@wearesocial guide to Facebook changes


Last week Facebook made lots of major changes you need to be aware of, and as a special supplement to this week’s Monday Mashup, here they are:

Facebook redesigns news feed
Facebook launched a redesigned home page, with one feed:

When users return to the redesigned home page, they won’t simply see the same feed they were last viewing. Instead, they’ll see a Top News segment at the top of the feed displaying important stories by close friends or those with lots of Likes and comments that they haven’t seen yet, followed by Most Recent-style content.

To replace the separate Most Recent feed, Facebook has added a real-time firehose of all updates by all of a user’s friends to the right sidebar. The Ticker is even more comprehensive than the old Most Recent feed that would still filter out minor updates about some friends.

The changes have significant ramifications for brands: since Facebook have added a control in the top right of each story that users can check to unmark a top story, brands will have to be interesting. If not, their updates will have lower visibility.

Facebook changes how the Open Graph works
Facebook announced an update to the Open Graph, which means that now rather than just ‘liking’ content, users can also, ‘read’, ‘listen’, ‘watch’, etc. – in fact any verb a developer chooses. Controversially, apps will only have to ask your permission once, and then they can repeatedly share information about what you’re getting up to. The by-product of this is to create a lot more content to go on Facebook, thereby hopefully making it a much richer experience – as users are no longer required to endorse (like) something, but having given permission once, merely passively use the internet (read, listen).

Facebook has a wide variety of launch partners with apps taking advantage of these changes – which include big entertainment names like Netflix, Spotify and Hulu, along with media outlets like The Washington Post, The Guardian and The Independent – who will populate the new Ticker with consumable content.

One of the launch partners is The Guardian which has released a new Facebook app designed as an exemplar of the direction Zuckerberg wants Facebook to go in – a social aggregator where your friends can see everything you’ve done on the internet. The app records how many of your friends are reading a story etc, which in turn should drive more page views for The Guardian. It’s an interesting concept, and one the Wall Street Journal is moving towards with its own social app, indicative of a general trend:

Similarly, Facebook has launched a “Music” dashboard that shows users trending albums, top songs, featured music services, and a stream dedicated to the recent listens of all of a user’s friends. You can see your own dashboard here.

It’s interesting to note the dissenting voices: Slate is the standard-bearer, pointing out how sharing has gone from something active to something passive. It raises a fair point – and one that Facebook will have to grapple with – that it removes taste: users are no longer sharing something because it reflects their interests and opinions, but because they have previously signed up to share. If and how Facebook answers that question will be telling.

Obviously all of this new data about these news actions people will be sharing (or not) is available for ad targeting:

Many users have interacted with more brands, artists, and pieces of media than they’re willing to list in their profile. However, they might be comfortable stating that they watched a movie their friend posts about. With the new feedback buttons, Facebook is turning these behaviors and activities into targetable information for advertisers.

Here are some examples of how the new ad targeting capabilities could be used:

The Facebook Timeline
Alongside changing the News Feed, Facebook has also changed users Profiles into Timelines, which look back at a user’s life story, not just on Facebook. As a result of this, users are encourage to add more information about themselves to fill in the gaps, thereby adding more personal information to their Facebook profile (which Facebook can then obviously use to improve ad targeting). If you want to understand exactly how your Timeline will look and work, Inside Facebook have a simple step-by-step walkthrough.

A host of other changes from Facebook
Before f8, Facebook made a load more cosmetic changes to the site: posts now have a 5,000 character limit (used to be 500; the navigation bar at the top of the page is now floating; you can edit your homepage bookmarks; the poke button has been hidden away; and it’s now easier to post birthday messages.

They’ve also made changes to Pages: users can now post on a Page without having liked it in the first place, meaning that brands get little value out of engaging them; and second, the ‘friend activity’ tab which previously only appeared on Place Pages, is now on all Pages.

Nonetheless, there’s some good news for Page admins: their tracking just got easier, as Facebook added per post Impressions data to the stats which admins can export.

For external sites, there’s also something new: a Recommendations bar, which suggests articles to users (upon finishing an article), based on their friend’s activity.