Will Facebook’s Revamped News Feed Kill Brands’ Reach?

The redesigned News Feed Facebook announced Thursday is a beautiful, visually rich design with some borrowed elements from mobile user experience that helps create a smooth, clean experience. But you already read all about it. In an ideal world, a richer and more engaging News Feed is good news for brands, which can benefit from higher engagement on their already mostly visual posts. But there is always a “but.”

What’s With The Feeds?

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg opened Thursday’s announcement by comparing News Feed with a newspaper. The vision was to create a personal newspaper — one that contains a main page with the top news and different feeds for a closer look at different topics. Julie Zhou, Facebook’s director of design, introduced feeds and presented the different kinds of feeds: News Feed for all kinds of stories; a music feed dedicated to stories about favorite artists and upcoming concerts and albums; photo feed; games feed; a following feed containing updates from pages, publishers, and public figures; and all friends feed, for stories from friends only.

This wouldn’t be the first time Facebook tried to make users access different feeds. The social network first launched friend lists in 2007, and later smart friend lists in 2011. In 2012, it tried again with interest lists.

When interest lists launched, Zuckerberg confessed most users didn’t even know that friend lists existed, and a tiny amount of superusers actually used them. He kept them untouched for this minority (thanks, Zuck!), but I can count on one hand the number of people I know who use lists. They are complicated to create, and it’s exhausting to maintain them. I am a huge privacy freak and use the same account for both professional and personal use, so managing my lists was crucial for me, but I was definitely one of the few.

With the new feeds, Facebook is trying yet again to push users to create for themselves a more personal, interesting, and engaging experience. Judging by the current friendly design and recent trend of interest-based social networks like Instagram and Pinterest, it seems like this time, it just might work.

All Friends Feed Can Kill Brands’ Organic Reach

The problem is, the all friends feed might become the default feed for most users, and this one contains no post from pages at all. Users who like pages don’t always want to interact or even see them on a daily basis, even if they like the content or the brand. They also don’t always know how to unlike or hide pages from their feeds. The new all friends feed might make their lives much easier and make marketers work much harder and pay much more for the same reach they used to get with the old news feed. Will brands be able to serve ads to all feeds in News Feed, including the all friends feed? We don’t know yet, but as usual with News Feed changes, it will probably affect reach.

Ad Products And Feeds

Another question that comes to mind regarding the News Feed relationship with marketers is the ads. Facebook didn’t reveal many details on ads or new ad products Thursday. Screen shots suggested that the current products will allow larger stories and pictures on the same placements inside News Feed and the right-hand side.

There was no word on mobile. There is a limit to the number of sponsored stories brands can serve users inside the news feed without making them angry, and all ad products on mobile are based on News Feed. As mobile grows, mobile ads grow with it, and soon, the current products might not be enough. In this scenario, Facebook will have to find new, creative placements for mobile ads or cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) might ascend.

Only time will tell if users will use News Feed the way that Facebook intends them to, and how the social network will face the challenges and the implications on brands and publishers

 Still to come, we have the new timeline design that is currently being tested in New Zealand, which may also affect brands with what seems like fewer branding options.

Brands got used to receiving a certain amount of free, organic reach with their owned media as part of the deal. This owned media is becoming mostly paid by the day, and this will have far-reaching effects on the delicate relationship between Facebook and marketers.

Eti Suruzon is vice president of media for Ramat-Gan, Israel-based social media agency Blink.

Climbing to piggy bank image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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