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Facebook revamps newsfeed with mobile-first approach, opening up opportunities for marketers

In a reflection of the important role that mobile plays in how consumers access content these days, Facebook's newly redesigned newsfeed is heavily influenced by mobile design, even on the desktop.

While advertising was not mentioned in Facebook?s presentation yesterday to introduce the new newsfeed design, many of the features ? including the cross-platform consistency as well as larger images ? could boost marketers? efforts to reach Facebook users on mobile. The mobile user experience and the desktop user experience now look more similar than they previously did.

?In the big picture, what it is saying is that the mobile experience both on smartphones and on tablets is starting to affect the way that people are expecting to be presented with information and interact with information because so much of people?s time these days is spent on mobile devices,? said Roger Katz, CEO of Friend2Friend, Palo Alto, CA.

?Also, because of the proliferation of devices and screen sizes, it is really becoming impossible to do radically different things everywhere,? he said.

?There is going to be more of a drive toward a unified design approach and the use of responsive design in killer applications like Facebook is doing.?

Cross-platform consistency
The newsfeed is the most important element of Facebook?s offering, as company executives themselves acknowledged during the presentation.

When the social network unveiled its new newsfeed design yesterday, executives made sure to point out that the look was mobile-inspired, even the desktop version. The new design started rolling out on a limited basis yesterday.

The overall effect is simpler and cleaner. On the desktop version, there is now a left-hand column with newsfeed posts and a right-hand column for navigation.

The revamp includes a bigger emphasis on images, an important move given that more than 50 percent of the content in the newsfeed is now photos and other visual content compared with 20 percent just a few years ago.

The previews for photo albums, articles and other content now have larger preview images, titles and summaries. For example, when users pin something to Pinterest, the preview in the newsfeed will appear larger.

Users will now be able to choose what they see in the newsfeed, with a selection of tabs appearing at the top that let users select different types of content to view.

For instance, there is a music tab enabling users to see what friends are listening to as well as updates from their favorite artists.

Other tabs include all friends, most recent, close friends, photos, games and following.

Advertising impact
While Facebook did not mention advertising during the presentation, Mr. Katz points out that there did not appear to be any marketplace ads in the slides on display.

?This is telling,? Mr. Katz said.

?In the new world is there really a place for sidebar ads in Facebook?? he said. ?In the new world of social media marketing where it is more about social aspects, content and stories that come to you from your friends and brands that you follow, you are getting information from these social filters.?

With the new design, mobile ads are likely to be focused on various aspects of the newsfeed, with ads that tell a story using visuals and converse with followers, per Mr. Katz. The focus will be more on reaching a targeted audience, with information aligned around subgroups of users.

?Facebook talked about filters where you look at things by just photos or look at things related to music,? Mr. Katz said. ?You might have brands wanting to reach users in that music feed thinking about how they can tell a story or include their brand in a story around music.

?A lot of the memes that are now going around online are around visual cues,? he said. ?Brands have definitely adapted to that form of communication.

?This is just another step towards evolving this whole field of marketing and advertising to what shows it works better in social.?

A better user experience
Until now, the Facebook user experience has been different on mobile than on desktop. As a result, advertisers have had to pay close attention when developing Facebook campaigns to take the different user experiences into account.

With the new redesign, it will be easier for marketers to create cross-platform campaigns.

?It was very dramatic that the user experience was very very similar,? said Todd Herrold, senior director of product marketing for Kenshoo Social, San Francisco. ?The shift of Facebook usage toward mobile is a big factor here.

?They are really maximizing the real estate and making the experience much more visually engaging,? he said.

"The experience of advertising is we can assume is going to follow a lot of the changes they are making with the content. So ads are going to be bigger, more visually-engaging, and you are going to see a lot more video advertising.?

As a result, there is likely to be more consistent interaction rates and levels of engagement across the platform, which could be good for mobile, per Mr. Herrold.

The redesign fits in with Facebook?s desire to increase interaction rates across the platform, including advertising, to drive revenue.

?This is going to make Facebook a lot more money, but also turn Facebook into this always-on, any-device, ubiquitous broadcast channel,? Mr. Herrold said.

?Ads are going to follow the new style of the content and they are going to become that much more engaging and they are going to drive that much more response on mobile and on desktop.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York