On March 7, Facebook announced it is redesigning its News Feed, and since the announcement marketers and social media experts have been lighting up the Internet with speculation about what the changes will mean.
As part of its revamp, Facebook is increasing the size of videos and photos, de-emphasizing the right-side ad column, making the design consistent across all platforms (mobile, PC and tablet) and, most important for advertisers, allowing users to segment their News Feeds by category. Under this model, users will have tabs for an “All Friends” feed next to “Images,” “Following,” “Music,” “Most Recent” and others.
According to Facebook, these changes are initially available upon request and will be slowly rolled out across the network in the coming months.
If you're a marketer, what does this mean?
“Edgerank is dead,” said Seth Simonds, director-social innovation at Interpublic Group of Cos.' ad agency Mullen, Boston, referring to the secret algorithm Facebook uses to decide how posts will be featured in the feed. From now on, users will control that, so Edgerank may become pointless. (Facebook said in a statement that Edgerank will not be changed.)
Or consider this from Simon Mansell, CEO of TBG Digital: “The friends-only feed could get a lot of the volume, which may be a concern. ... Stand-out will be harder for brands as a result, but it's probably a better user experience.”
Marc Poirier, co-founder and exec VP-business development at Acquisio, sees the move as part of Facebook's long-term strategy to protect the user experience while giving blue-chip brands better advertising opportunities and increasing ad revenue.
“Brands don't want to advertise with these tiny text ads and little images,” Poirier said. “All of the brand money is currently sitting on the sidelines. I believe Facebook is preparing itself for richer and larger ad formats, both in video and pictures.”
Exactly how these new ads would appear is uncertain, but Nader Ali-Hassan, director-social marketing strategy at digital and direct interactive agency Rosetta, speculated they'd show up as sponsored posts within the feeds.
“Yes, they de-emphasized the right-side ad column; but where they're going to make up for it is the Sponsored Stories part,” Ali-Hassan said.
No one knows exactly how—Facebook hasn't detailed its strategy—but Poirier speculated that perhaps the first and third image in a video feed, for example, could be sponsored content.
“They'll do it slowly, but this is a good way to get people to accept it and say, "Hey, there's a video ad in my feed, but it's OK because there are other videos there already,' ” he said.
Another unknown is exactly how this change will affect content marketing. In the beginning, Facebook management was seen as a public relations function, with PR and content marketing companies advising clients to develop great content strategies. Advertising only emerged later.
Not anymore. Ali-Hassan said: “The announcement told me that unless you have a robust paid strategy along with content, you won't be successful.” “The only way Facebook works is to have paid ads with the content to back it up.”
It remains unclear how the changes will affect the Edgerank algorithm. Ali-Hassan is content to accept Facebook at its word: that Edgerank will still be around, applying its secret formula to posts and updates.What marketing opportunities do you see in Facebook's new interface?