, the image must have a contrast that will accept the white text, there cannot be text overlay already in the photo, and it has to be a large enough size (425x157px). If the photo post does not meet the criteria set by Facebook it will default to the original photo post News Feed display. Since longer text and links will be truncated in this new format, brands should consider using short, direct text with photo updates in order to display in this enhanced format.
- More Options for Ads: The updates to the News Feed may be a precursor to changes in Facebook’s ad products. Two possible implications include bidding for position and increased targeting opportunities. Previously, ads dominated the right bar on the Facebook News Feed. With the new layout, ads will appear a bit lower in this navigation area, putting a greater emphasis on having the ad positioned above the fold. A bidding system, similar to AdWords, could be implemented to create competition for prime positions on the page.
With the introduction of segmented News Feeds, there also may be more opportunity to target ads. A few examples of this would be targeting Marketplace ads to only appear next to the Gaming Feed, or creating an image-heavy Sponsored Story for the Photos Feed. We may also see targeting-profiles enhanced by the choices users make regarding what they allow to appear on their feeds. Clicking “Hide” instead of “Like Page” may affect a user’s inclusion in a category for ad targeting.
Facebook will be rolling out these changes to a very small percentage of users over the next few weeks. They’ll be closely monitoring organic content and paid media performance to determine if changes need to be made to the algorithm before a larger rollout. To sign up for priority access, visit Facebook’s Page devoted to the Newsfeed Updates.
Image credit: becca.peterson26