May 03 Strategy Note: Facebook F8 2019
This week, Facebook held its annual developers conference to announce the road map for their suite of products and platforms. The predominant message from Mark Zuckerberg’s opening keynote: “the future is private.” The focus of the F8 announcements supported this statement and how Facebook is building a more privacy-focused social platform. With this direction, there was an emphasis on Groups, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Additionally, Facebook is rebuilding their infrastructure to support their privacy vision. Zuckerberg outlined six key areas that they are incorporating into their products: 1) Private interactions 2) End-to-end encryptions 3) Reduce permanence 4) Safety 5) Interoperability 6) Secure data storage
Snapshot of the Updates
App Redesign & Focus on Groups
You may have already noticed that your Facebook app looks different. The platform has already started pushing updates live and moving to a cleaner look (white background) and a layout that is similar to their mobile app. The redesign, called FB5, is also prioritizing a focus on your communities and groups. The new Groups tab will now show a personalized feed of activity across all the groups you’re a member of and recommend similar groups based on your interests. Facebook will be showing more Group content in News Feeds (hinting at a probable algorithm tweak). Facebook is also introducing an opt-in ‘Meet New Friends’ feature which aims to help people start friendships with members of their shared communities and expanding Facebook Dating.
New Tools for Groups
- Health support—members can post questions and share information anonymously
- Job groups—will have a new template for employers to share job posts
- Buy & sell groups—let buyers easily ask questions and place orders without leaving a Facebook live broadcast
Messenger is an important part of Facebook’s move to more private communication. Facebook announced several updates to Messenger to be fast, reliable, and secure:
- Faster and more reliable experience—Facebook is rebuilding Messenger to be 2x faster and 7x smaller than other leading messaging platforms.
- Desktop App—a downloadable desktop app for Windows & Macs will be available later this year which could create a better experience for community managers responding to direct messages.
- Connecting with close friends—there will be a dedicated space to share messages and Stories with close friends and families. This is similar to what Instagram has recently rolled out, as well.
- Lead Generation Templates—businesses can easily create an ad that drives people from their News feed to a Messenger chat with an automated question and answer flow. They are also testing a booking feature that will integrate with a business’s calendar, so users can book open time slots.
The most important update regarding WhatsApp is a product catalog for WhatsApp Business. The catalog will allow consumers to easily see what is available from a brand. This is especially important for small businesses that may not have a web presence. WhatsApp also touched on Status being even more popular than Instagram Stories and Payments being as easy as sharing a photo.
There were several big announcements for Instagram around connecting people with their interests, improving safety, and the future of shopping. They are also testing a new profile design that would make follower count less prominent and making like counts on content private.
Connecting People with their Interests
Instagram is updating their camera. They are adding a Create Mode, which will enable people to share without a photo or video and more easily access creative tools and interactive stickers. They are also introducing a donation sticker through Stories to create fundraisers around causes you care about. They clarify that 100% of the money raised on Instagram will go to the non-profit you are supporting.
Instagram is trying to address bullying more broadly. They are testing comment filters, an away mode to opt-out of Instagram during sensitive times and additional safety features to improve.
Future of Shopping
One of the biggest announcements was the ability to shop from creators. Starting next week, you will be able to tap on the images posted by creators and check out directly on Instagram. This functionality will begin with a small group and expand, just like Instagram’s check out feature.
They also announced the ability for users to discover shoppable posts within the Explore page on Instagram.
Many of Facebook’s products are powered by AI. AI helps proactively detect harmful content and aims to keep the platforms safe. Facebook has made strides, but still has a way to go in terms of natural language processing. They have a new approach, called Panoptic FPN, to use AI to better understand context in the background of photos.
Facebook is also working to reduce bias with AI. They are working on guidelines for inclusivity on dimensions such as skin tone, age and gender presentation and for voice, they include dialect, age and gender.
When it comes to AR/VR, Facebook is building technology around how we naturally interact with people. Since last year’s F8, more than 1 billion people have used AR features on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Portal. Portal will have new functionality and be expanding to additional countries. The new Spark AR studio will support both Windows and Mac and they will be opening the Spark AR creator and developer ecosystem on Instagram. Facebook is also weaving in their inclusive AI process into AR and VR with lifelike avatars.
Finally, Facebook announced and started taking pre-orders on two new virtual reality headsets, the Oculus Quest and the Oculus Rift S.
Implications for Brands
- Groups will become more important: With the redesign and likely algorithm updates, Groups are going to be prioritized within Facebook. More brands may create Facebook Groups to build and foster a community that was once happening on their pages. Groups can be activated around product/program launches, events, exclusive content and gather feedback from users.
- Brand Implication: Start considering the role groups play for your brand, and whether creating one makes sense.
- Instagram is the new shopping channel: It’s clear that Facebook is putting bets on Instagram to become a shopping/direct eCommerce channel. However, with Instagram charging a transaction fee for this frictionless experience, brand’s will individually need to determine whether utilizing these features will be in their best interest.
- Brand Implication: Since this feature isn’t widely available yet, it’s a good idea to continue crafting content that could be used for future shoppable posts. Getting your channel in shape now will put you in a good position to test the effectiveness of the check-out feature when it becomes more widely available.
- Messenger will be a bigger focus: With Facebook rebuilding Messenger, we anticipate them pushing this platform hard for brands. The new desktop app and improved speed and reliability is good news for community managers and customer service representatives. Once out of beta, the lead generation templates in Messenger are worth testing as it allows for a simple Q&A to get better insight on what customers are looking for.
- Brand Implication: Keep an eye out for testing opportunities on Messenger. With Facebook offering even more ad placement opportunities on this channel, brands may be rewarded for testing and learning on this channel.
- Stories are the priority: Instagram’s new camera and Create Mode and Facebook’s redesign shows they are prioritizing this content type over the news feed. Stories should be a part of your regular cadence at this point. The Create Mode will take some of the pressure off content creators to start a Story with an image or video. However, these new interactive features mean that brands will need to step up their story game in order to stand out.
- Brand Implication: Take another look at the cadence of Story content for your brand and look to integrate the Create mode.
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