This week Facebook held its developer conference, F8, in San Jose and unveiled not only plans for a redesign which is sure to get #BringBackOldFacebook trending among users but also the direction they plan to take the platform in. For communicators and marketers there were some key points to pay attention to – among them the principle that Facebook is moving toward being more like a ‘living room’ rather than a ‘hall’.

Much of what was said at the conference, with a keynote from Mark Zuckerberg, builds on the company principles announced earlier this year – ‘private interactions, encryption, reducing the permanence of posts, improving safety, creating the ability for users to communicate between Facebook’s family of apps, and securing data storage’. All of these continue the move away from broadcast content toward conversations, a move which at the very least provides a challenge for communicators trying to reach their audience on the platform.

If you’re currently managing a Page and struggling to get your posts seen or engaged with then these forthcoming changes are stuff you need to be aware of and building into your plan.

Five key takeaways for communicators from the Facebook F8 conference

1. Facebook is getting a new look and layout

Probably the change which will be most visible to most users is a major redesign of the look of the Facebook newsfeed. The changed colour, logo, and layout is starting to be rolled out across mobile now with desktop to follow in the coming months and Zuckerberg said it, ‘will make navigation easier, load time faster, and provide a cleaner appearance.’

The design gives greater focus to three key Facebook features – Groups, Marketplace and Watch – and communicators now need to look at how they work with this rather than struggle against it.

2. Facebook Groups are a focus for the future

With the design giving greater prominence to Groups, and the desire to be more ‘living room’ than ‘town hall’, Facebook has continued to place importance on this feature above many others. In fact Zuckerberg said, ‘Groups are now at the heart of the experience’ as he also said they would be continuing to work to tackle Groups known to spread misinformation or breaking community standards.

They also announced some new features for Groups – members will be able to anonymously ask questions or share information, and a new template for posting jobs and applying within the app. Dan Slee has done some great work showing what a big part of local life Groups are already playing (take a look here), and their importance within the public sector comms mix, and the increased focus by Facebook itself along with the new features only strengthens that position.

3. It’s more about families and friends than feeds

It’s no laughing matter but Mark Zuckerberg joked about Facebook not having the best reputation on privacy and committed again to working toward a new chapter. Part of this is the wider move away from Facebook being a ‘news’ feed or a ‘town hall’ and moving it more to personal conversation, which crucially is kept private too.

The redesign supports discovery and connection with a strong emphasis on groups – as already noted. In Facebook Workplace too (the version designed for business) there is a redesign on the way and this too will focus attention on chat and groups.

Facebook wants people to talk to each other, and in privacy, and they are emphasising this above publishing, content sharing, or organisations and businesses using the network as a promotion tool. Something for communicators to think on.

4. Private communication supported with updates to Messenger and WhatsApp

The commitment to privacy stretched to Messenger and Instagram too with end-to-end encryption (similar to What’s App) on the way, as well as the ability to cross-message between the three apps. Messenger itself is getting a bit of refresh but again the focus is on connecting with friends.

However – in some better news for businesses – an appointment booking option for Messenger bots was announced. There are already 300,000 working the platform but it’s thought this feature may speed up adoption of bots by businesses. WhatsApp similarly has a couple of new features on the way which will enable business to integrate more with it for customers – both around product catalogue but also in receiving notifications via the app.

5. Posting to a business Page will no longer cut it

What didn’t get much of a look in at the conference was Pages – which for most communicators is probably still where most of their Facebook effort is being spent. Engagement rates are already low and continuing to dip – the truth is posting to a Page is no longer going to cut it as your core Facebook activity.

The time has come to adjust how you are using the platform and where within the Facebook family of apps you’re going to find your audience and get your results from – keep your Page as your ‘base’ on the network but be out there in Groups, making use of AI in Messenger, and targeting the right people through Ads to really get the best out of it.

What do communicators need to know about the future of Facebook?

These points come together in one clear message for communicators – you need to move away from posting content and give some serious time to an engagement strategy.

Groups are where people are already doing so much of their sharing and talking but they are also where Facebook are putting their focus and you must make sure you are involved in the best for your audience and organisation. If you aren’t already engaged with Groups the F8 conference gave a clear signal the time is now.

Vital Facebook Skills

If all this has made you think you might need to brush up on some areas of Facebook you’re not already using much in your comms activity then Dan Slee and I have the perfect workshop for you. We’ll be looking at Pages and Posts, Groups, Messenger, and Ads on the one-day workshops we’re running in June on Vital Facebook Skills. Dates in London, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh are booking up fast – more info and how to secure your place here.

Need some help?

If you need some help with content, communications or getting yourself and your team up to date on latest social media, analytics and digital skills get in touch and see how I can help.

And if you’re skimming the page and missed the info above, a recap – if you’re interested in getting the most from Facebook now and with the changes pegged here you can sign up for the workshop I’m running with Dan Slee on Vital Facebook Skills. Dates in London, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh are booking fast now for June – more info and how to secure your place here.

Original source – Sarah Lay

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