F8 2019: Facebook’s Annual F8 Conference At-a-Glance

May 22, 2019

The following post was created by Jarrad Blyth, Valerie Pritchard, Ann Louise Wilcox, and Emily Cooper.

Facebook’s annual F8 conference recently took place in San Jose, CA. While typically a developer-focused event, this year’s F8 was used as an opportunity for Facebook to move away from its recent scandals by launching new products and capabilities across its vast portfolio, announce a redesign of the flagship Facebook product and work toward regaining trust.

facebook f8 conference

We’ve got everything covered for you with need-to-know information and thoughts on how updates will impact brands. Here are some of the topics we’ll discuss:

  • Facebook Redesign
  • Facebook Groups
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Instagram
  • Oculus
  • Secret Crush
  • Workplace
  • Privacy Updates

Facebook Redesign

What is it?

FB5 – the biggest aesthetic update since Facebook’s launch.

Give me the details!

This redesign (which you can see in action here) is intended to make it easier to connect with more likeminded Facebook Groups and Events, which signals Facebook is trying to move back to a fundamental core value: connection. The redesign rolled out in the US on both Android and iOS and will be debuting across the world and on desktop in upcoming weeks.

The new design is streamlined, faster, more immersive and is all about a thorough end-to-end experience with community at the center. With a lighter design, Facebook will be losing much of their signature blue theme on both mobile and desktop.

New features include:

  • The ability to save your spot in the News Feed when scrolling
  • The platform on the web will be getting a dark mode, which will offer a more comfortable viewing experience particularly when watching video
  • A redesign of the Group tab (more below)

These features will also be rolled out to Workplace at a later date.

What does this mean for individuals?

This will fundamentally begin to shift how people use the platform, and as the redesign is honed Facebook will inevitably begin to tweak and optimize toward user-trends and habits.

What does this mean for brands?

For now, it remains to be seen. Ultimately the redesign may mean a few things:

  • A drive to create Groups to hone in on like-minded people having conversations, giving brands a potentially more authentic means of connecting.
  • New advertising opportunities – how you can advertise in Groups remains to be seen and while part of the appeal of Groups is the lack of ads, it’s hard to imagine Facebook will not look to capitalize on this.

Facebook Groups

What are they?

A driver behind the redesign, Facebook Groups – which now has 400M+ active users – is getting a new tab within the overall Facebook experience.

Give me the details!

The new Groups tab will now show a more personalized feed of activity across Groups you’re a member of, making it easier to find and participate in Groups.

The redesigned tab will:

  • Aggregate your Group content in a personalized feed as well as recommend new Groups to join based on your interests. For example, users may notice recommendations from Groups pop up in places where there’s contextual relevance, like a recommendation to join a local “buy and sell” Groups in Marketplace.
  • Include an opt-in “Meet New Friends” feature, which aims to help people start friendships with members of their shared communities such as a city or new school.
  • Allow users to share content directly to Groups when posting updates.
  • Let members of health-related/support Groups give Group Admins permission to post anonymously on their behalf to keep personal information private.
  • Allow employers in job-based Groups to post using new, uniform templates, while job seekers can apply directly through Facebook.
  • Let gamers create sub-threads related to various topics.
  • Allow for native shipping letting sellers across the US list items, and giving users the ability to check out directly on Facebook.

What does this mean for individuals?

While this is very much a play about fostering community, Facebook is still looking to keep people in-app by meeting a variety of their needs. Users may likely find themselves relying on Facebook for services such as job searching and shopping to getting advice from friends.

What does this mean for brands?

If your brand doesn’t have Groups as part of your Facebook mix, it’s time to figure out how to invest and chart your course for this evolution because Groups are here to stay.


Facebook Messenger

What is it?

The messaging app is taking cues from the likes of China’s WeChat to create an immersive chat hub.

What’s new?

  • A smaller, faster Messenger app. Facebook is shrinking the size of the Messenger app for iOS (Apple devices) by roughly 20 percent to approximately 30MB. The app should launch soon, and will bring a much better, faster and less bloated user experience.

What does this mean for individuals?

