FacebookLook_Body.jpgby Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Have you noticed lately that Facebook looks different? If your News Feed hasn’t changed yet, don’t worry, it soon will. Since early March, Facebook has slowly been rolling out its new News Feed design, giving users the first meaningful remodel of the site since 2006. What does this mean for you, the small business owner?

 

Image is everything

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Facebook News Feed is how much larger and more prominent the pictures are. People can continue to upload photos directly to Facebook, or share their images from other social media sites, such as Instagram or Pinterest. Photos are so central to the new design that Facebook allows users to choose a “Photos Only” view (more about that later).

 

For the small business owner, the new Facebook News Feed means it’s time to embrace visual marketing. “Selecting the right images is key—images get behind our conscious thinking and connect with our emotions,” says Joe Decker, of Rock Slide Photography. “Images of owners or employees at a small business help create a sense of connection with that business, and make it easier for customers to make the first call.”

 

Share your own original images on your business’s Facebook page, but don’t stop there. Your visual marketing strategy can include using photos from your manufacturers or suppliers, buying stock images, sharing existing memes, infographics, and more.

 

Exercise your emotional intelligence when choosing images for your Facebook page. “Having people smiling, interacting, making eye contact, either with each other or with the viewer help give a sense of happiness for the perfection they seek in their lives,” says Dov Friedmann, of Photography by Dov, who specializes in corporate events photography. “You want to have an eye-catching image or photograph that attracts the viewer and also captures the essence or tells the story of what your company is about.”

 

How your customers will find you now

Central to Facebook’s new design is an easy to use navigation system that allows users to pick and choose what content they view. Content is sorted into Feeds, only one of which will be displayed at any given time. Switching from Feed to Feed is simple and easy, just like changing the TV channel.

 

There are six standard Feeds: All Friends, Close Friends, Music, Photos, Following, and Games. Your business page posts will appear on the Following Feed, and the images you post will appear on the Photos Feed as well.

 

Facebook has always had limited navigation. The redesign makes the navigation more prominent and easier to use. There will be an adjustment period as Facebook users become acclimated to the new system, but in the long term, the revamp may serve small business owners well. The organization of business pages into a centralized stream filters out distractions that compete for your customer’s attention.

 

FacebookLook_PQ.jpgMake the most of metrics

Facebook Insights tell page administrators how many people saw a post, how many people liked it, and how many people shared the post with their friends. Use this information to gauge how relevant and meaningful your customers find the images and updates you post.

 

“Our goal is to engage our fans and sometimes that might be a serious photo of a re-breather diver and other times it could be a scuba diver riding a bike underwater,” says Darren Pace, Director of Marketing for SDI, TDI and ERDI, a dive training organization. “Regardless of what type of images are assumed to work best, always check your insights to make sure your fans feel the same way.”

 

Move toward mobile

One of the most important changes in Facebook’s new design is one that many small business owners might not even notice. The new site design is responsive, which means Facebook’s appearance and layout will always be consistent, no matter what type of device users choose to use to view the site.

 

Why did Facebook do this?

 

Take a look around as you go through the course of your day. How many people do you see that are ‘unplugged’—not actively engaging with any type of mobile device at all? Chances are the number won’t be too high. The reason it looks like everyone is using a smartphone or tablet computer is pretty simple: almost everyone is. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index has projected that there will be more Internet-connected devices than there are people by the end of this year.

 

A recent Google study found 90 percent of Americans move sequentially across multiple screens in one day to access information and entertainment. Facebook’s adoption of responsive design provides their customers with a satisfying experience no matter where they are.

 

Impact of responsive design

What happens if a customer who is using Facebook on their smartphone or tablet decides to follow one of your links and goes to your website? This is where website design becomes really important. If your business website is responsive, it will adapt automatically to look good on your customer’s viewing device, and they’ll have an optimized experience.

 

If your business website is not responsive, it may not look good or function well on your customer’s viewing device. The website that looks great on a desktop computer may not render properly on a smartphone. Customers are impatient. They’re not going to try to figure out how your website is supposed to look. They’ll just see that things are out of alignment or too hard to read and move on—and there goes your potential sale.