Facebook announced Facebook Home last week, and today it launched on a handful of Android devices.
We’ve been saying it for years now, but this latest move from Facebook should leave no uncertainty: mobile is the most important battleground for brands and social media.
Ecosystem within an ecosystem?
Home places Facebook front and center on your phone. Messaging, SMS and even phone calls (on some devices) are routed through Facebook’s experience. I fully expect that Twitter and Google will fire back with competing installable Home-like experiences that will place priority on their services.
What we’re seeing is the beginning of a smaller battle within the Android ecosystem: installable skins designed to favor of one social media platform over the other.
No advertising plans…yet.
Facebook had nothing to announce regarding advertising in Home. Ads are definitely coming, but for now Facebook is likely focused on getting users to install Home and watching user behaviors to improve the experience.
Consider Instagram—after a year of Facebook ownership, there have been a few tweaks, both good and bad, but no mention of an advertising platform…yet.
Get your mobile “Home” in order.
What can brands do today? Take a look at your social content plan. Are you using vivid images that make an impact in a mobile stream? Are your messages clear and memorable? Do your links and videos work on mobile phones? These are the bare essentials. When Home and its inevitable competitors are opened up to brands, content that is designed for mobile will shine.
Even though brands can’t come into Home yet, the message is loud and clear—your social media strategy should already be putting mobile consumers first.
There are many facets to Facebook’s News Feed announcement. Let’s examine a few of the changes and their impact.
News Feed will still be the primary feed, and is still powered by the Edgerank we know and love. But users now can also choose from new feeds that are NOT influenced by Edgerank, including:
• Close friends: This option is already available, but it is incorporated in the drop-down list at the top
• All friends feed: All of your friends updates, not filtered, in chronological order
• Music feed: Artist updates, what friends are listening to on services like Rdio and Spotify, tour dates, etc.
• Photos feed: All photos uploaded by friends and pages
• Following feed: All updates, chronologically, from people and pages you are following
If we look at the positive side of this, with the size of News Feed expanding, so does the potential real estate for in-stream ads, including a larger use of video by brands. Brands may have another chance of having their content seen in the Photos and Following tabs. Flip side: The “Friends Only” feed, where no brands can appear at all. We’ll be watching this one carefully to see if user behavior here impacts post performance and engagement.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Facebook’s announcement:
• Consistent experience across desktop/mobile/tablet: Opens up greater opportunity for brands to plan campaigns across screens without the need to optimize for each, thus ensuring a consistent user experience.
• Photo descriptions: On the desktop, descriptions are now superimposed over the top left corner of the image in News Feed. This is important to consider for legibility if there’s any text in the image. Facebook is continuing to discourage text in photo posts with the 20% text rule for promoted posts. Now this.
• Viral importance of the cover photo: When someone likes a page, a news feed story is generated that features the page’s cover photo. Cover photos now take on new importance as a viral recruitment tool, rather than just a masthead of the timeline page.
• Photo feed: Photo-only feed means image posts continue to be important, but it also could present a “I don’t want this brand in my photo feed—UNLIKE” user scenario. Brand Images will need to be engaging and not overly promotional. This actually reinforces the best practices we already know.
• Following feed:Brands need to consider their content through the lens that it is likely going to be displayed—next to NPR, major newspapers and small business posts in the following feed. Brands will want to stay relevant so cool info that can be consumed keeps us in that following feed. We do not want people to hide us.
• Visual attribution of content from owned sites: Example: A link from the Washington Post is attributed to WaPo, with an opportunity to like WaPo’s page. Brands must make sure their .com’s and digital channels are tagged for open graph and pull great-looking meta images to drive recruitment for their Facebook pages when content from their site is shared.
Changes will roll out to users gradually over the next few weeks, but some users will likely start seeing the new experiences soon.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Bobby Strobeck, T3 social media manager, and Yola Blake, T3 social media coordinator, for their contributions to this post.
Core themes about mobile emerged at Stanford University’s recent Future of Media Conference, prompting this attendee to share some thoughts on mobile.
It’s clear that mobile-led thinking is becoming a rallying cry across media types. The rocketing popularity of mobile platforms (smartphones and tablets) over the last couple years has not only impacted the way people communicate, but also how they consume media. Most publishers and producers have seen the percentage of mobile users accessing their content accelerate from 5–10% upwards to 30–40%; in some cases like Twitter or Facebook, well over 50% are mobile users.
People today are far more willing to engage in dialog and sharing, ecommerce and even creating their own content on mobile devices. Media providers of all stripes are recognizing the need to supply a rich and useful experience through these platforms to match this consumer demand.
This rising demand for mobile content underscores a huge challenge. Developing mobile-optimized content experiences is way more complex than merely offering re-sized screen dimensions and lighter weight delivery systems. Variations in operating systems, screen resolutions, bandwidth access and processer speeds complicate the space even further. Because of mobile’s growth, designing for this fragmented array of platforms and ensuring a robust, useful and engaging experience has become a leading issue instead of a trailing one.
Mobile up makes sense.
The idea of mobile as a leading issue is becoming serious business. During the conference, Facebook claimed to have revamped their internal organizational structure to incorporate mobile expertise into all groups, rather than having a separate mobile team. This ensures that mobile and desktop experiences are developed in tandem, and each to its own strengths and limitations, rather than designing for one and repurposing for the other.
Indeed, it would actually be easier to design for mobile and repurpose to the desktop, where there are fewer constraints and technical permutations to address. In much the same way that Twitter character limitations often make crafting a well-written tweet harder than a free-form essay, designing for mobile requires a sense of economy and precision that can be more difficult than web development.
Both organizational and marketing models will be challenged to adopt this new orientation to consumer behavior. Breaking the inertia of workflow process and organizational design can be very difficult and pose real business problems for some companies. But this trend is continuing to escalate and the fragmentation of how people access content is now the norm that all facets of the media and marketing landscape must contend with. And the sooner it’s addressed, the better.
NEXT: Apps versus the mobile web