What's new for Facebook? Instant articles, live video, reactions and how to use them

“Have you heard about that latest Facebook change?”

A question that is often asked when social media is part of your job, and pretty regularly if you’re a ‘normal’ Facebook user anyway. They are busy bees over in California rolling out tweaks and changes on a regular basis to improve the site and keep us marketers on our toes.

We’ve collected up some of the recent and important changes to Facebook in this latest round-up. Next time a colleague or client asks you what’s changed, you’ll have an answer for them immediately! Has anything changed since I wrote this? Tweet us what's new and how you're getting on with the new features.

Facebook Reactions 

Now you don’t have to like the fact that your friend’s dog died, you can be sad about it instead. Facebook reactions rolled out in late February with ‘Love, Haha, Sad and Angry’ to accompany the default ‘Like’ option.  

On the brand pages we manage we saw uptake on reactions was high at first but soon dropped off in late March and April as the novelty wore off.  This analysis shows that Love was the most popular new reaction initially, followed by the angry reaction – but the vast majority of reactions (76%) are still likes.

Apart from analysing how your fans feel about a post, how else can you use Facebook reactions?

  • Find more sophisticated user feedback – want to know what they think of a new product or service? Ask people to use the reactions to gauge their opinion, it is easier and quicker than commenting so you may find a greater uptake
  • Competitor analysis – how do people feel about your competitors? Before you could see the quantity of likes, shares and comments they received on their page, but now you can see if people particularly love certain updates or products, or if they really failed at something!
  • Use topical content with temporary reactions – Facebook added a flower icon for Mother’s Day (in the USA) for just 48 hours, and may well use this again for other events. You could run competitions where people enter using a temporary reaction, or ask your fans to experiment with a new reaction on your updates.

Facebook Live Video

Hot on the heels of Periscope, Facebook fully launched Live Video at their April F8 conference, after testing it with larger pages in late 2015. We’ve enjoyed seeing people like Jamie Oliver use it to share tips for the perfect Christmas dinner and gone behind the scenes with BBC Sport (below).

Now it is open to everyone we’re seeing more inventive uses of the platform to reach fans in a way that is more immediate and exclusive.

To get started select the live video icon in the status update section and start your stream, each live stream can be a maximum of 30 minutes long. 

How can you use it? No matter how large or small your audience, Facebook could help you build a better relationship with your fans. Use it to host Live Q&As for services, product demonstrations or to tease a new product.

This behind the scenes video from Olive Magazine is an easy way to tease the next issue's recipes as well as giving the reader a snapshot into everyday life there. 

There are a few important rules to remember before you embark on live video:

  • Test thoroughly. Film a few videos ‘normally’ using the device you will use for Facebook Live, this makes sure your lighting and sound levels are good and you’ve got a hang of the controls
  • Announce it well in advance. Post about it a few days before, the day before and then an hour before the broadcast so people know to attend. People will also receive a notification that you’re live if they follow you
  • Assign a moderator. When you’re live remember to assign someone to monitor comments for questions and to moderate spam or abusive messages in the live stream. Facebook allows you to easily block these accounts and stop them ruining your stream.
  • Pin the video to the top. Once the stream is over the video will also be available for those who missed out. Remind people that they can do this at the end of the video, and in any follow up posts too. Have a newsletter or a Twitter feed? Give it a mention there.

Update: Facebook live map! Facebook have just today (19 May) introduced a live map which allows you to view public live video across the world. It is just available on desktop for now, find it on the left side bar or at facebook.com/livemap.  

Just click on the blue dots to find a video, or choose from popular videos on the left hand side.


The end of the 20% text rule for ads?

If you regularly use Facebook Ads Manager, like us, you’ll be really familiar with the frustrating but necessary 20% text rule for adverts. Facebook recently relaxed the way this rule works, making it easier in some ways for advertisers and not in others.

If you include more than 20% of text on an advert image your ad will not be rejected, but it may reach fewer people. Facebook still prefers as little text as possible, so ads that keep to 20% of text or less will be shown to more people.

Are you thinking that this is all a bit pointless? It isn’t entirely. From Facebook’s point of view it means more people will advertise with them, as fewer ads will be rejected. For advertisers, it encourages to experiment with text on ads but still use best practice.

The best thing to do? Stick to using 20% text or less and your ad will be favoured by Facebook and shown to more people, as IELTS Official do here (right).

Find out more about this change on Facebook, and then carry on as you were… 

Facebook Instant Articles

image credit:  Facebook

image credit: Facebook

If you’re really focused on content, for example if you run a popular blog or a news website, you should talk to your developer about instant articles. Designed to keep the article within Facebook, they allow users to quickly read articles without leaving the app – load time is ten times faster than a web page.

Facebook says that 20% more articles are read if they are instant and readers are 70% less likely to abandon the article mid-way through. People can also like and share the post within in the article and see other articles from your site at the bottom of the page. Videos will also autoplay and readers can easily expand and zoom into photos to see more detail.

As always, it is probably more likely to improve your reach if you use Instant Articles, as you’ll be rewarded for good behaviour by Facebook. You need to register your interest and then make changes to your website (there is a WordPress plugin too) before you start publishing articles.

What are the downsides? The stripped-back design means that readers won’t see additional features on your site, like email sign up forms or calls to action. They are also likely to see Facebook adverts embedded in your article, some of which may not match the content you’ve published.  

There’s even more…

There were a slew of new features that came out of Facebook’s F8 conference in April, some of which are worth a mention including:

If Facebook’s 10 year roadmap is anything to go by, they’re not shy about making more changes. These changes might be mainly for the benefit of publishers and social media managers (the bill payers!) but they're also sold as new benefits for users. 

What next for Facebook?

For us, we’re testing out live video with our clients and look forward to working on many projects using it in the future. We’re hoping reactions see a little more uptake, as they can make the experience more fun, but we think Facebook need to make some changes to the user experience.

Longer term, the Facebook experience may become too intrusive for some people. Adverts in messenger and messages from brands may just be a step too far for some people – would it be fore you?

Get social media strategy from Sookio

If you need to refresh your Facebook strategy or need advice on creating content which gets your followers commenting, liking and sharing, talk to us now.