Last week, Facebook announced a new layout of the Facebook Home Page designed to reduce clutter, make stories more visual and engaging, and help users sort through the flood of stories to find those they are most interested in. The change seems sure to benefit users, but many of our customers are asking us how this will affect their publishing and marketing strategies on Facebook.

Users choose how content is filtered

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The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a visual redesign of News Feed only and does not change the algorithms Facebook uses to determine which content to put in front of users. It does, however, give those users a lot more options in terms of how they filter that content. Users can choose to view their standard News Feed or filter News Feed content through a variety of new feeds, including Photos (all photo stories, all the time), Music (stories from bands users Like and about music their friends are listening to), Most Recent, Following (stories from Pages and celebrities users follow), or lists the user has created (such as Family or Close Friends).

One potential benefit for marketers is that with the more prominent Following feed option, users will be able to discover more content from the brands and celebrities they follow, content that today is often hidden between stories from friends and family that users may be more likely to engage with. But whether or not most users choose to use these new feeds or stick with the more familiar default News Feed (or the new Photos and Music feeds, which are likely to be popular) is still unknown. This is something we’ll be monitoring in the coming months as Facebook rolls out these changes.

A potential downside could be the fragmentation of a brand’s Facebook audience, making reaching critical mass for a given message a difficult task. Making sure you reach your desired audience may now require a bit more planning and thought. One thing is clear: robust measurement, like that offered by Adobe Social, will be critical to ensuring marketers can understand the impact of these changes on engagement and adjust their Facebook marketing strategies accordingly.

Visual content is king

The next big, obvious change is that stories in News Feed are bigger and more engaging. Photos, articles, maps, events, Page posts, and sponsored stories will all stand out even more. For example:

  1. A Page Like story will now display the Cover Photo of the brand Page that has been Liked.
  2. A check-in story will show a map of the restaurant or retail location a friend checked in to.
  3. New Page posts, ads, and Sponsored Stories will all give marketers more space to create vibrant visual messages.
  4. Third party video (YouTube, Vimeo) will now get treated like native Facebook video, which means full-width content and in-News Feed viewing.
  5. Published links will be accompanied by larger thumbnails and excerpts as the default link and application treatment.

These changes are good news for most marketers, but the pressure to compete with compelling, relevant visual content is now greater than ever. The images you choose to place on Facebook will speak louder than your words—so choose carefully, and make sure these images both appropriately reflect your brand and inspire and engage your fans. Take this opportunity to publish more and better photos and videos, and you are likely to reap the rewards in terms of engagement with your Facebook community.

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Ads just got more engaging

The changes to ads are also significant. Overall the visual space for ads has grown, and Page Like stories now display a cover photo, giving users more context about the brand and brands the chance to update cover photos frequently to synchronize them with paid marketing messages. Even Facebook’s original ads that don’t contain any rich media and live in the right-hand rail have grown. If Facebook is right and users show a stronger interest in active, personalized News Feeds, we predict that embedded ads will likely be more relevant and generate higher ROI for advertisers. However, the Hide button will also be more prominent, giving fans an easy out when they don’t want to see your ads. The pressure is on to make sure you’re offering your fans and customers true added value.

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Cross-device consistency for News Feed

The final design change is to unify the Facebook News Feed experience across web, phone, and tablet, bringing a lot of functionality users have gotten used to in the mobile versions to the web experience. We don’t anticipate this having a significant effect on marketers, except to make the experience cleaner and more consistent for users, which should boost overall engagement. It does, however, mean that you should pay close attention to your brand assets, photos, and any links or descriptions of products or services to ensure consistency across devices.

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Implications for Adobe Social users

Nothing will change in terms of how our customers publish content from Adobe Social. Some of our existing features, such as the ability to schedule cover photo updates and ad launches at the same time, will be a huge benefit for marketers. In addition, we’ll be gathering data and monitoring how the News Feed changes impact engagement and conversion levels. Facebook is rolling this out slowly over the coming weeks; as a Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer, Adobe will work closely with Facebook to analyze the impact on user interaction and engagement as they decide whether to make the change holistically. Please reach out to your Account Manager with any additional questions.

So what do we do now?

Perhaps most notable about these News Feed updates is how little they actually change things for social marketers. Though you may want to take more advantage of the enhanced advertising options available on Facebook, beyond that, our best advice is to step it up in terms of best practices you’re already employing: Increase visual content; know your audience and what activates them; ensure you’re bringing valuable, interesting content to users’ News Feeds; and tell great stories.

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