We’re fresh off the heels of Facebook’s annual F8 Conference, and the platform left us with some big news.
Here’s what you need to know.
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It’s been a big year for Facebook.
Lately, the platform’s been making all the wrong kind of news, and their efforts at damage control extended to this year’s F8.
The first major announcement was good news for brands: the App Review process is back, so developers are free to begin creating apps again.
Then the conversation moved to security and Facebook’s attempts to protect users by screening harmful accounts and deploying anti-bullying measures.
Throughout, the message remained clear: Facebook is centered around its user experience, and the majority of its new features are designed to make the platform a simpler, more enjoyable place to be.
Here are some of the bigger announcements from the F8 Conference.
Facebook’s coming for dating services.
The platform has a knack for capitalizing on other social ideas – Facebook Marketplace, Instagram Stories, etc. – and now, it’s looking to take on the dating scene.
Granted, this may not help your marketing strategy, but it’s certainly one of the F8 announcements people will be talking about for a long time to come.
Here’s what we know so far:
This isn’t a separate app; instead, it will live inside the traditional Facebook platform.
Users interested in taking part in the dating service will need to create separate profiles. This will be accessed through a user’s existing profile, but other dating service users will only see the specially crafted profile.
People will be matched based on existing interests and locations, and will also match users based on “unlocked” groups and events on Facebook. If you unlock the same group or event, you can connect.
The service will have its own messenger service, and won’t borrow from the existing Messenger or WhatsApp. Users will only be allowed to send one message (text only; no photos or videos allowed) until the recipient replies.
Facebook plans to offer this service for free. No official launch time has been announced, but Facebook hopes to begin testing the feature in the coming months.
Clear History Function
It’s no secret that Facebook’s found itself in some hot water regarding privacy concerns.
In a continuous attempt to rectify the situation, Facebook announced its intention to release a Clear History tool:
“This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward.”
Traditionally, Facebook would use this information to better serve users personalized content and ads. Clearing the content will remove any websites or apps associated with your account.
This one, while likely popular among users, may change the game yet again for advertisers. Historically, they’ve relied on Facebook’s detailed collections of user information to curate and target ads to a highly qualified audience.
Facebook does note that they will continue to deliver analytic reports to websites and apps; it cites the example of aggregating reports that tell developers things like whether their app is more popular with men or women.
Facebook stresses it can still deliver these analytics without storing the information.
Whether or not this will affect advertiser’s overall targeting abilities remains to be seen.
Messenger Introduces Augmented Reality
Here’s some good news for business: a new augmented reality feature will allow brands to use the Camera Effects in Messenger.
It works something like this: when a user interacts with a brand via Messenger, the brand can suggest that the user open their camera. The camera will have augmented reality filters from that brand, and users will be encouraged to take and share photos with the given filter.
This may sound familiar. That’s because it works very similarly to Snapchat’s branded filters.
Like filters, users will be able to overlay 2D and 3D images animations over their photos and videos.
Facebook says the feature is designed to help online shoppers visualize products before purchasing. The ability to see an AR version of the product – as well as share it to receive feedback from friends and family – will help users make more confident purchasing decisions.
The feature will be launching in beta, with brands including Nike, Sephora, Kia, and ASUS using AR features available at the launch.
Sephora’s using the feature to let users try on makeup, while Nike is using it to debut its new line of shoes.
Businesses interested in trying the service can join the waitlist.
F8 Conference: Messenger Redesign
In addition to some new features, Messenger’s getting a makeover.
Essentially, the redesign will bring things back to basics. Not only will it simplify the experience for users, but redesign will make the app faster.
Of late, the app had become over -complicated with an array of features including games.
The new look will feature just three navigational buttons at the bottom of the screen, with the camera and video chat icons remaining at the top right.
Sharing to Stories
Stories are quickly becoming the go-to format for social. Viewers love them, and brands are quickly catching up.
Over 300 million Stories are shared a day on Instagram alone, and over 50% of businesses on the platform have produced a Story.