There’s potential for more users to leverage Messenger now that the standalone app is faster and more user-friendly. This will allow brands to connect with customers in real-time using a combination of chatbots and live agents/community managers at a higher frequency.

  • Messenger Desktop. A stripped-down version of Messenger focused on chat, audio and video calls will debut later this year and be available for PC and Mac. This platform will pit Facebook against Apple’s Facetime and Skype.

What does this mean for brands?

This update will likely increase the time that users are interacting with Messenger, allowing brands more opportunities to deliver content and interact with users.

  • “Close Friends”. There will be a new space inside Messenger that’s devoted to close friends and family. This space will host big previews of friends’ Stories, photos shared in your chats, and let people overlay an emoji on their profile pic to show friends what they’re doing. It’s been reported that Messenger users will be able to add emojis plus a short text description as a status update.

An interesting way for brands to build recognition in the Close Friends section is using emojis. Today, brands could start to use more emojis, or sequence of emojis, in their content that is reflective of the brand to teach consumers to correlate your brand with those emojis. Over time the users will associate those emojis with that brand and will hopefully infiltrate the close friends section. Some great examples can be found here. Additionally, we might see the option for brands to develop/purchase their own emojis in order to have an official presence in the Close Friends section.

  • Video co-watching. Facebook is adding a feature to let you watch videos with your friends to make Facebook more of a video destination. The feature will let you share videos you find on Facebook to Messenger and invite others to watch along with you and trade messages about it. The feature is expected to arrive later this year.

With videos being watched in more of a Group setting and with Facebook users able to comment and critique the videos, that means that the production value, overall value, humour or storytelling needs to be higher than ever before and more insight-driven since most of the discourse will happen off-feed and in private. The videos being developed for, and published via, Facebook will need to be built in a way that sparks debate, questions, or makes the users want to be the first to share. Brands will need to develop breakthrough creative if they want to be featured in this technology.

  • Business tools. There are now over 300,000 app developers on board with chatbots. Messenger is adding in more lead-generation templates to streamline standardized questions, interactions to collect intent and info before handing off to a live person. Messenger launched a beta program for barbers, dentists and more that will soon open to everyone to let any business handle appointment booking through the Messenger app.

There are opportunities for brands to test out Facebook’s chatbot templates to allow customers to book appointments, provide basic answers and pre-qualify users before transferring to a human team. While chatbots can’t take over the role of a community manager, they can be effective in pre-qualifying users and providing basic information, allowing the human team more time to focus on content/reporting etc.

  • Security upgrade. Facebook said that it will eventually make Messenger have end-to-end encryption by default.

The reason that users currently adopt competitor products like Telegram and WhatsApp is for the security and encryption. If Facebook is to have the same or better security, then it’s likely that the users will stay in the one place. This will allow brands more opportunities to connect with their target audiences and fans.


Instagram

What is it?

Instagram, a photo-sharing favorite and Facebook moneymaker, will see a bevy of changes in the coming weeks – from a more open API for developers to the removal of engagement metrics from influencers’ pages.

What’s new?

A few things!

  • A test to hide the like counts on posts in Canada. This is being done to reduce the focus on vanity metrics. Instagram mentioned: “We want your followers to focus on what you share; not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shared the post will see the total number of likes it gets.”

What does it mean for brands?

In theory users won’t be judging a brand’s photos by the number of likes they get, but by the quality of the creative. Brands should take this opportunity to ensure the creative they’re publishing continues to be thumb-stopping and powerful. Additionally…

  • Removing the vanity metrics means there will be more of a focus applied to the number of comments a post gets. It could be a good time for brands to test more posts that entice the audience to comment tag their friends.
  • With regards to advertising, brands can often be judged on their credibility and quality of the product or service by the number of likes the content receives. With the removal of like counts, this might make individuals judge the content and messaging in a new light, and could drive more interest. It might be a good time to test some out-of-the-box creative.
  • There is some indication from recent announcements that Instagram’s future lies in the realm of e-commerce, so by focusing on the quality and visual appeal of the content, over the vanity metrics, this pairs nicely with visual merchandising (leading to sales). Example: Influencers will now be able to tag specific products—right down to a shade of lipstick—in their photos. Users will then be able to tap the photo, see exactly the items an individual is wearing, and purchase the product without ever leaving the platform.
  • When working with influencers on Instagram:
    – There will be a greater reliance on your influencer partners to provide transparency around post analytics and metrics.
    – Influencers are going to have to find alternate ways to demonstrate their value outside of vanity metrics. This is good news for brands, as influencers will be forced to focus on things like clicks through to the website, redemptions of promotional codes and other business focused metrics.
  • Instagram will now allow users to buy products directly from influencers’ posts.

