The future is private, or at least that was the overwhelming takeaway from F8, Facebook’s developer conference, last week. As Mark Zuckerburg continues to lead the charge on Facebook embracing the position of a 'privacy-focused social platform', one thing is clear: Facebook properties will be focused on reinforcing the shift in social behaviours to users that are private messaging in small groups and sharing stories.

With this core thought and a string of platform innovations, our Facebook specialist team have reviewed how marketers can best track and anticipate the opportunities that this update provides.

Let’s be honest, Facebook’s core product shifted from desktop years ago. Last year, we even saw their website drop to the third most visited site in Australia. In recent years as advertising has flooded the platform, it’s clear that the newsfeed is under extreme pressure. Facebook's answer? Growth in groups (around passions), professional services (allowing you to apply for jobs through Facebook), gaming specific chat functions, Facebook Dating (a local launch is yet to be confirmed) and shopping communities. There’s also some nifty functionality around ‘dark mode’ in an attempt to get people consuming more long form video on the platform.

So what should you expect as a marketer?
Clearly we all need to be looking at how we can reinvest in the principle of community on Facebook and either build authentic and engaging communities or find a way to complement those that are already there. Outside of this, there’s a need to begin separating approaches for both desktop and mobile versions of Facebook. Ask yourself how your audience differs on either of them and how you can meet their needs.

Groups - The NEW News Feeds
Changes to Groups mean brands have an opportunity to interact as thought leaders in order to drive relevance and trust within the changing environment. There’s an opportunity for businesses to embed themselves within micro-communities similar to Reddit. Keep an eye out for tech brands who are likely to adopt this approach first.

Facebook are redesigning the look and feel of Groups, placing communities at the centre of a cleaner environment. Groups are positioned to become, essentially, a secondary News Feed, with content curated from the communities you’re actively following. Facebook are also providing new tools to make it easier for users to discover, engage and share content with Groups, as well as people who share similar interests. The change means easily spreadable and consumable content like memes will continue to dominate.

So what should you expect as a marketer?
Group members will be looking for personalised conversations and will seek out thought leaders within their community. Marketers should feel ready to embed themselves in these micro-communities and be ready for customer advocacy to increase its importance.

Messenger
Changes to Messenger will shift the way mobile users interact with the Facebook stack. Expect to see increased dwell time and broader sharing through the Stories function over the next few months.  

The platform is set to become the new News Feed, without losing the messenger functionality that’s currently being reinforced by full encryption. The platform will increase its focus on video-based content, making it easier to start ‘watch parties’ and discover trending or sponsored videos. Facebook is also introducing new ways for brands and advertisers to interact with people, leveraging Messenger’s automation functionality to decrease customer service pain points and making open communication less taxing.

So, what should you expect as a marketer?
Expect to start creating more video-based content to encourage watch parties. Brands will need to have a mobile-first approach to go alongside the news feed style of Messenger. Brands should expect to amp up their community management within the new functionality and be prepared for more interaction with customers.

Events
A ‘Meet New Friends’ feature will connect you with strangers with whom you already have something in common (be that your employer or school) to help diffuse the awkwardness around prospective ‘mate dates’. Further changes will allow you to navigate events with greater ease, directing you towards events that align with your interests rather than your location.

Local businesses will certainly feel the effects. The changes will help them become more visible and drive traffic their way, both online and offline. That’s just one of the ways Facebook plans to enable us to give back to our communities.

So, what should you expect as a marketer?
Event-based business will need to get their head around these changes and what that means for their business quickly. In an ideal world, small, local businesses using the events feature well will see a surge in business.

Social Responsibility
In a long-awaited movement toward creating a kinder online community, Facebook will be leading the battle against online bullying that takes place on Instagram. In an attempt to reduce mob mentality, profiles will have less emphasis on followers and users contributing aggressive comments will receive a formal warning to “tone it down” from Instagram before they post.

In a bid to give people the space they might need from time to time, a new ‘Away Mode will give users the chance to opt out whilst going through a sensitive time (e.g. a break-up or starting at a new school). Alongside the recent announcement that Instagram is moving toward hiding likes on individual posts, these changes are being made with user wellbeing in mind as the platform pivots toward encouraging self-expression rather than indulging in a popularity contest.

Not only will perpetrators of online bullying be made to feel more aware of the repercussions of their actions, they’ll also be given a chance to atone through making donations to worthy causes while in-app using donation stickers.

So, what should you expect as a marketer?
Brands and influencers can both expect to see a decrease in trolling and can hopefully expect to see positive sentiment increase as a result. As likes become hidden and the influence of a herd mentality decreases, the importance of sharing really strong content with your audience becomes paramount.

F8 revealed some big changes for the Facebook family. Overall, the changes have been made with the mental health and wellbeing of its users in mind. Brands will see an increase in opportunities to engage their customers with long-form video content and create wider communities of fans through clever application of the new functionality in Groups.

Our take? These changes will increase the longevity of the Facebook user cycle across all age groups. Naturally, this shift will occur slowly and, gradually, more and more opportunities for brands to thrive within the platform will be revealed.

Reporting contributed by Tom Richardson, Becca Evans and Zeb Smith
All images courtesy of Facebook