Typical Facebook. You wait for a new or significant change to emerge and then all of a sudden, a number of them are revealed at once. It has a habit of announcing new features shortly
after it holds a major event like its new page redesign. Now that's been followed by a number of new additions and changes to desktop, mobile and its advertising product, which you may or may not have kept up with. Since it's been an eventful month for the social media network, here's what you need to know.
Cover Photos Now Allow Calls To Action
Facebook has run a pretty tight ship in the last few years. In a bid to get more advertising revenue from users, it's relied a lot more on pages using sponsored stories and ads to build up their fan count. This meant clamping down on other areas. It made these ads the only prominent way of promoting your page. This is still the case now, but Facebook has become less stringent with the rules governing cover photos by updating its guidelines
Originally spotted by Hugh Briss of Social Identities and Andrea Vahl of Grandma Mary - Social Media Edutainer, the new guidelines came into effect on March 6th.
Originally the guidelines regarding cover photos said:
"All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can't be deceptive, misleading or infringe on anyone else's copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.
Covers may not include
i. images with more than 20% text;
ii. price or purchase information, such as '40% off' or "download it on socialmusic.com";
iii. contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go into your Page's 'About' section;
iv. references to Facebook features or actions, such as 'Like' or 'Share' or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
v. calls to action, such as 'Get it now' or 'Tell your friends'"
Now if you check Facebook's page guidelines, the majority of this has been removed so that it reads as such.
"All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can't be deceptive, misleading or infringe on anyone else's copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Covers may not include images with more than 20% text."
In short, rules ii. to v. have been removed from the guidelines entirely giving cover photo content a bit of breathing space. This, for one, is a welcome change for marketers who may have felt constrained and can now be more experimental with their covers. The change ties into the new Facebook redesign which brings cover photos to the news feed, placing a greater focus on them as a result. The image below is what it looks like in the current (old) format.
The real reason was likely because so many pages kept breaking the rules by having call to actions in the first place. Because there are so many pages and businesses that aren't aware of the rules, Facebook probably decided it would be easier to ease the rules instead of trying to police it.
However, before people get too excited, the 20% rule is still there meaning that you're still limited with what you can include. If you need help with your cover photo, this handy tool will show you (roughly) how much text you can fit into your cover photo, and whether your current image adheres to Facebook's guidelines.
Introducing Lookalike Audiences
Following on from cover photo rules, one feature that Facebook announced last week was the introduction of lookalike audiences
, a targeting feature that Facebook says will help advertisers reach new customers and grow their business.
The idea is that through this, you will be able to reach audiences who share similar characteristics to your current audience such as interests and demographics. The larger the customer list you load up, the more accurate the results will be. There are also ways to optimise your lookalike audience but the more specific your search, the less accurate your results will be.
Currently available to all power editors, users can just select the audiences tab from the left menu of Power Editor. According to Inside Facebook, there is no additional cost for creating or using a lookalike audience, but the targeting is only available for ad campaigns, not page post targeting.
FB Messenger Calls Expand
In a move to take on apps like WhatsApp and Viber, Facebook introduced free calls to its U.S. users. Now UK users will get a slice of the action as it's introduced over there too. Considering that Messenger is available on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, it immediately makes communication between users in the U.S., Canada and the UK easier.
It removes the hassle of building up connections on similar services since you're already connected to your friends. Early reports have been positive so it remains to be seen whether Facebook will end up displacing its competitors over the long term.
While this doesn't have any immediate benefit for marketers, the expansion shows just how serious Facebook is about mobile and how far it will go to become the dominant service across all platforms.
Another feature revealed by The Wall Street Journal recently
, Facebook is currently experimenting with hashtags in the news feed. Working in a similar way to Twitter and Google+, it's expected that the feature will help group conversations and topics together. Considering how difficult a time Facebook has in finding relevant posts and status updates, this would provide an easier way to search the site and give Facebook a better way to graph post updates.
The other obvious area which such a feature would help is with advertising. The potential is there for it to introduce a system similar to what Twitter uses with Promoted Tweets. As always, the possible introduction of a new feature on Facebook will always be followed with talk of advertising, but since Facebook hasn't officially confirmed anything yet, this will mostly be speculation.
If it is introduced, following a similar strategy to Google+ would work best since it shares a similar format to Facebook. Whether these hashtag search results will be listed on relevance, chronologically, or both remains to be seen.
Another feature that was announced back in November, Facebook is now rolling out threaded comments to pages. With the only criteria being each page needs more than 10,000 followers, pages can opt-in to the service if they wish.
Considering the format, it's to help page managers deal with large number of comments as well as allow users to understand the context to each comment if necessary. This way, its easier to follow the conversation, and it ensures that people see the best comments instead of them being buried at the start.