Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg threw on a black hooded sweatshirt and announced how Facebook was going to change its look and feel to better accommodate its bread and butter: the News Feed. From the moment the announcement was made, online marketers all over the Internet proclaimed that everything would change and that a new marketing approach will be needed to effectively leverage Facebook. While the announced changes to the News Feed include larger photos, a visual consistency across devices, and the ability for users to choose which segmented News Feed they would like to follow, these changes reiterate that a steady paid, owned and earned approach to social media will continue to drive long-term success.
Implications for display advertising
Advertisers who have historically relied on sponsored sidebar display ads as a low-cost/low-time investment tactic for tapping the Facebook audience will need to reconsider their social media advertising strategy. While the exact layout is still unknown, preliminary photos confirm that the presence of right-rail ads will be significantly downplayed, if not completely removed, with a clear emphasis on sponsored, in-feed posts.
Although this is intended to improve the user’s overall experience, it also requires an advertiser to devote more time to its Facebook advertising strategy if he/she plans to continue to utilize Facebook as a sustainable tactic for generating impressions/traffic/sales.
Enhanced targeting through different feeds
Instead of targeting a user’s already cluttered “general” News Feed and competing with all of the advertisers, marketers will now be able to target themes more strategically, depending on how users filter their feeds (music, photos, sports, etc.). Not only does this help improve visibility by shrinking the advertising pool, but it also creates an opportunity for better relevance and subsequent higher engagement rates.
Emphasis on visual elements
While some advertisers currently rely on a small, right-rail display ads with character and image restrictions, emphasis on in-feed ads will require much more effort to improve an ad’s ability to stand out among all of the elements present within a user’s feed (vs. the other ads in the right-rail). Again, this likely means a higher engagement rate with the consumer, but a more significant time investment from the advertiser.
While sponsorships are only speculative at this point, they do seem like a viable option for advertisers looking for another way to capitalize on feed-specific targeting–think Activision sponsoring a “gaming” feed to promote the newest Call of Duty release.
Next steps for branded pages
While the press conference didn’t focus specifically on advertising or changes to branded pages (there was no mention of any changes to its Edgerank algorithm), there are a number of factors that will clearly have an impact on marketers. While Facebook has implemented these changes to address concerns about losing user interest and reduced time spent on the platform, these changes will also force brands to spend even more money to break through and reach their consumers. The change will result in this simple fact: it will be harder for your content to show up on your consumers’ News Feeds.
However, the keys to being successful on Facebook haven’t changed. Brands that want to drive impact will have to have an integrated approach, combining a paid and a creative content strategy, to break through the clutter on the platform. While we will have to work harder to make an impact, combining great content with a paid media strategy will result in a winning formula for brands.
Here are 4 tips on how to break through the clutter:
1. Content needs to be even more compelling to break into the “All Friends” feed.
The only way a brand will show up in the “All Friends” feed is if one of their followers interacts with a brand’s content, which makes creating shareable content that much more important.
2. Visual content continues to gain importance.
No, really this time. As online marketers, we know engagement is increased when using vibrant photos, but now, more focus than ever is on the images we share with our audiences. Less focus on copy, more on compelling visuals.
3. Posting strategy may need to change.
Since all of the stories from each page that a user follows can now be sorted in chronological order, brands may have to rethink their posting strategy and increase frequency without overloading the user with too many posts.
4. Cover stories remain important real estate.
Organic and page “like” stories will now display a cover photo with the new layout. This new change is designed to provide more context about the page, so it’s important to visually convey a brand’s message through the cover photo.
Keeping up with the changes coming out of Facebook’s headquarters will never be easy, but it’s the brands that have a steady, integrated approach that will be able to roll with these changes and maximize the opportunities to create more meaningful relationships with communities and ultimately drive revenue.
Read More at B2B: How the Facebook Redesign will Affect Marketers with Nader Ali-Hassan.
Note: A special thanks to Allison Peltz and Dane Manning for contributing to this post.