Today Facebook’s f8 Developer Conference kicks off and expectations are high. Major changes to Facebook are set to be announced, on the heels of the recently deployed and significant adjustments to the News Feed and Friends Lists, and the addition of the Subscribe button.
To give you some perspective, take a look at how Mashable’s Ben Parr described the upcoming announcements in a recent column, titled Prepare Yourselves: Facebook To Be Profoundly Changed:
“I have seen what Facebook is launching on Thursday, and it’s going to change the world of social media. And while I won’t talk about the mind-boggling things Facebook will be launching, I will say this: The Facebook you know and (don’t) love will be forever transformed. The news that will come out of Facebook during the next few weeks will be the biggest things to come out of the company since the launch of the Facebook Platform.”
All-righty then. Big things are coming. I’ll do my best to synthesize key aspects for communicators here.
The News Feed changes in and of themselves are pretty significant, and (I think) will be helpful to brands using Facebook to communicate with their audiences. In a nutshell, Facebook has removed the “Top News” and “Recent News” views. Instead, the news feed you see when you log into Facebook is adjusted automatically according to the last time you accessed your Facebook page. Ostensibly, these changes make it much less likely that you’ll miss items from friends (and brands you follow). If you’ve not checked your Facebook account for a while, the news you see will the “top news” (I’m assuming “top” is still a function of interactions) from your network. If you check Facebook more frequently, you’ll see more timely news. “Top” news items are designated with a little blue flag.
Facebook has also instituted a scrolling news ticker, displaying status updates from your friends and the brands you follow in real-time. So, even if it’s been a while since you checked in, and Facebook is showing you top stories that are a little less timely, the News Ticker will display current network activity.
I think Facebook’s approach is a pretty slick way to handle the status-update/time conundrum, and I like the way content from brands receives equal footing. Simply put, I want to hear from the brands I follow on Facebook, and I appreciate the fact Facebook respects that. All in all, I think these changes will benefit brands that are using Facebook effectively.
Brief summary of the other recent changes:
Friends Lists: The Friends Lists debuted years ago but have seen little use. The current deployment added a lot of new functionality for Facebook users, and has automated the task of organizing Friends. Best of all, you can now share content exclusively with a specific group of people – Facebook allows you to select which list(s) you want to share posts with right in the Status Update box.
Other changes include:
- Smart Lists: Facebook is creating lists automatically, based upon criteria in your profile (e.g. your alma mater, or where you live) and then creates friends lists automatically from those criteria. As a user, I think this is a great feature – I can easily see activity from my high school or college friends, for example. You can also edit these lists, enabling you to fine tune them.
- Close Friends: If you don’t want to miss a single post from a person, add them to the “Close Friends” list. Their posts will jump to the top of your News Feed.
- Acquaintances: Adding people to the Acquaintances list means you’ll see fewer posts from them. Only important news, which Facebook currently describes as things like marriages or moves, will be added to your news feed.
Subscribe: Enables you follow the public updates of others, whether or not you’re “friends.” It’s kind of like following people on Twitter.
Photos: Photos gain more prominence in the News Feed, with larger thumbnails and a more visually engaging display of images in the news feed. Images are popular fodder on Facebook – people love to share and see pictures of people, pets, weird stuff and cool products. Facebook has recognized this.
More updates from Facebook are coming, and I’ll be doing my best over the next few days to synthesize and summarize what those changes mean for PR pros and marketers right here.
Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.