2016 promises to be a big year for Facebook. Not content with simply sticking with their current winning formula as the largest social media network, they’ve got some big plans to evolve the network into your main hub for your every digital need.
We look at the key features they are expanding on to cement their dominant position.
Facebook Live expanding to the rest of the world
In August last year, Facebook launched their Live feature as part of their Mentions app. Facebook Live allows users to post a live broadcast feed to their own profiles, with others being able to comment on the feed in real time. The video will then be posted permanently to the account after it has been completed.
On launch this feature was only available to public figures with verified profiles, then expanded to all verified Facebook profiles. In December 2015 came the announcement that Live would be rolling out to personal profiles, starting with a limited amount of users in the US with iPhones. That has since increased to all iPhone users in America.
What does this mean for Facebook? A significant increase of video content for their platform (which has made significant gains already in the last two years – from 1 billion video views daily in 2013, to a staggering 8 billion today).
And this also makes them a serious competitor in the live video streaming market, going up against apps like Meerkat and Periscope. How popular is live video streaming exactly? On Periscope alone, 350,000 hours of video content is streamed on a daily basis.
Improving their search functionality
Chances are that you read an amazing post from one of the company pages you follow, but that was a few weeks back and you want to read it again. In the past you might have had some trouble finding that older content (I know I have), but Facebook has now upped its search functionality to find content more easily.
Appearing on company pages is a new search bar. It’s located directly underneath the page’s profile image. You’ll be able to find all content on a particular subject now within a page. This feature is still rolling out across the globe, so don’t be worried if you can’t access it yet.
Also, if you’re looking for companies who are offering specific services, you can now use Facebook Services. This lists all company pages on Facebook, and allows you to find businesses close to you, in any category.
Mobile / Facebook Commerce
Over the last few years there has been a monumental shift to accessing the internet via mobile devices. In the US alone, mobile searches accounted for 23% of all search traffic back in Q3 2013. In Q4 2015 mobile searches accounted for 43% of all search traffic.
With this increased traffic, came a need to simplify the shopping experience. In 2014 Facebook started testing a “Buy Now” button for users to buy products via Facebook. Last year they added a “shop” section to test for company pages – adding an entire shopping section to a page.
If you find products on Facebook you want to buy, there will generally be a link to e-commerce website or app for you to complete a sales conversion. But with adding the shopping functionality, you’ll be part of the plan to….
Keep everybody on Facebook
For mobile, you’ve probably noticed that not all linked content takes you outside Facebook to the original source. A large amount of content is now actually hosted by Facebook itself via Instant Articles.
Which is great news for users, as the content loads much quicker. But Facebook have also added more functionality to these posts, with autoplay videos, audio captions for images, interactive maps and more.
You’ll recognise Instant Articles by the lightning icon displayed on the link images on the top right.
Companies have access to formatting and layout options to produce articles that comply with their branding guidelines.
The only real negative we foresee is that as a website owner, you’ll experience a loss in site traffic. But by eliminating the slower linking process, and utilising the Instant Articles features it could result in more overall exposure.
If coupled with the upcoming sales functionality mentioned earlier, it could mean even more for you in terms of sales.
In recent years the organic reach of Facebook post has been slowly decreasing. Marshall Manson coined the term Facebook Zero for this trend back in March 2014.
He predicted that organic reach would eventually hit zero, with paid advertising being the only the way that a company could reach its followers.
We’re approaching the point at which advertising is going to be a company’s only choice if they want to reach out to their targeted audience.
The main positive you can take here is that via Facebook’s advertising, you can reach the exact audience you want to target – the targeting options are staggering. From the simple location and sex options, to the more intricate industry, education and interests choices, you can reach anybody you want. A few simple examples:
You’re promoting your new football app for iOS, and want to target Apple users in the UK.
Messenger for Business
In April 2015, Facebook announced that it was completely removing their Messenger service from the main Facebook app. It could only be accessed via its standalone app. Facebook saw it as a sub-optimal experience and wanted to focus on improving the service outside of the main app.
Which has paid off. Facebook Messenger now has over 800 million subscribers, second only to Whatsapp (Facebook’s other message service).
In March 2015 it was announced that Facebook would be developing means for businesses to interact with their customers using the Messenger Platform. This will allow companies to connect with their customers after they have completed a transaction.
Imagine sending a customer personalised updates on the status of their order. And as a user, you can communicate with a business on a more personal basis.
One of the first companies to utilise Messenger for Business, is Uber. You can now organise a taxi by simply searching for the company on Messenger, and tapping the car icon. A car will be sent to your location, and you’ll receive updates on the driver’s status.
While many of Facebook’s new features aren’t new to the industry, it is cementing their status as the app to have for everything – as opposed to having multiples apps for different purposes.
And with other social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn floundering, you might not have a reason to ever leave Facebook.