Social Media giants Twitter, Google+ and Facebook must constantly reinvent themselves, optimize their user interface and present exciting new functions. Lately, these social networks have put their main focus on creating a new look. Some of the changes reveal a lot about the networks’ future strategy.
Facebook’s Step Backwards – Most Users Won’t Notice
With Facebook, we experienced something quite extraordinary. While most users still had not seen the 2013 interface changes, Mark Zuckerberg and his team decided to rework Facebook’s look once again. This time, Facebook promised, the changes will apply to all accounts and should be visible to pretty much everyone by now. The new design’s main features are the news ticker (placed on the right again) and short cut menu on the left. Facebook also used a different nuance of grey as new background colour. For marketers, Facebook’s changes are particularly interesting as they will also include adjustments to the layout of pages. Facebook pages will no longer have a two column timeline. Instead, there will only be one column which has a positive effect on the user experience. Furthermore, pages’ information (about text, contact details, opening hours, photos, etc.) is now placed on the left-hand side. Facebook reported that the previous multi-column layout had been described as too confusing by numerous users.
With regards to ads, the new layout seems to underline their presence even more. Felix describes the network’s catch-22 situation. “Facebook needs to be aware that ads can cause great user frustration. It will be an ongoing challenge to secure financial growth and at the same time not put users off by placing ads too aggressively.”
Twitter Testing the Facebook Look
Secretly, Twitter has been testing a new look as well. The screenshots that have been released support marketers’ guesses that Twitter will try to highlight visual content more efficiently. One of the first steps into that direction was Twitter’s introduction of V-Cards. Studies have shown that visual content is far more successful driving traffic and increasing user engagement. “We are currently experiencing a user behaviour where the first impression is crucial. Eye-catching visuals have become a must creating successful posts with great viral impact.” Current tests include vertical timelines, bigger cover images better support of visual posts. With Twitter’s new focus on visual content, Twitter is now moving closer to services, such as Instagram or Pinterest. At the same time the news spreading character could be maintained. Making Twitter more attractive for visually affine users allows Twitter to target new user groups.
Google+ Taking Smaller Steps
On Google+, we have observed smaller changes. However, these changes indicate that Google will also try to better support visual content in order to increase engagement rates. Similar to Facebook, shared links now have a bigger display image on Google+. Additionally, the title and description text are given more space which is a great improvement for the user. Consequently, marketers must put more focus on their display images. Choosing them smartly can be a great way of driving additional traffic to your site or activating users to engage with your brand.
Avoid Extreme Image Stuffing
What we can observe at the moment is that lots of channels are posting images for the sake of using images. “I believe that users will soon start to differentiate between image stuffing and high quality images that actually support a post’s message.” Visual content has become crucial but community managers must ask the following questions instead of using visuals without thinking.
- Is my image unique?
- Is my image eye-catching and able to get the readers’ attention?
- Is my image supporting my story?
- Is my image capable of stimulating user engagement?
- Does my image add value to my textual content?
- Does my image meet the network’s recommended quality standards?