Facebook’s News Feed Changes: Good for Marketing?

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This post originally appeared on the Upriver Solutions blog.

If you read our post on the 4 Pillars of Content Marketing, then you know that Facebook is a regular part of our content-sharing strategy. After all, with over a billion active users, chances are good that Facebook is home to fans of your brand. You just have to give them a way to find you and a worthwhile reason to click the Like button—i.e., interesting, useful and frequently updated content. Last week, Facebook held a press event to announce the first major overhaul to its news feed in years. The event was surprisingly brief, but its brevity might be directly related to the overhaul’s primary marketing message: "Goodbye, clutter!"

According to Facebook designer Julie Zhou, the changes offer “a richer, simpler, more beautiful news feed on both desktop web and mobile that’s focused on the things you care about, what your network is sharing, and what’s going on with the friends you care about.”

With the new news feed, Facebook has consolidated its design elements across desktop and mobile platforms. But, it also has very cleverly built the new feed with a mobile-first perspective. That is, instead of trying to squeeze the old desktop Facebook into tablets and phones, it’s bringing the things that work best about mobile Facebook apps to the desktop version. This is perhaps most apparent in the new menu tray that replaces the left sidebar and allows a user to navigate to any Facebook page from any other Facebook page, rather than having to first return to a dedicated home page.

News feed stories are going to be richer, more visual, and more engaging. Images will be larger. Posts with links to articles will be more captivating. The old, text-only announcements telling you that a Facebook friend likes a new product will be more attractive, featuring elements of that product’s Facebook page. And, third-party app integration with services like Pinterest, Instagram and Spotify will better reflect what you see in those apps.

So, what does that mean for marketers?

Obviously, the aesthetic changes are a big improvement. Now that we’ve seen the demo page of the news feed changes, switching back to the old news feed is kind of depressing. Facebook may be the most widely used social network in the world, but it certainly hasn’t kept up with website design advances over the past few years. The new look will be a breath of fresh air for users, and brands should be ready to take advantage of that. For instance, your cover image is going to start showing up in more places, so make sure that it ties into your brand and invites people to come visit your page.

The improved consistency across platforms will be a boon for marketers, too. Facebook is a tool for connecting users to each other and to brands and, as such, should play a secondary role to the content being shared. The less that a user feels like he or she is struggling with or fighting against the tool, the better for your content, page, and brand.

The updates will also introduce new feeds, such as an “all friends” feed, a music feed, and a photos feed. It’s not entirely clear how these feeds will impact brands in the long run, but it’s safe to say that marketers should stay up to date and be ready to make the most of them.

Facebook tech lead Chris Struhar noted at the event that one new feed will be the “following feed,” which will feature “every post from every page and public figure that you like, also in chronological order.” Users looking for content from pages they like are going to want to frequent this feed, and that’s great for content creators. It also gives Facebook a slight Twitter vibe, with lots of content flying by chronologically, so it might make it worth your while to post to your brand page more than once a day.

Are the impending Facebook changes an improvement for how you market your brand and connect to fans? They certainly could be, and we’ll find out as the company rolls out those changes to its users over the coming weeks. At the very least, the changes should give users a better experience, and that’s a benefit for brands, too.