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How Facebook’s F8 2019 Conference impacts your ad strategy

Yesterday developers and advertisers got very excited about Mark ‘the Zuck’ Zuckerberg’s F8 2019 Developers conference speech. Setting aside the regular whooping, high fives and canned laughter that is the default for such events, let’s take a look at the changes to Facebook that might impact your digital strategy.

The big one – a new interface.

Facebook have completely redesigned both the desktop and mobile interfaces.  They’re now using much more white space, there’s a lot less blue and they’ve designed somethings that has more in common with messenger and Instagram than ever before.  The desktop revision is likely to land in the next couple of months and will be slowly rolled out, while US users get the newly designed app today and the rest of the world won’t be left waiting long.

This is likely to cause the normal uproar that we see when users of a free system experience change.  Twitter will, no doubt, go in to meltdown with angry people who are simply change averse.  It’s unlikely however, that the interface change will impact usage, engagement or general use levels.  Users will complain and then they’ll get on with doing whatever they do on Facebook.

The important one – privacy

Facebook have been stung by the criticism they’ve been receiving in the last couple of years.  From Congressional hearings and fake news to Cambridge Analytica’s data misappropriation and on to hate speech fuelled genocide in Myanmar, they’ve acquired up quite the rap sheet in the last couple of years.  The announcements they made around improved privacy were more than a little overdue and utterly necessary.

“Today” the Zuck proudly proclaimed “we’re going to talk about building a privacy-focused social platform.” before making this rather awkward joke.

Facebook strategy here is to move away from what they describe as ‘town square’ content to more private communications.  Much of which centres on groups and Messenger.

For Facebook advertisers, this could be a big change.  Certainly the move away from the traditional news feed is going to impact a lot of ad strategies and there’s undoubtedly going to be some changes to audiences, interests and other targeting options.  Now is the time to look at other ad options if the news feed has been your staple.

Messenger

With the changes to the main Facebook UI and the increased emphasis on Messenger as a part of the Facebook suite, then a revised desktop interface was inevitable and no surprise.  It will now exist as a desktop app for Windows and Mac – so no more leaving a browser tab open all of the time.

The Zuck plans to make Messenger the “fastest messaging app on the planet” and the revised version will be much faster than the current app.  They’re also bringing in ephemeral content with self-destructing messages.  It will also connect to and allow messaging with Whatsapp and Instagram users.

Advertisers can expect a new set of Lead Gen for Messenger ads to get to grips with.  In a more personalised and one-to-one platform like Messenger, then this should be a welcome addition for advertisers, many of whom have struggled to achieve cut-through in this space.  An Appointment Experience has also been rolled out which will allow users to be book a slot with, for instance their hairdresser.

Groups

This change to Facebook puts groups front and centre in the revised UI and experience.  Cynics might say that this is a move by Facebook to distance themselves from the suggestion that they’re more than a content platform.  Facebook will tell you that they are focusing on creating more engaged and personal experiences.

The new UI will allow users to share their posts directly to groups now, rather than just their own profile.

This fresh emphasis on Groups will, no doubt, lead to more brand driven group activity, so if you’ve not developed a strategy that includes Groups, now is your time.

Facebook trialled ads for Groups back in late 2016 and it didn’t really go anywhere and it was never fully rolled out.  There have been other hints that they’ll enable this as an advertiser function but at the moment, they’re staying pretty tight-lipped.  Apparently, it ‘could change in the future’ but they’re emphasising the customer experience at the moment. It will almost certainly become an option, so be prepared for it when it drops.

Instagram

The Instagram presentation opened with shopping and it was far from a surprise.  Users are going to find it easier to buy and find products on Instagram and there will be a new shopping channel in Explore that lets users purchase directly from creators.

Creators and brands will now have access to a new system that allows them to include shoppable tags in their posts, rather than having to rely on third party workaround services or sharing links in their bios.  Instagram will take a percentage of sales here, so watch your numbers carefully.

Facebook are also committed to making Instagram less of a competition and more like “a place where you’re safe and supported”.  Canadian users will see Like counts and video views hidden from their main feed.  This information will only be available to the account owner.

Instagram will allow influencers to tag products in this feature too.  In a space where performance metrics can be a little opaque at the best of times, Instagram are introducing ‘shared insights’ that allow creators and brands to track performance.  This will be a welcome addition for brands who are looking to understand the true power of influence.

Whatsapp

Hands up if you remember The Zuck telling us that there were no plans to include ads in Whatsapp?  No-one believed him back then and yesterday we got another look at how advertisers can harness the reach of Whatsapp.

The presentation was a particularly cutesy, warm representation of a baker selling cupcakes and introduced Whatsapp Product Catalogues.  If you’re a business owner with the Whatsapp business app or API then you can promote your wares to potential customers through Whatsapp and they can purchase directly through the app.  A business catalogue is also being added, allowing users to directly message a company.

Whatsapp Product Catalogues are being rolled out in India to a testbed of over 1.5m users.  Expect this to land in your app soon if the trial goes well.

Facebook had to do something to revamp and reposition itself.  It absolutely wanted to stop being the focus of all digital ire and rage and they’ll be hoping that these changes are enough to keep brands investing and users engaging.  These changes are going to require advertisers to shift their strategies and focus more than ever on reflecting how consumers now behave online.

There’s no denying the fact that Facebook’s recent calamities have rocked user confidence in the social network and while its grip on people’s lives is unlikely to loosen these changes are designed to win back nervy users.  This can only be good for brands and advertisers – after all, a trusted platform will generate far more opportunities to engage in a trusted way with customers.

If you need help with your Facebook strategy, or anything else digital, why not give us a call.

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