2019 F8

May 18, 2019

Facebook’s highly anticipated and closely watched F8 conference rolled around again this week, and it did not disappoint. Most of the updates were heavily focused around its hero products: Stories, Messenger and Groups.

Here’s what I thought.

Instagram shopping tags for creators: This looks like a win from all angles. The top thing here is reducing friction for purchasing, especially on a platform where you can only link organically from your bio. Currently if a consumer sees a sick outfit on an influencer, likely they’ll need to click on their profile, go to their bio link, hope they use something like Linktree or manually search in their blogs for their outfit deets, open a new browser and start looking for the garment based on some keywords. At which point I’ve already gotten bored and had a nap.

Shopping for Creators is a clear evolution of its current (closed beta) Instagram Checkout feature available for certain American brands, and plugs into the same system. The few creators selected for the trial can only tag Instagram Checkout enabled brands. This sadly means we’re a while away from using this as a way to discover cool new brands from our fave mircro-influencers. Only established brands (e.g. Kylie Cosmetics, Adidas, Nike) and top tier creators (e.g. Kim Kardashian West, Chriselle Lim, GQ, Vogue, Elle) have access. Makes sense though – they need to use high traffic brands and accounts to really see if it’s having an impact.

I can’t figure out if these creators are getting kick backs. No mention of affiliate links but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is an option when it’s rolled out globally. Have a squiz at the full breakdown from the Instagram Business blog.

Instagram Stories donation stickers: The Facebook ecosystem has always been a great space for cause awareness and fundraising, so it makes perfect sense for Facebook to roll out a solution for its hero product of the moment – Stories. Only available in the US for now… I wonder how they’ll curb fraud.

Camera Vs. Create mode for Stories: Exactly what it sounds like – a supercharged mode in Stories when you don’t actually want to share an image, and want to use a countdown or a lot of text. The current Instagram app’s text mode for Stories is pretty shithouse, so let’s see how this fares.

A better Messenger app, built from the ground up: Facebook is rebuilding the architecture of the Messenger app to be faster and lighter and I am ALL FOR THIS. The app has been getting super slow and with some weird bugs (like crazy lag time to add reactions to messages) so this makes perfect sense. Especially with Facebook now having WhatsApp technology on hand.

Lead generation template in Ads Manager: I’ve used lead gen at Bolster before to run competitions and for pre-sale sign ups, but they’ve always been super fiddly. Hoping this new update will make it easier for advertisers (for set up) and consumers (via easy automated questions in Messenger) will reduce friction and increase leads.

Spark AR: This is Facebook’s renamed Camera Effects Platform, which was first introduced at F8 2017. It’s been in closed beta to certain accounts like Gucci and Kylie Jenner, allowing them to easily create interactive, immersive AR filters for Instagram. It’s now open to all so it doesn’t matter if you weren’t born into the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty. Read about the 2019 updates here, or road test Spark AR Studio yourself. (Side note – here’s a great read about AR vs VR.)

Groups: There have been rumours and panicking about this for months now, and it’s true. Facebook is prioritising Groups, but they’re making some changes to the design of Groups to make them even better for users. Groups types will each get different features most relevant to how their communities interact online.

Most of the panic from my networks have been centred around where to shift their marketing attention. They’ve literally spent years growing their Facebook pages to get to over 100K fans and are understandably freaking out. Should they jump ship, set up a group and abandon their page? (No.) It’s still early days but I think the key things are:

  • Continue using a Facebook page as the main hub of direct info from your brand to your consumers.
  • If you have a community and it feels right, set up a Facebook Group and make sure you’re an admin. If your fans have a reason to talk and share, this makes perfect sense. For instance, a video game might have a Facebook page for updates, patches and new releases, but a Facebook Group would be for real users to share walkthroughs, tips and cheat codes. A camping music festival might run a Facebook page to share lineup, date, ticketing and PSA info but have a separate group where staff and diehard attendees are admins. The group could encourage discussion around ticket reselling, themed parties around campsites and cute missed connections posts after the festival. (Ask me about the time I tried to help a friend connect with a girl he met at Golden Plains via a Facebook Group. Like actually.)
  • If your audience doesn’t naturally want to talk about your product, think about other topics that are relevant, feel on-brand and not forced. For instance, consumers might not care enough about toilet paper to join a Facebook Group about TP only, but might be interested in a Group about household tips and tricks, sponsored by said brand. As much as people love stationery, it might make more sense for a fine liner brand to run a Group around art creation.
  • Recognise the role of the page vs. Group, and tailor content types and content schedules accordingly, but be on-brand wherever you go.
  • Don’t freak out about less-than-glossy content on your Group. Facebook Groups are real and authentic, and that’s actually what consumers want. (Look at how Google search terms like ‘BRAND reviews’ and ‘BRAND alternatives’ are on the rise. Consumers want to find out about your brand or product from other consumers.)

The more I think about it, the more it completely makes sense. Facebook is moving away from vanity metrics (e.g. Facebook fan numbers, simple like counts and overall engagement numbers) towards meaningful metrics that show real business outcomes (e.g. deep engagement with humans talking to other humans about things they care about, ecomm revenue).

I actually manage a job board for creative roles in Australia and New Zealand and have been prompted a few times to start using features specific to Groups about employment! If you’re curious – join us here. Lots of music, comedy, film and event roles popping up there.

New Events tab: Look, if you have no Facebook event is it really an event? The app is introducing a new tab to help people discover interesting local events happening near them. All about this.

Facebook Dating: Coooooooool.

Shipping on Marketplace: I love Facebook Marketplace. Gumtree is where I go if I want attention from weirdos, but Facebook Marketplace is my app of choice for actually selling things and making money.

(Also the launch of Facebook Marketplace was very conveniently timed with the rise of Konmari a.k.a. everyday people selling joyless shit. Good work, Facebook.)

The most common ‘no thanks’ reason I get from potential buyers is usually that I don’t offer shipping because payment is so awkward online, so the new shipping option is perfect.

Want to read more about F8? Check out Facebook’s official one-sheeter about their updates, and if you’d like the Bolster touch, the content team wrote about what these changes mean for our clients too.

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