Facebook is making a Tinder-like tool for dating, among other developments. There’s a lot of stuff journalists need to know from Facebook’s biggest annual event, and swiping left on your next potential lover is not one of them.
Two things were clear from Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s F8 keynote: Facebook needs to keep people safer and it won’t stop building cool stuff. It’s a conference for the developer community, but products they’re launching will shift how journalists tell stories.
Ready to hop, skip and jump to the next big algorithm and product changes? Let’s go!
Zuckerberg calls groups “The most meaningful part of Facebook” for many users and the company claims 1.4 billion people use Groups every month. We’ll see the social media giant doubling down on groups and empowering admin users with tools to better manage their communities. For newsrooms, this means refocusing on hyperlocal news and building groups around niche audiences. Like Metcalfe's Law, the strength of future media companies may not depend on having millions of “likes” on their Facebook Page. Instead, media organizations could judge the success of their networks based on the number of nodes they manage. This means fragmenting social media audiences into hundreds or thousands of groups focused on specific subjects and focus areas. Marketers love this too, because they can put the right ads on the right content for the right audiences.
Don’t underestimate the format founded by Snapchat and made famous by teenagers sharing nudes. Stories is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share — sometime next year according to Facebook. Stories are vertical, clickable and mobile-optimized, a format which features on the very top of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger mobile screens. Keep an eye on WhatsApp Status, which now has 450 million daily users, making it the biggest story formats in the world. There’s huge opportunities here to deliver snackable and interactive stories to audiences right in their pockets, but every consideration must be about storytelling for mobile devices.
Hasn’t WhatsApp been a nightmare for news organizations? Yes. The API’s until now were tightly-guarded, so we’ve struggled to distribute or measure success on WhatsApp. That could change as Facebook announced a focus on helping people connect with businesses on WhatsApp. It launched WhatsApp for small businesses recently, and will soon scale to larger businesses too. Expect new tools to make it easier for newsrooms to engage with audiences on WhatsApp.
Facebook called WhatsApp the world’s largest end to end encryption messaging platform. That means even Facebook can’t easily track what people are chatting about on the messaging platform. But it also makes the space is a cesspit for lies, rumors and fake information. WhatsApp is referred to as “dark social,” meaning it’s difficult to track what’s going on in there. Expect the next viral conspiracy theories and fake stories to gain momentum in WhatsApp before they enter the public timelines of Facebook and Instagram.
5. Safety Checks
How can Facebook make Safety Check even better than it is? With photos and videos. The product lets you check-in to let friends and family know that you’re safe when a disaster hits. Now eyewitnesses can provide photos and videos of traffic road blockages, floods, fires and more. Journalists should watch this space because Safety Checks will become a really powerful aggregation tool to source citizen journalism during breaking news situations. Twitter hashtags are so 2017....
6. Political ads
“We will never be unprepared for this again,” said Zuckerberg on Russia’s use of Facebook’s advertising tools around the U.S. elections. Now, users will be able to see who is running political advertisements and how much they’re spending. Facebook’s founder promised “more transparency than T.V. or print ads.” Journalists will be able to follow the political ad money on Facebook for upcoming elections in Brazil, Mexico, India, Pakistan and more.
7. Watch Party
Facebook is spending a lot of time considering time well spent, and the wellbeing of its users. It claims people are happier when they’re not passive consumers of content, but are engaging with friends and family. We’ll soon be able to host “Watch Parties,” where friends can watch the same piece of video together. Journalists need to start considering videos which will drive more interactions, engagements and create more conversations between friends.
8. Fake news
Fighting fake news broadly, Facebook promised to remove economic incentives for people who want to make money by pushing sensationalist junk. There’s also a focus on removing fake profiles and verifying people running large pages or buying sensitive ads. Facebook also expressed a renewed focus on working with fact-checking bodies and providing more context around shoddy stuff.
9. Augmented reality
You know all those funny face filters the kids are masquerading behind on their selfie cameras? The doggy tongue and flowers in the hair? Journalists need to start taking all this augmented reality (AR) technology seriously because the camera effects are being baked into Facebook Messenger and Instagram in an even bigger way this year. Any developer can now potentially contribute their own animated face filters. Look beyond the childish gimmicks and journalists might find interesting ways to let audiences teleport into the bodies of all sorts of subjects.
Could Facebook Messenger become part of your media organization’s content management system (CMS) or help reporters send footage back to the office from the field as a file transfer protocol (FTP)? Now that Messenger is getting built up to enable sharing rich media — like 4K photos and HD video — anything is possible.
Facebook’s Marketplace is somewhere between Gumtree, Craigslist and Amazon, and it’s picking up speed. The company claims to have 800 million monthly users across 70 countries. For newsrooms interested in revenue streams in the merchandise and consumer products space, there could be money here soon.
12. Social virtual reality
Facebook is betting big on virtual reality (VR) and will be launching new apps that allow people to be in the same virtual space, while also being together in real-time. Media organizations need to completely rethink current formats because this is a whole new space and it’s moving quickly. Check out Oculus TVfor an idea of what the future living room could look like. Facebook is also introducing a $200 standalone headset, so the barrier of entry to its virtual world has never been lower.
As standalone products, none of these product updates will substantially change the digital industry. But when they all come together, they create a new type of social media landscape, which is more interactive, more tangible and hopefully more honest than ever before.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Brian Solis.