An influencer’s impact will be clearer now than ever before. Brands that use influencers on Instagram will be able to follow consumers all the way through the funnel from the influencer’s social post to product purchase. For the first time, brands will be able to quantify the impact of specific influencers on product sales – opening the possibility to reallocate budgets in accordance with influencer performance, and more.

  • Advanced camera settings and the ability to start creating Stories without photos and videos. Users will be able to create quizzes, polls, countdowns, text, nonprofit fundraisers, and use stickers – all without first providing an image or video.

Nonprofits, for one, will certainly benefit from having another channel to receive donations. Meanwhile, other brands and influencers will have the opportunity to test out text-only updates with more visually-appealing backgrounds. These more eye-catching Stories will be yet another new way for brands to drive traffic back to other pages and initiatives – this time without spending time on the front end creating eye-catching videos and images.


Oculus

What is it?

Facebook will launch two new headsets – Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S within the next month. Both headsets will retail near $400 and come with new immersive experiences, such as room mapping and an in-world Star Wars game.

What does this mean for brands?

  • Room mapping is an interesting new avenue to explore to forge “in-person” connections from afar. Using this technology will allow brands to map out a room and, for example, invite reporters in for a sneak peek at a new tech hub, host in-person Q&As, or otherwise further break the “face time” barrier with digital. More info here.
  • Fully-immersive in-world experiences like the Star Wars game mean that brands will be able to build equity through aligning themselves even more closely with fandoms and sponsorships. Down the road, look for the ability to add branded experiences or items to games, or the option to make in-game purchases.

Secret Crush

What is it?

Secret Crush will allow those who use Facebook Dating (available on mobile-only) to select up to nine friends they want to express interest in (aka have a crush on). Think of it like matching on Tinder or Bumble, except the difference is that you get to select the friends you want to date ahead of time, instead of hoping that you’ll stumble upon their profile while swiping.

Give me the details!

If someone adds you to their Secret Crush list, Facebook will send you a notification: “A friend added you as a secret crush.” If you then pick the same person for your list, Facebook will match you and reveal your names. If the feelings are one-sided, the identity remains secret.

The feature is currently only available in countries where Facebook has launched the Dating service (Colombia, Canada, Thailand, Argentina, and Mexico). 14 new countries in Asia and South America have recently been included in this service.

To get a little more specific, if you don’t already have a Dating profile, you can’t receive Secret Crush notifications. This service will not creep over into the regular Facebook app.

Facebook will only let you sub out one person per day after you reach your limit of nine. This is being done to stop users from adding friends and removing friends until they discover a crush. This should keep the service more about connecting and less about spamming and swiping like crazy, like some of the other apps are known for.

What does this mean for individuals?

  • Provides them with an alternative to the plethora of other dating apps available. Brings them back into the Facebook world.
  • Leverages the friend network of Facebook to help solve dating woes, this friendship data is something that only Facebook can access, it’s not an option for competitors.

What does this mean for brands?

  • Facebook is hoping that instead of getting someone’s number at a party, you’ll add them on Facebook and then to your Dating Secret Crush list. This approach might get Millennial users who have historically wandered away from the platform to come back.
  • The spillover effect is that users who engage with this new feature and likely going to be logging onto Facebook more. More time on Facebook, means more time to consume, engage and interact with content from brands and influencers.
  • Facebook says it won’t use data from Dating or Secret Crush to make content or advertising decisions and there are no ads or paid features in Facebook Dating, so the platform remains un-monetized for now.

Workplace

What is it?

Workplace is a dedicated and secure space for companies to connect, communicate and collaborate. Organizations of all sizes can use familiar Facebook features such as News Feed, Groups, messages and events to get things done. Essentially, Workplace is the enterprise version of Facebook.

