Facebook: Face Saving Face Lift?

Big changes are coming. Here’s what to expect

Proving to be the exception to the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Facebook has been in the news for some not-so-very-good reasons that involved privacy and misuses of the platform. Give credit to Zuckerberg, and Co., they took the first step in addressing these issues/complaints last year when they tweaked their algorithms, giving preference to posts from family and friends in your News Feed.

Well, this time they’ve gone further, announcing a significant reworking of the platform at the recent Facebook Developers Conference.

The new Facebook will change in three significant areas.

Privacy

In his keynote speech, Mark Zuckerburg set the tone for the future of the platform. “As our digital world is continuously growing and changing, “privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves,” said Zuckerburg.

This year, we can expect to see more private spaces for interactions, either in direct messages or in Facebook Groups, with stronger end-to-end encryption, so that even Facebook won’t be able to read your private messages. Facebook is making sure that not only what we say is safeguarded, but there will also be work put towards reducing a post or message’s permanence. We may start to see more communication streams and posts with expiration dates similar to Instagram Stories.

Another exciting new feature is Facebook’s ability to privately message any of your contacts, via any of Facebook’s platforms. That means that you could potentially Instagram DM a friend via Facebook Messenger, or post to a Facebook Group with Whatsapp!

New Design: FB5, Say good-bye to the big blue bar

This is the most significant cosmetic change for the company in five years. The “F” icon/logo has been refreshed too with a brighter blue and a circular shape. The blue bar is gone, replaced by a row of simpler icons, a minimalist design, and a cleaner look, signifying a  faster, more immersive, experience. People will start seeing some of these updates in the main Facebook app right away, and the new desktop in the next few months.

But maybe the most significant change has to do with Groups

Groups and Communities

To make the platform more warm-and-fuzzy, friends-and-family focused, the redesign devotes less space to the News Feed while giving a more prominent position to Groups and communities built around a shared interest. The new design encourages stronger social ties by putting your communities at the center, providing quick access to Groups from the left-hand sidebar and a Groups Quick Button at the top of the app.

This Quick Button will take Facebook Users to a Groups section where they can see recommended groups, groups their friends are in, and a place where they can manage groups they’ve joined.    

Events are also taking center-stage. There will soon be a dedicated Events tab at the top of the desktop experience that will show you the Events your friends are attending as well as public events taking place in your neighborhood.

So, what does this means for business?

Marketers will need to adapt their Facebook marketing plans, organic reach has been trending down for the past year or so, while groups continue to trend upwards.

Facebook released a set of Branded Groups features last year, that let brands create and manage groups under their brand name, linking them to an overarching Facebook page. Branded groups are still being treated like standard groups in terms of ranking in the News Feed. This means you’ll still get the benefit of expanded reach even if you’re posting self-promoting content to your group. This makes Facebook Ads a critical part of your online marketing mix, as fewer and fewer Facebook users will see page posts.

But wait, there’s more…

Reach Out, and Messenger Someone—Facebook connected all the apps so that people on Messenger can message people on Instagram and WhatsApp. The messaging app has a new “friends” tab, too, which aggregates Stories, the 24-hour video messages, Facebook posts, and WhatsApp updates. It will also make it easier for advertisers, and brands to place Stories Ads across all the Facebook properties.

Make Your Own Augmented Reality — Facebook also promoted its augmented reality platform, Spark AR, which similar to Snapchat’s Lens Studio. It allows you to create effects (add text, backgrounds, make funny faces) that can be applied to photos and video. The Spark AR platform had been available widely available for developers on Facebook and Messenger, but only in a limited capacity on Instagram. More Info »

And if You’re in a Long-Distance Relationship

Group Watch Videos— Facebook is testing a feature that will allow people to invite others to watch a video together in real time while messaging or on a video chat, like a private Twitch.

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