Last week, Facebook hosted F8 – one of the biggest events in digital marketing where Facebook unveils its plans for its many platforms including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus.
A major theme for Facebook F8 2019 was privacy, with the company announcing that private interactions, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage are the core focus for this year across all products and platforms. End-to-end encryption is coming to Messenger and Instagram (WhatsApp already uses this), and users will soon be able to securely cross-message between all three messaging platforms.
The company also revealed there would be new upgrades and features for developers using their machine learning tools, including a new AI platform: Ax.
During F8 2019, platform specific updates and plans were also announced.
Facebook has launched a new design, FB5, which has already started to roll out across the Facebook app, and will continue to do so on both the app and desktop version over the next few months. The redesign means a cleaner, faster platform that puts communities at the heart of the user experience, with a push in particular on Groups and Facebook Stories; a new Groups tab presents a personalised feed with posts across all Groups, and new features have been rolled out across groups, while stories feature more prominently on the home page.
Facebook’s focus on Groups might see users move away from the news feed, which could impact organic reach and engagement. However, there is an opportunity here for brands; by creating Facebook groups and communities which offer value to your customers (for example, through exclusive discounts), you can build up better brand rapport and improve engagement. Ensuring that your brand posts high-quality Facebook Stories is also a must, as it’s going to be a focus area for Facebook this year.
A new feature, ‘Create mode’, is being added to Instagram’s camera which will allow users and brands to utilise more interactive content on their stories – augmented reality, polls, quizzes and more. Stories will also be getting donation stickers (so far, just in the US) that allows users to raise money for charities directly through their Instagram stories; 100% of any donations will go directly to the organisation.
An important update that highlights Instagram’s emphasis on s-commerce, is the ability to buy products that creators are wearing/ showing, without needing to leave the app; this means influencers, publishers and brands will no longer need to put product details in the caption or comments as users can just tap on the picture and buy in Instagram.
They’ve also confirmed Instagram is testing hidden likes, so only the individual who posted content can see how many likes it has. This is partly to create an environment that has less pressure on posting the perfect content in order to get likes (rather than content you want to put out), and partly to combat the high number of bots which can be bought to create an elevated sense of engagement.
It will be more important than ever for brands to build up meaningful relationships with creators and influencers; collaborations, ambassador programmes and partnerships will become a route to selling products directly, as well as building product and brand awareness.
The standard for content for brands will need to be higher, as more creators can build engaging stories without the need for design knowledge or access to tools. Ensuring a solid content strategy which is engaging and encompasses different types of content will help to keep your audience engaged.
Facebook’s virtual reality company, Oculus, is open for business, with both headsets and games now available to preorder – Oculus Quest has been highly commended by those who have tried it so far. The headset’s advanced capabilities should allow developers to be more creative with features and graphics when designing VR experiences.
As VR headsets become more commonplace, brands will be able to use VR as a sales and marketing tool, particularly for high-end brands which require a large amount of money; for example, allowing potential customers to visualise how a fitted kitchen would look in their kitchen space, or see for themselves what it’s really like in an exotic holiday destination before booking a luxury holiday.
It was announced that WhatsApp Business will be getting a new feature called Product Catalogs, aimed at small businesses who connect with customers through private social platforms (rather than having a website).
The updates revealed at Facebook F8 showcases what an exciting time it is to be in social and digital marketing. On the flip side, it highlights the need for brands to be both prepared and flexible with their marketing strategy if they are to stay at the forefront of the industry, and one step ahead of the competition. Need help with your social media marketing? Get in touch.