Facebook has been around for 10 years this month. (I KNOW.)
And on the occasion of the social network’s big decade milestone, it seems appropriate to take a closer look at some of the changes that have been taking place at Facebook since our last roundup.
But first, let’s look at how the social media giant has evolved over time with this infographic from DPFOC:
Facebook has come a long way in a short decade. Now, let’s take a look at some of its most recent evolutions.
1. Release of Paper app
First up is Paper, the iPhone app Facebook recently released in the U.S. It’s a radical departure from the Facebook newsfeed, designed as an immersive, magazine-style reading experience similar to Flipboard.
Users can personalize their experience by choosing from 19 categories (outside of their Facebook feed), including:
- Pop Life
- All City
- Family Matters
- Score (sports)
- Creators (art and design)
- Flavor (food)
- Exposure (photography)
- Equalize (women and feminism)
- Well Lived
- Glow (beauty and wellness)
With Paper, Facebook is focusing heavily on mobile users, who make up 48 percent of the network’s daily active users and 49 percent of its ad revenue. The app prioritizes visuals, featuring panoramic viewing (just tilt your phone!) and auto-playing video.
What marketers need to know: Paper could eventually be a significant opportunity for content publishers, but as of now there are no ads in the feed and content is hand-picked by editors, focusing mostly on major media sources. Prepare for the future by focusing on creating visually appealing, magazine-worthy content that also looks great on a mobile device.
2. New opportunities in tagging Pages
On a personal Facebook account, you can tag someone in a photo and their friends may see it in the News Feed – even people that you aren’t friends with.
And now the same is true for Facebook brand Pages, in a change Facebook says is “a new way for people to discover conversations around topics they’ve expressed interest in.”
Now, when a Page tags another Page, Facebook could show the post to people who like or follow the tagged Page. For example, this post by Bleacher Report might be shown to people who follow or like Dwight Howard, even if they haven’t liked Bleacher Report.
What marketers need to know: When it’s a good fit, tagging another brand with a Facebook page (whether a person, company, service, etc.) is now a smart strategy as it offers a chance to tap into a larger Facebook audience.
3. WhatsApp acquisition
One of the biggest recent Facebook announcements is the company’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging service. WhatsApp, ad-free and popular mostly outside the U.S., has 450 million users and is growing at a rate of 1 million new users per day.
What marketers need to know: Particularly if your audience is an international one, keep an eye on WhatsApp as a future content sharing platform. Viral content juggernaut Buzzfeed became one of the first to add WhatsApp sharing buttons to its site in October of 2013, and is already seeing more shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter on iOS.
“Every time we looked at WhatsApp’s numbers, it blew us away,” said BuzzFeed president Jon Steinberg at Re/Code. “We knew last April this was a huge social network and have become increasingly obsessed with it.”
4. Launch of Trending
In January, Facebook widely rolled out Trending – a dynamic list of popular topics that appears on the right side of users’ News Feeds. Trends are identified by an algorithm that highlights topics that have had a sharp increase in popularity, as opposed to overall volume for a given subject. Trending now can be seen in feeds in the U.S., U.K., Canada, India, and Australia, and Facebook is testing a mobile version.
The list is personalized, including topics based on things users have shown interest in and what is trending across Facebook overall. Each topic is accompanied by a headline that briefly explains why it is trending. Users simply click a topic that’s trending to see what people are saying about it.
What marketers need to know: There are no sponsorship opportunities yet for Trending, but Facebook says brands might still see benefits. “If there are conversations on Facebook about a brand or business that show a sudden increase in chatter around it, it could qualify as a trending topic and people could see it as one,” a Facebook spokesperson told Adweek. For now, Trending could be valuable as a source for content or real-time marketing ideas.
5. Rise in video
Here’s a noteworthy change not in the Facebook platform but in how we consume content there. Facebook users are watching way more video lately – a total of 118 million hours of video in January, which is a big jump from 2013’s numbers.
This finding also matches up with a recent study by Edgerank Checker, which found that videos have now become the strongest performer in the Facebook News Feed.
What marketers need to know: This one’s pretty clear. Facebook is prioritizing video these days, and brands that can add engaging videos to their content mix are likely to be rewarded.
6. Ability to reply to reviews
In the department of why-didn’t-they-think-of-that-sooner comes this simple change. Whereas Facebook Page administrators could not previously comment on reviews of their services, now they can!
Now when Facebook users review and rate pages using Facebook’s five-star ratings system, page admins can jump into the conversation – positive or negative.
7. Preferred method of sharing links
A Facebook algorithm change late in 2013 threw lots of marketers for a loop. We’ve written before about some smart ways to overcome the change, and Facebook also recently weighed in with its own official word on getting your brand update seen by more of your audience.
In the post, Chris Turitzin explains that Facebook prioritizes “link-shares,” like the one below:
As compared to sharing links by embedding them in a status update, like this:
“We’ve found that, as compared to sharing links by embedding in status updates, these posts get more engagement (more likes, comments, shares and clicks) and they provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds,” Turitzin said.
What marketers need to know: It’s rare that Facebook comes right out and tells you how to get the best performance for your content. When they do, it’s worth paying attention. Continue to test your posts to see what works best for you, but keep Facebook’s official advice in mind.
8. Changes to Power Editor
If your brand does any Facebook advertising, you’ll want to be aware of the most recent changes to Facebook’s Power Editor for ads.
- New filters to more easily find campaigns and ads
- Redesigned Power Editor table
- Updated image-repositioning too
- Added custom range selection
What marketers need to know: Advertising on Facebook is one way to counteract lower reach caused by Facebook’s recent algorithm update, and now it’s easier than ever to get started.
9. New gender options
Finally, a change that’s about identity and inclusion. Facebook collaborated with a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations to offer a new, extensive list of gender options that make the site more friendly to people who don’t identify strictly as male or female.
Here’s Facebook’s announcement about the change:
What marketers need to know: There’s really no direct change for most marketers here. But understanding your audience always helps us connect better. For those interested in learning more about gender identity, here’s a brief rundown of the each of the new gender options and what they mean.
Have you noticed any other Facebook changes so far in 2014 or changed your marketing as a result of any of these changes? Let me know in the comments!