Last week, Facebook held its annual developer conference—F8—in San Jose, California. At the event, we got a glimpse into the future of Facebook and Instagram, wherein Facebook unveiled a complete redesign, brand new Instagram features, and even gave us a peek at the long-term goals of each network.
But despite being branded as a developer event, F8 is also a huge event for marketers like myself. It gives us a look at how Facebook will evolve, hence giving us time to plan and prepare for future algorithm changes that may affect how we market on the social network.
So in this article, I’ll run through three of Facebook’s major announcements and discuss how they’ll affect us marketers. Use this guide to help plan your 2019 and 2020 Facebook and Instagram roadmap—after all, it’s better to plan early than to be late to the game.
Before we start, I want to make a quick note that not all F8 announcements are covered here. Instead, we’re looking at announcements that directly affect us as marketers—check out Social Media Today’s in-depth announcement pieces for the entire announcement list.
- Facebook F8 2019: New Updates for Instagram, Including 'Shop from Creators' and Updated Camera >>Read
- Facebook F8 2019: Facebook Announces New Updates for Groups, Dating and an App Redesign >>Read
- Facebook F8 2019: New Tools for Messenger and WhatsApp >>Read
Let’s get started!
Facebook announced a completely new design
As you’ve probably heard, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a complete redesign of the Facebook desktop and mobile experience at F8. This new design not only looks different, but gives us a glimpse at how Facebook will function in the future.
Aesthetically speaking, the updated desktop experience takes design cues from the present day Facebook mobile app. We see bigger buttons, a top bar with quick access to different Facebook functions, and Facebook stories placed above the News Feed.
But the redesign is more than just aesthetics—Facebook redesigned itself around Groups.
In an announcement blog post, Facebook noted that the new design “puts your communities at the center.” It does this by providing quick access to groups from an ever-present left-hand sidebar and adding a groups quick button to the top of the app.
This quick button will take Facebook users to a groups discovery screen where users can see recommended groups, the groups their friends are in, as well as a place where they can manage the groups they’re already a part of.
Further, the News Feed is significantly smaller in the redesigned experience. This combined with the new groups functionality shows us that Facebook is moving away from News Feed and continuing its transition to a more friends-and-family focused platform.
Lastly, events are also taking center-stage in the new Facebook design. There will soon be a dedicated events tab at the top of the desktop experience—clicking into this tab will show you the events your friends are attending as well as public events taking place in your neighborhood.
What can marketers learn from the Facebook redesign?
This redesign makes it clear that the future of Facebook is not for brands. Instead, it shows Facebook is continuing it's 2018, post-Cambridge Analytica promises to put “meaningful content” from friends, family, and groups first.
What does this mean for you? Frankly, it means marketers need to adapt their Facebook marketing plans or risk being left in the dust.
Organic reach from pages has already been trending downwards for the past year or so, while groups continue to trend upwards on the News Feed. So get on board and make a branded group for your brand before it’s too late.
On that note, Facebook released a set of branded groups features last year. These features let brands can create and manage groups under their brand name, keeping employee’s personal profiles out of the picture and linking them to an overarching Facebook page.
Oh, and from what I can tell, branded groups are still being treated like standard groups in terms of ranking in News Feed. This means you’ll still get the benefit of expanded reach even if you’re posting self-promoting, page-like content to your group—well, at least for now.
Finally, this move to groups-centric content also shows that—no matter how painful it might be—brands and marketers need to embrace Facebook ads. Because without these, your page posts will be seen by few—if any—Facebook users.
Oh, how things change in a year….
Creators will soon be able to sell products on Instagram
On the Instagram side, Facebook announced that it’s giving influencers and creators the ability to sell products right from their Instagram accounts. From the looks of it, creators will be able to tag products in their posts just like they would another Instagram user. When a tag is tapped, Instagram users can order the tagged product right from the Instagram app—no web browser required.
Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available to the public just yet. Instagram is starting with a small beta test of well-known influencers. These influencers are able to tag products from brands in the Instagram check out beta (launched in March) to start.
Instagram hasn’t yet announced important details like an official launch date or who will be able to use the feature in the future. However, I’m assuming that there will be some sort of minimum follower count or application process required in order to use the feature.
What can marketers learn from this new Instagram feature?
Influencers having the ability to sell products through Instagram is huge for influencer marketing. Instead of having to link products in their bio, influencers will instead be able to link to their partner’s products right from a photo with a paid placement.
Additionally, this will make tracking Instagram influencer marketing so much easier for brands. Instead of guesstimating, brands can now track exactly how many sales they’ve received through Instagram. This will help marketers prove ROI and make influencers more valuable than ever before.
In the end, I see this as a win-win for both marketers and influencers. There will be more transparency on both sides of the equation, and influencers will be better able to price their services and prove results to future partners.
Instagram is testing hidden like counts
Image source: Jane Manchun Wong
Last up, the Instagram team confirmed that it is testing hidden like counts in-app. This has been reported on before but was largely unconfirmed by the social network until Adam Mosseri—Head of Instagram—confirmed the test at a talk at F8.
When discussing the enhancement, Mosseri mentioned Instagram is testing this change in order to create a “less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” This signals that Instagram is moving back to its creator-focused, art-centric roots of years past.
Mosseri also said that the test is currently taking place in Canada. He did not, however, discuss if this test will rollout globally or if Instagram will stick with hidden like counts in the long run. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see.
What can marketers learn from hidden Instagram like counts?
Controversial opinion alert: I think that hidden like counts will be—in the long run—a good move for Instagram and largely beneficial for marketers and influencers alike.
Why? Simple: Instagram is plagued with engagement bots that create a false sense of engagement. This can make shopping for influencers tough, and—at least to me—makes Instagram feel less legitimate than when the network was a smaller, more curated source of creativity.
Of course, only time will tell how this plays out. If the test in Canada proves successful, there’s no doubt that we’ll see Instagram roll out hidden like counts worldwide, making the Instagram community feel more inclusive and legitimate.
All in all, this year’s F8 was undoubtedly more exciting than years past. It’s not every day that you see Facebook and Instagram rollout game-changing new features that change the very framework of how both networks are used.
On the Facebook side, the new, groups-focused design will undoubtedly dampen organic reach. But that’s OK: it’s something we’ve been dealing with for years, and at least Facebook is giving us a heads up on how to compete in the future with groups and paid reach.
On the other hand, the Instagram team seemingly wants to make marketer’s lives easier. Instagram influencers being able to sell products directly will make influencer marketing better than ever, and hidden like counts may prove to be just the revival Instagram needs to fight bot spam.
But now I want to hear from you. What do you think about these changes? Are you excited for Facebook’s new, groups-centric design? I’m excited to hear your thoughts.