Facebook never seems to tire of tinkering with its news feed, and brands may be the beneficiary of its latest experiment. The tech company said Thursday that it’s testing features in the U.S. to connect users to new brands and products through their news feeds.
As users scroll through, they’ll be able to tap on topics of interest — such as clothing, beauty and fitness — under the posts and ads in their feeds to discover content from relevant brands.
The concept slots into existing behavior, as Facebook users already regularly discover businesses through their feeds, the company acknowledged in a blog post. But “this will make it easier to discover and consider new businesses they might not have found on their own,” it wrote.
Notably, this model encourages users to funnel information about their interests to Facebook, which may become crucial to the company as it braces for Apple’s privacy updates in iOS 14. The iPhone software will boost transparency in how companies use people’s data and require developers to receive explicit user permission before they can track them for purposes, such as advertising.
Facebook has been very vocal for months about its opposition to this change, even couching the move as disastrous for small businesses, before chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg switched gears in March. Perhaps sensing that his outrage was unnerving investors, the CEO took to the social-audio app Clubhouse with a more optimistic tone.
“It’s possible that we may even be in a stronger position if Apple’s changes encourage more businesses to conduct more commerce on our platforms by making it harder for them to use their data in order to find the customers that would want to use their products outside of our platforms,” Zuckerberg explained.
If this project is successful and rolls out broadly, it might help mitigate some of Apple’s privacy roadblocks, as users themselves would be handing over their information to Facebook directly. It also gives the social media giant more opportunity to talk about its support for small businesses. Indeed, that’s the orientation it’s taking with this announcement, explaining it as a way to help small businesses connect with more potential customers.
Facebook didn’t offer specifics about the test, but hinted at its limited nature by explaining that as it learns from the experience, it will expand the scope to more people and businesses.
In other updates, the blog post added that Facebook is delivering on its promise in January to deliver a new Page experience for businesses.
Admins can now create, publish and schedule Facebook and Instagram Stories and edit Scheduled Posts, and other features are coming soon, including the ability to create and manage Facebook Photos and Albums from its Business Suite, as well as create and save drafts of posts for Facebook and Instagram from the Business Suite mobile app. These follow earlier moves that give business profiles their own news feeds along with new powers to post, comment and like. It also ditched the “Like” button, in favor of focusing more on followers.
The company is launching changes to ad products designed “to help businesses find more quality customer leads,” with new optimization goals and other features coming to Lead Ads, Call Ads and Click to Messenger Lead Generations.