What SMBs Need to Know About Facebook’s News Feed Redesign

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313585-facebook-logo-fIn the hopes of creating a better user experience (and ultimately more monetization opportunities), Facebook recently overhauled the design and functionality of its news feed — aiming to become the “personalized newspaper” of the digital age. So what does this change mean for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which now account for more than 15 million pages on the platform?

The redesigned layout will include bigger photos, maps and news articles and users can now sort through feeds based on interests — so SMBs currently managing a page should definitely adjust the way they approach their Facebook marketing and creative strategy.

Reorganization of News Feeds
In addition to users’ regular default news feed, they will soon be able to sort feeds by All Friends, Photos (from friends and businesses), Music and Following (this is where business pages fit in). As Facebook tries to improve user experience to compete with other growing social networks like Twitter and Pinterest, the redesign’s goal is to offer a more organized, appealing look for users and give them more control over what they see. While the default news feed algorithm remains the same, additional filters give users more control over how they browse their feed, making it imperative for SMBs and brands to offer more compelling information.

According to Facebook, 30 percent of updates in the news feed are from Facebook pages. To keep Facebook engagement levels high, SMBs will need to ensure the content they are posting resonates with those that have liked their page, (e.g. before-and-after photos, Facebook-only coupons and offers, etc.)  They will also need to make sure the posts are graphically appealing and urge customers to engage in some way. Otherwise, the added segmentation of feeds could be detrimental for businesses, as users will be less likely to visit their following feed.

Images and Videos Gain Importance
Photos and videos are brought front and center in the redesign. Facebook has stated that almost 50 percent of news feed content is made up of photos. Cover photos will now have more prominence, as they are pulled into every post made by a business. As well, photos and videos included within shared articles will be much larger in the new interface.

SMBs will need to use high-quality images with their updates, since these images will be more important hooks for users deciding whether or not to click on a post. Separately, Facebook ads will be bigger, especially photo-driven ads — this is important for businesses to keep in mind as they develop paid ads.

The Role of Promoted Posts
According to Facebook, over 500,000 pages have used Promoted Posts, which allow a business to pay for additional impressions within user news feeds. There has certainly been a lot of criticism claiming Facebook has been decreasing the reach of non-promoted posts and forcing business page owners to promote more posts in order to drive traffic and engagement. It is still unclear what impact the redesign will have on promoted posts, but SMBs shouldn’t be afraid to test them.

While a lot of content can be posted to target local customers for free, promoted posts can help bring visibility to important updates including content like blog posts, eBooks and special offers. The key for promoted posts is to create a Facebook app tab page (landing page) for people to provide their contact information. This is a great strategy for building a list of and generating leads directly from Facebook. SMBs can also access analytics with data about posts (e.g., interaction levels, comments, negative feedback), including how many people hide a post. This can be used to determine which posts are creating the most engagement and generating real leads.

SMBs need to be focused on the prize. Facebook is big, frustrating and unpredictable and will continue to make updates to it news feed and ad models, bu the company is not going away. In fact, they will be more important over time with the introduction of Graph Search – so businesses should make sure they have a presence and create the right social signals to stand out from competitors in their local market.

chrisChris Marentis is the founder and CEO of Surefire Social, a provider of local digital marketing services for SMBs.  He previously served as CEO of Clearspring Technologies (now Add This) and senior vice president of AOL’s Interactive Marketing group.