Getting Busy With It
If you’ve been keeping track, you have noticed that Facebook has been very busy after leaving its platform relatively stagnant after the rollout of the Timeline. It rolled out Graph Search, effectively positioning it to allow consumers to leverage the data the social platform has been collecting for years (and maybe encourage them to put more data into the system). It has also now rolled out the updated News Feed, which will put a lot more emphasis on making the News Feed visual and engaging (and totally explains now why Facebook purchased Instagram).
This radical change to the News Feed will mean increased engagement with the platform, but in true Facebook form, where this engagement takes place lays in the hands of its users. Which, when you look at it, is the greatest part because it provides all the stakeholders in their ecosystem exactly what they want.
As part of the branding for the new format, which is still in beta mode, Facebook has adopted the slogan “Goodbye Clutter.” This is a reference to the three major pieces of the News Feed update: Photo Stories, Multiple Feeds and Uniform Device Experiences.
Ever seen the little pictures of someone’s dinner or an article thumbnail a friend shared pop up in your News Feed? Expect to see that kind of stuff a whole lot more. Facebook is making rich visuals the centerpiece of this new rollout. Every item in the News Feed is now going to have a giant visual attached to it, from maps of check-ins, to the cover photo of new friends, to much more prominent article features.
The reason for this feature is obvious: increased engagement. There isn’t a user design study out there that shows clean, visual environments do not foster more engagement from users. The implications for your brand are twofold. First, expect that your Pages will see a boost in engagement. I’ve heard major consumer brands complain in the past that less than a percent of their fans were engaged at any given time. Facebook has obviously heard their cries. Also, expect that your sponsored ads are going to see better engagement as well (assuming you’ve adapted them to fit this new, vibrant News Feed).
Remember when your mother first signed up for Facebook, and you found yourself customizing who can see the things you’re sharing or photos in which you are tagged? Now it works both ways! Much like Google Circles, Facebook is giving users the option to build out several News Feeds, including “Things I Follow.” This ups the ante for brands that already have followers. To paraphrase Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, with increased engagement comes increased responsibility.
Now that users will be able to more easily decide on whether you are a brand they cherish and want to continually hear from, or are a brand that ends up in the waste bin, the burden of proof weighs heavier on you now more than ever. Now that you’re getting the eyeballs you’ve always wanted, you need to make sure that you are sharing content those eyeballs want to see. Otherwise, expect to find yourself ejected from News Feeds everywhere and opting for the paid option more and more.
Uniform Device Experiences
Mobile. Tablet. Desktop. Probably not Google Glass. But there will now be a more uniform Facebook News Feed experience across any device a user picks up. Every experience on the social platform is going to be more unified, which has some major implications for your brand. Everything that you publish, whether paid advertising or otherwise, needs to be unified across the Web. It needs to be shareable, clickable, watchable, scratch-and-sniffable, etc.
We talk all the time about how the media landscape is fragmented. That is an abundantly false perception. The things we create for the media landscape are fragmented. If you can take a piece of your brand communication and find a way to translate it across social, mobile, television and out of home, then the media you are producing is no longer fragmented and neither is the media landscape.
The Long and Winding Road
Facebook is obviously recognizing its greatest value to consumers. It is a concept that technologist Adam Greenfield calls “The Long Here,” or our desire to aggregate thoughts and memories in a specific place over time. We are increasingly mapping our digital world onto the physical one we inhabit. GPS-enabled phones enable us to check in to places. The Instagram Photo Map allows us to virtually pin our digital photo albums to geographic locations. Facebook is increasingly enabling us to make our Timeline be the place in which we aggregate those thoughts and memories.
Every single story and experience in the Facebook ecosystem is going to be given more prominence than it was before. The biggest way for your brand to capitalize on this is to embed yourself in the stories and memories that people aggregate. Serve your product where my friends check in. Make your logo peek out of the corner of my Instagram photos. Inspire me to share that great story that your brand made possible. Take your brand story and weave it in and out of our Facebook Timelines through experiential marketing and great storytelling. Make yourself an intrinsic part of our lives, and you will not only become a piece of our Timeline, but you’ll also win with the new News Feed.