“The future is private.” This was the overwhelming theme used by Zuckerberg and co. when talking about Facebook’s new direction at their F8 developer conference. With it all said and done, it’s now evident that Facebook is getting possibly the biggest facelift in its 15-year history. The updates to Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook’s core services are an attempt to revitalise the company after a tumultuous two years of controversies and allegations that were factors in the decline of their News Feed popularity.
Regardless, the social media juggernaut that is the Facebook umbrella isn’t going anywhere soon. Each of their big 3 platforms is getting tweaked, each with their own set of ripple effects in the digital space.
Facebook and Facebook Messenger
“People want Facebook to feel less like a town square and more like a living room.” Facebook updated the famous Bill Gates quote to illustrate their changed core values. No longer are they focused on connecting the world, but rather on groups and one-on-one interaction.
The News Feed will still be present, but these elements will now take a more prominent role in the attempt to connect more like-minded people in a small group or one-on-one setting. Resulting in the continued decline of the News Feed as we know it.
This is where the Messenger updates come into play. They are working to: “make Messenger the fastest private communication app on the entire planet.” Coining the effort as “Lightspeed”, the app will now load content in two seconds or less, encouraging developers to build new faster and lighter chatbots.
Even though group and Messenger ads are in the testing phase, a new lead-generation template is being added. These templates let advertisers use Messenger to get customers to interact with the app before being directed to a human representative or chatbot.
The Messenger URL service m.me is also getting an upgrade. Developers can now add these links to their websites and mobile apps that redirect users to the Messenger app following a click from an email or website. This will allow for more sophisticated marketing and plug into CRM and automated software that could rival email and direct mail marketing.
Another feature is end-to-end encryption. This is something that is already being used on WhatsApp and essentially means that information is highly encrypted to everyone except for the sender and receiver. This will have a slight impact on the targeted marketing options that has made Facebook so powerful.
In addition, Facebook Messenger will have a desktop app for both Windows and MacOs and will also give businesses the opportunity to do appointment booking through Messenger.
These updates are important because it begins a fundamental change to how Facebook will be used. There is still limited detail on how ads will work in groups and on Messenger. While it’s uncertain if it will be on the same scale, businesses will have more resources for customer interaction.
The News Feed is still long from being gone, so there is no need to change your entire PPC strategy to group ads, but it something that needs to begin to be implemented.
Facebook continues to use WhatsApp as a guinea pig for their move into e-commerce. More people have a WhatsApp account than a bank account in some countries as it allows for easy money exchanging. Facebook has been experimenting with cryptocurrencies that have largely been for remittances, but it appears they may now be attempting to adopt it into business transactions.
WhatsApp Business will now feature a Product Catalogue that allows for businesses to showcase their products to potential customers. Evolving the WhatsApp business prowess may be a key future building block as Facebook will need to make up for lost ad revenue from its News Feed. What better place to start than on the most used messaging tool on the planet?
It’s still unknown if there will be payment features on the app, but it is clear they are attempting to make WhatsApp into a mobile e-commerce app. The effectiveness of WhatsApp will depend on your region, as its popularity varies from country to country.
But from a digital marketing perspective, this could illustrate a major shift in customer communication and e-commerce potential. This will likely take some time and will be important to keep tabs on its development.
Instagram announced they are working on making the platform more intimate and less interruptive. Their plan is to shift focus to stories while making follower counts less prominent and even hiding like counts altogether.
This is a move to combat research that says Instagram is “the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing.” In the long run, this could impact the way users interact with posts and engagement rates, but for now, likes will still serve in the algorithm for ranking purposes. While some of this is still in the testing phase, it is an area worth keeping an eye on.
As another source for revenue, they also announced a Shop From Creators feature. Influencers have an amazing amount of cultural currency on Instagram. Similar to product tags, users can now easily buy products their favourite Instagrammers are rocking all without leaving the app.
There is also a new fundraiser option in the form of a story sticker. Instagram says,” You can create a fundraiser and mobilize your community around a cause you care about, with 100% of the money raiser on Instagram going to the nonprofit you’re supporting.”
These updates are important because Instagram users tend to be more socially aware and aligned with what brands and users stand for. There are now increased options for promotions and social proof through your accounts. However, engagement is a major metric for social media and it’s still unclear how the hiding of likes will impact future engagement.
Your first step is to apply for your Facebook business page to be approved for subscription messaging. Without this approval, you will be unable to send subscription messages and instead will have to pay to send sponsored messages.
Applications need to be sent in NOW as you need to be approved by July 31 to have access to this feature!
While Messenger received probably the biggest change, Facebook is still in the process of integrating its 3 major platforms under one infrastructure. But they appear to be well on their way to creating more of a “digital living room” for their users while also allowing for strong marketing opportunities.
These are major moves that greatly impact the future of the company. It is still up in the air if these changes are genuinely to make a safer online environment, or just a facade to clean up their reputation. Other than completing your application, there is also no need to jump the gun, as these changes may take some time to fully take effect.
Nevertheless, they are important to take into consideration and provide new tools for your digital marketing repertoire.