On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and team unveiled highly anticipated changes to the social network’s news feed that put greater emphasis on images and personalizing information.
“How we are sharing is changing,” Zuckerberg told an audience of reporters at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif. Headquarters. “The design of news feed needs to evolve.”
The grand unveiling, which we had predicted would put at least some emphasis on brands’ use of Facebook, focused mainly the individual user’s experience. Here’s how the changes will affect your Facebook experience, and how it might affect your business or brand’s presence on the social network.
Stories through images
As is evident by the popularity of social sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, images are all the rage. Facebook’s new design takes this into consideration—in a big way.
“News feed has become primarily about content,” Zuckerberg said during the event. “Nearly 50 percent is visual content.”
Julie Zhou, director of design at Facebook, elaborated saying, “Outside of news feed, the rest of the content is just clutter [to users].”
Here’s how this will play out: Facebook users can expect much larger, richer images in the news feed. This includes profile pictures of people in their timeline (which will include a cover photo image) and the ability to add the person as a friend directly from the news feed.
Articles from news websites will be featured in a more visually appealing way. When someone shares an article, it will resemble the table of contents of a well-curated magazine. The logo of publishers will appear in the corner.
Additionally, Places—Facebook’s location feature that lets users “check in” on their mobile phones—will be given more distinction in the new design. As Zhou explained, “We’re giving places the prominence they deserve with a map that tells you where they [the places] are and information about the place that allows you to dive in.”
Third-party apps will also be affected by the upcoming changes. In the new design, apps that are image-driven will receive more prominence. For example, images pinned to Pinterest that are also shared on Facebook will be featured more readily.
Facebook plans to create even more of a community vibe through sharing. If a number of your friends are sharing the same video, for example, Facebook will highlight this video in your feed, allowing you to play it from the feed instantly. It will also showcase all of your friends who have shared the video. Hovering over friends’ profile images with one’s mouse will reveal their comments on the video.
Your news feed, your choice
Meanwhile, the news feed will be custom-tailored to you and your interests. You’ll see upcoming events in your news feed based on what friends are doing, and places that you’ve checked into in the past.
Zhou cited NPR as an example, saying that at the end of each day—if you’ve chosen to follow NPR—Facebook will package the most popular NPR articles on Facebook that day. As Zhou says, Facebook is trying to create, “A richer, simpler, more beautiful news feed that’s focused on the things you care about.”
Another big change to the news feed, according to Chris Struhar, tech lead at Facebook, is the addition of a “switcher” in the top right-hand corner of news feeds that will enable Facebook users to jump into different feeds. This “switcher” will feature the feeds you visit most often at the top of your list of feeds.
For example, if you’re a music-lover, you can click on your music feed where you’ll find updates from bands and artists you’ve “liked.” You’ll also find information on upcoming events as well as the events and posts your friends have shared about the artists in which you’re interested.
The “all friends” feed will show friends’ posts in chronological order and the “photos feed” will show all of the photos that your friends are posting.
Your “following feed”—are you listening, brand managers?—will show every post from pages and public figures you’ve “liked”. For example, if you follow a certain band or news outlet, you’ll see all its posts in your “following feed.” The posts will be featured in chronological order to “make sure that content publishers know that fans can see every post they make,” explained Struhar.
And for those of you who just want to see the pretty pictures, there will be a “photos feed” that will only feature images from you and your friends.
A more unified mobile/desktop experience
Facebook users can expect a more mobile-inspired Web design, meaning, that people who use Facebook’s mobile app will have an experience that’s more like that of using Facebook on a desktop or tablet, according to Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook.
It will be easier to navigate from page to page without having to repeatedly visit the home page, Cox explained. Additionally, on mobile, a news story “bubble” will make it possible to stay in your news feed without having to scroll off the page to look at a specific story.
The new design will feature a “tray” that lets users see who’s online and view messages from people in the side bar that was once difficult to view on mobile. This design will be consistent for developers and publishers and new users won’t have to relearn how to use Facebook on mobile.
So what does this mean for brands?
Facebook, quite intentionally it seems strayed from explaining—at least in any great detail—what brands can expect from Facebook’s new design. Nor did any members of the Facebook team mention Graph Search in any capacity.
But here are some things to consider:
• Articles: As mentioned, the new design will feature articles in a way that resembles a well-curated magazine. That means images accompanying articles will be more prominently displayed along with a description of the article. The publisher’s logo will be given more prominence as well.
• Places: When a friend checks into a business or store on Facebook, his or her other friends will see larger map pictures than before in their news feed as well as additional information about the place.
• Following feed: Brand posts will be featured in this feed, but the question is, will people switch over to check on organizations and celebrities when they’re reading updates from friends and family.
Forbes believes this new design will, “provide a richer palette for advertisers,” and that Facebook is providing more opportunities for companies to reach people in more “visually engaging” ways.
Some members of PR Daily’s Facebook page expressed trepidation about the changes.
“[I’m] interested to see what happens to brand posts,” said one member. “What if someone prefers the ‘Friends only’ feed option, do brands sneak in there?”
Another commenter lauded the update:
“Pretty excited to see [Facebook] allow for deliberate feed segregation based on topic,” the commenter said. It’s a “pretty great business plan to make Facebook a one-stop shop for your online needs.”
If you’re eager to experience Facebook’s new changes, you’ll have to sit tight. Cox explained that a limited rollout will start today at Facebook.com/newsfeed. The team plans to take it slowly—the feed will show up to a limited number of people on phones and tablets over the next few weeks.