Now, Facebook is making it easier than ever to share Stories by enabling users to share content from third-party apps directly to their Stories.
Instagram explains on its blog:
“From a sticker of your new favorite song on Spotify to action shots from GoPro, it’s now easy to share what you’re up to or how you’re feeling by posting directly to Instagram Stories from other apps…Just tap the share button in the Spotify or GoPro app and your content is pulled directly into the Instagram camera. From there you can edit and add to your story or send it via Direct.”
Your Instagram or Facebook account will not have to be connected to other apps to share Stories.
F8 Conference: Groups Tab Announcement
In his keynote speech, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that 1.4 billion people use Facebook Groups every month.
Due to its popularity, Facebook will be giving Groups its very own tab in the news feed navigation. This will allow users and group managers to more easily access and monitor their groups.
Additionally, they will be developing a “join group” button that group creators can use on websites, email, etc. to help build the community. This will work similarly to adjusting “share” widgets and should get the wheels turning for marketing strategists everywhere.
The announcement only furthers the thought that Groups are one of the more effective ways for brands to connect with customers and followers.
As algorithm updates continue to kill organic reach for Business Pages, Groups represent a way to connect with the audiences that matter most for your business.
So if you haven’t already, now’s the time to start thinking about what your brand can offer a group setting. For ideas on starting and managing a Facebook Group, click here.
Facebook Watch Parties
Watching something is always more enjoyable with friends, right?
Facebook seems to think so, and plans to launch their own Facebook Watch feature.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new feature while poking a little fun at himself: “Let’s say that your friend is testifying before Congress. “Now, you’ll be able to bring your friends together, laugh together, cry together.”
Watch Party will work with the platforms extremely popular Live video format.
This is another one that could be big for brands. Like Groups, Live videos represent a valuable way to connect with customers and create engagement around their content.
As of now, Facebook Live videos are watched 3x longer than videos that aren’t live, and users comment on Facebook Live videos at 10x the rate of regular videos.
With the new Watch Party feature, brands can likely encourage their followers to form their own Watch Parties and interact with each other as they watch the brand video.
Few details regarding the Watch feature are currently available, so stay tuned.
F8 Conference: Instagram Updated Explore Page
Facebook Messenger isn’t the only feature getting a makeover.
Instagram announced its plan to revamp its Explore Page during the F8 Conference.
The redesign is intended to improve discovery for users and better organize its content categories. Suggestions will be organized into channels based on users interests.
Previously, the Explore page featured a scrollable format that showed groups of photos or videos based on common themes tied to a user’s activity.
The new page will instead feature buttons in a horizontal row which all users to navigate between topics more easily.
Clicking on one of the buttons will reveal a set of related hashtags to make it easier for users to follow hashtags.
This is clearly a big improvement for Instagram users and could prove beneficial for brands as well – as long as they’ve identified the proper content categories and hashtags that best fit their brand.
Instagram Video Chat
Thanks to the incredible popularity of Live video, Instagram is taking its video features a step further with Video Chat.
The new feature will allow users to talk one-on-one or with a small group of people directly through the platform.
It will work similarly to sending Direct Messages. Simply tap the camera icon at the top of a Direct Thread and the video will start, and continue as long as Instagram is open, which means you can minimize the video and continue scrolling through your Instagram feed.
It remains to be seen if brands can capitalize on the new feature. One possibility that it could potentially open another opportunity for more direct and personal customer service between brands and their audience, though it’s not yet clear if the video chat feature will be available for brand accounts.
Group Video Chat will also be available for WhatsApp.
Concluding the F8 Conference
Despite recent drama, Facebook clearly has a bright future.
By emphasizing security and the user experience, they’re working to secure the trust of the people who matter the most: the fans.
What all this means for brands remains to be seen. While few new announcements will affect brands directly, they should be excited about features like Groups tabs and buttons and Stories enhancements.
As always, time will tell. Stay tuned.