Give me the details!

During F8, Facebook announced a number of new updates for Workplace – including a variety of new integrations that are designed to make common workflows dramatically easier. These integrations include (but are not limited to): Hootsuite, Cisco WebEx, BlueJeans, Zoom, Adobe and Microsoft SharePoint. All of these new integrations can be found in the Workplace Integrations Directory.

In addition, Workplace is benefiting from its parent platform’s new redesign. Navigation in the new design for Workplace enables users to quickly and easily switch between Groups, notifications and chat. Not only are Groups much more prominent in the retooled Workplace, users can easily see which Groups they have joined, customize their shortcuts and navigate to the Groups that are most important to them. Switching between the posts and chat tabs is now more seamless than ever. And thanks to the redesigned files tab, users are able to organize their work on Workplace in a more efficient manner.

Facebook is also introducing more algorithmic features by tapping into your “work graph” to suggest Groups and people you may want to interact with. Up until now, there was minimal algorithmic involvement in Workplace, but now that it’s being expanded to connections and Groups, the goal is pretty clear: Workplace is aiming to keep your attention longer, by tailoring lists of people, content and Groups that share your interests.

What does it mean for brands?

With Workplace quickly becoming the place where employees have critical discussions at work, these updates will essentially allow users to get even more work done on the platform in more of an integrated format. The launch of these new integrations, specifically, can help employees easily share content from other apps, stay current with what’s happening, and simplify common processes, all while staying within Workplace. Whether it’s sharing a campaign update or automating industry news updates, everything can now be done seamlessly without even leaving Workplace.


Privacy Updates

What is it?

Facebook announced a vision for a more privacy-focused platform in mid-March in light of the controversies surrounding them. This year at F8, Mark Zuckerberg and a host of other speakers reiterated the sentiment that the future of the social media giant was private.

Give me the details!

The redesign of the Facebook platform puts a much greater emphasis on its Events and Groups products over the traditional Newsfeed, which has dominated for several years. The goal of the redesign is to encourage more real-world (or virtual) meetups, and more direct private messaging through the soon-to-be encrypted Messenger and smaller group conversations (think trying to organize a weekend away with friends).

Meet New Friends is a new feature being rolled out that will allow users to find new people to connect with from their shared communities like a school, expat group, workplace, or city. This is an opt-in service, so you will only see other users that are also open to meeting new people, and vice versa.

Similar to Groups, an Events tab will also roll out later this year. This feature will highlight what’s happening around you and your city, provide recommendations, local businesses, and make it easier to connect and make plans with friends.

Facebook is also working on making the Messenger platform a completely end-to-end encrypted service, this would make the app equal with WhatsApp and Telegram from a privacy perspective.

What does this mean for individuals?

Facebook’s updated focus could mean that individuals are going to use Facebook as more of an organizational tool to plan events, meet people and connect with like-minded individuals. This contrasts with former iterations of the platform that emphasized video content and engagement in the Newsfeed. Users may see more real-world value and utility from the platform, perhaps restoring some faith in the company’s reputation, and seeing more users migrate back to Facebook over other social media options. 

What does this mean for brands?

With a focus on real-world connections, private messaging and smaller group chats, brands are going to need to be more local and personalized to break through.

  • Brands can create and host events to greater connect with their target audience.
  • Recommendations and online reputation will also play some role in how Facebook recommends or suggests businesses. Chatbots are synonymous with customer service and could have a huge role to play in improving customer experience and loyalty.
  • Brands may have a role to play in Facebook groups, whether that is an owned Facebook group, or that could be monitoring, participating and rewarding groups. For example, a sporting brand might have a role to play in a local soccer meetup group, offering discounted apparel, donating equipment and being present at events.
  • Content that is created by brands will need to be tracked correctly utilizing tracking links, this will help brands to measure the dark social media (content that is shared privately through email, chat direct message) consumption and engagement of content.

Please see the links below for additional resources.

Jarrad Blyth is a Senior Digital Strategist in the Toronto, Canada office. Jarrad specializes in social and digital media strategy, but has a particular passion for all things analytics, measurement and insights.