Originally published on CMO.com

New Facebook Timeline

While there have been plenty of news articles detailing the technical changes, such as bigger photo posts and new filtered feeds, this article focuses on what these changes really mean for marketers, and what new social strategies and tactics they’ll need to deploy in order to effectively reach Facebook consumers.

With that end in mind, following are five key takeaways from the announcement and how marketing leaders can direct their Facebook strategy moving forward:

1. The news feed is the place to be.
Once again Facebook has swung the pendulum, this time back toward the consumer experience and away from marketers. But one thing is clear: Right rail ads are on the path to extinction. As Facebook repeatedly said in its presentation, the new desktop experience is “mobile-inspired.” There are no right rail ads on mobile, and they are seemingly minimized in the new design. It will be interesting to see how it replaces the ad inventory given that more than 80 percent of ad dollars are spent in the right rail. Regardless, it will have to be within the new feed architecture, either as posts or contextual to the new feed types. The news feed will be the place to be to reach, engage, and convert social/mobile customers.

2. Generating stories just became even more important.
Facebook announced additional news feed filtering options, but the jury is still out about how the majority of Facebook users will use these tools. Will we see a massive change where most people primarily watch All Friends and Close Friends feeds, or will most people keep their feeds broad? I believe it will depend on the default setting. Generally, people don’t tinker, even if they can. Regardless, richer stories with bigger photos and more interesting posts about what friends are sharing means that getting people to Like, Comment, and Share has, once again, become even more important. One can only assume that the effectiveness of stories will improve as well.

3. The “Following Feed” will be a battleground.
If Timeline was an effort to give brands a richer and more beautiful home base on Facebook, then the Following Feed may make marketers feel like they’re being banished to Siberia. If users set Friend Feeds as their default, then we will see significant decreases in engagement with organic posts. The trend has already been headed in this direction given that Facebook has dialed down organic reach in an effort to force more media buying. Believe me, I hope this isn’t the case, and maybe, just maybe, the Following Feed will become a great place for brands to reach their most loyal consumers. Here are a few ways the Following Feed could be great for marketers:

  • Fans will intentionally seek posts from brands and influencers they like. The attention fans will bring to this feed will be different and more valuable than brand posts seen in any other feed.
  • The competition for attention will be different here. Instead of being juxtaposed with your best friend’s new baby daughter, you’ll be up against other brands and influencers. It will be like advertising in Times Square–the one who can do the biggest, most interesting thing will win.
  • This will be a more commerce-friendly environment. As someone who has spent a good bit of time trying to bridge the gap between social and commerce, I find this to be this is an interesting and welcome innovation. As Facebook works hard to capture our credit card numbers with things like Gifts, Offers, Credits, etc., we will become more and more comfortable shopping. The Following Feed has the potential to be where we go to shop on Facebook.

4. Facebook just became even stickier.
Just in the nick of time. These updates come as the media was starting–oh, wait–hoping, once again, that the growth and world dominance of Facebook was slowing and that users were spending less time there. Well, I believe these changes will not only increase time on the site, but will drive new adoption as well. The consistency of the experience across all devices is smart, but it will also make all of the world’s new smartphone users feel instantly at home. Whether you join first on your phone or on the desktop, you will be up and running immediately, and making the transitions will be elegant and seamless. The main news feed is now less cluttered, easier to use, and more fun. The new filtered feeds give users more reasons to explore, and that means even more time spent. There is nothing in marketing today that has more consumer momentum than social and, by extension, social on mobile.

5. What’s Trending?
Twitter has had great success with its simple list of trending topics. And now, with the ability to sponsor a trend, many brands are seeing amazing engagement rates. People like to watch what’s popular moment to moment–thanks to BuzzFeed, TechMeme, and Reddit. Facebook has sort of elevated popular items, but not in a clean and simple way. It’s not totally clear how it will surface trending content or whether marketers will be able to buy in, but this will become important. It has become a common tactic for brands to watch the Twitter trending topics and try to pile on with tweets. Marketers on Facebook will be smart to try to catch early trends and ride the viral waves for sport and profit.

Two other items to watch as marketers assess their Facebook strategy moving forward. First, the Photo Feed has the potential to become a Pinterest-killer. Transform Albums into Boards and you’re almost there. Pinterest is an amazing visual search engine, and we know Facebook wants a big piece of that pie. Second is the new Like story that uses a brand’s Timeline photo. This photo will become more important and will need to be both beautiful and compelling. Watch for Facebook to possibly expand its rules around including offer copy in these images.

Once again, the Facebook pendulum has swung, and marketers must react. However, marketing in social has always meant that you must be nimble, creative, and innovative. While there are several important implications for marketing leaders with these changes, they certainly don’t change that job description.