Facebook's Visual Redesign

3/27/2013

Maeve Greenaway, Corporate Marketing Coordinator

Facebook was launched in February 2004 and since the start has been the most used social media platform in history.  Recently, the social network reported over a billion monthly users while delivering innovative features to compete against other rising social platforms. 

Throughout Facebook's history, research and development have been a top priority to maintain their high standards and marginalize their competition.  An important consideration that Facebook took into account during their most recent update was the user's control features. Facebook's visual redesign has perks for both personal and brand users by gaining more control for both sides.

The Visual Redesign

A few weeks ago, Facebook began rolling out a newer version of their Timeline, News Feed and About Tab.  The new Timeline does a better job of organizing elements, which has reduced clutter. The News Feed has become more visually appealing and the About tab helps organize user's interests in more depth. Now the challenge to marketers is to quickly revisit their content strategy and make sure it is optimized for Facebook's redesign. Some users may have noticed these updates last week, but Facebook says it will continue to roll out the new features over the next few weeks. 

The TimeLine

The personal profile Timeline is now broken up into two-columns, one for posts and the other for life events.  The two-columns started rolling out last week to personal profiles, but have not yet been affected to brand pages. The featured posts on the right side of the profile page include personalized posts from a user, "Friends" and recent notifications. Personal photos, music, locations, check in and other recent activity can be found on the left-hand side of the page.

The image below shows the sections that can be highlighted to preview on the left side of your personal profile page.  There you can also place apps like Pinterest or Instagram.  These apps will display content directly on the profile page. Another element of the redesign is more focused content and apps that each user "Likes". People can "favorite" different movies, books, music and they can choose what will be visible to others on the left column of their Timeline.

The News Feed

The News Feed includes an increased value of images (larger) that will present a greater opportunity for content engagement and will affect both personal and brand page posts.  These posts will be broken down into several ‘subsidiary news feeds' now called "content themes".  In other words, users can view content in their News Feed by specific topics such as Most Recent, Music and Photos.

Content posted by business and individual profiles will still be published and presented through the user's primary News Feed, however the re-design makes the News Feed much more eye-catching. Facebook's objective with the News Feed is to give images a greater prominence over other posts. Below is a post from the Breakers Hotel shown on a follower's News Feed.  Notice how many times this post has been "Liked" or "Shared".

In order to reduce clutter and make the News Feed more visually appealing, the width has been increased, with sidebar content reduced and scaled-down, allowing for high-resolution images and larger URL previews within posts.  Below is an example of a URL preview that has been posted on a follower's News Feed from the Boston Bruins.  This is a great branding technique to share content with followers and create more awareness through their network of "Friends".

The News Feed now previews a clean look with large photos, and can be sorted by categories such as "All Friends," "Photos," Music" and "Following." The new design gives posts about places or third-party apps more prominence and bigger images that deliver greater visibility. Videos and shared articles will also get an enhanced look and feel. Now, people "Tagged" in a video or those who "Share" a post will have a large thumbnail appear on the left side.

One of the first things you will notice is Facebook is giving more space to each post. This means that content will not be shortened when viewed in a user's News Feed as it was previously.  There will no longer be a "more" link to view the full post because it will already be in full view.

For brands, a significant benefit with the new visual changes is that there is suddenly more ‘real estate' for contextual and banner ads. Facebook has expanded the size of the News Feed itself and shrunk the right and left rails surrounding the Feed, which enables larger imagery.

Facebook is rolling out some News Feeds in chronological order or by category and enabling the user to control the content they choose to appear in their Feed. In today's world, it's about giving users more content options.

The About Tab

The About Tab has also been updated to match up with the newer Timeline and News Feed.  The About page has added more options to customize user's interests so they can delegate what sections will be viewable to ‘friends' or the ‘public' from their personal profile.  These interests include: music, movies, books and TV shows that interest you in the form of apps, placing them right alongside your photos and your "Friends" list.

People can now organize their interests by any activity they enjoy on their About page and choose share with "Friends" or other Facebook users with similar interests. In each category, a person's activities and "Likes" are displayed and tied to various apps allowing "Friends" or the public to preview.  For example, a user can display what shows they enjoy watching on Netflix, what music they have been listening to on Spotify and then decide how they would like to share this content or keep it only for their personal viewing.

Marketing View

The situation gets trickier for brands and marketers when it comes to the many new subfeeds that Facebook has introduced. Until now, content from brands and publishers appeared in a user's News Feed right alongside posts from friends and family. With the additional feeds, users have the ability to only focus on what their "Friends" are sharing or even more specifically, on what their "Close Friends" are sharing and can exclude brand posts altogether.  However, by Facebook providing more ‘real estate' and prominence for advertisers, visual content will assist with gaining user's interest and promoting interactions with brands.

The additional Feeds finally provide brands and advertisers with better targeting and directing options toward their most appropriate audience on Facebook. A company can choose to place a Sponsored Post on the Music or Games feed, etc, where it's presumably more relevant to that audience.

Overall, the user has much more control over what they want to preview and hopefully will be more prone to engage with brands, because their "Friends" are showing interest.  From a brand perspective, it is important to make sure your posts are appealing, attractive and geared toward the "right" audience.  As Social Sharing continues to grow and develop, so will brand awareness.

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