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As businesses and organizations across the country are racing to respond to the spread of COVID-19, Facebook is attempting to support small businesses which have been closed or are enduring hardships during this time.

Along with creating a dedicated hub for businesses affected by the epidemic, the company announced it would also be launching a $100 million grant program for small businesses.

Dedicated Small Business COVID-19 Hub

To help small businesses endure the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Facebook has launched a dedicated hub with immediate actions you can take, a brief guide of quick actions to bolster your business, and a full 30-page business resilience toolkit.

For those who aren’t used to taking full advantage of Facebook’s virtual tools and connection abilities, the company is directing business owners to free courses designed to introduce you to virtual events, live streaming, and selling your products on the platform.

While brick-and-mortar stores may be shuttered or running reduced hours, Facebook says it recommends leveraging the available digital channels to maintain your business.

Small Business Grant Program

In addition to digital resources, Facebook is putting forward $100 million to help 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries.

The program is still in the early stages and details are limited, but Facebook has provided a few bits of information about how the program will help companies:

  • Keeping the business’s workforce going strong
  • Assistance with rent costs
  • Connecting businesses with more customers
  • Covering operational costs

Applications are not open yet, but will be available in the coming weeks. To be notified when applications become available, you can sign up here.

Facebook is launching a mobile app version of its Creator Studio which helps users monitor and manage their page and content on the go.

While the iOS and Android apps will allow you to keep better in touch with your content while out of the office, the mobile version is still intended to be a companion to the more comprehensive desktop version.

As the company says in its announcement:

“The app is an evolution of and mobile complement to Creator Studio, the desktop hub dedicated to helping creators and publishers manage their content, track performance, and connect meaningfully with their audiences on Facebook. The new experience offers the same actionable insights and meaningful engagement metrics, all from the ease of a mobile device.”

Although the Creator Studio app does not provide the full suite of features available in the desktop version, it does include some of the most popular and informative tools for page managers, such as:

Facebook Creator Studio Insights

  • Rich Insights: Data and engagement metrics about how content is performing, like “1 Minute Views” and “Avg. Minutes Viewed”

Facebook Creator Studio Content Management

  • Post-Uploading Edits and Fixes: Ability to edit video titles and descriptions, delete and expire posts, publish drafted posts and reschedule scheduled posts, enabling easy content adjustments

Facebook Creator Studio Messaging

  • Connect with Audiences: Reach fans and followers in real-time, from anywhere with the ability to read and respond to Facebook messages and comments using Inbox directly in the app

Facebook Creator Studio Manage Multiple Pages

  • Multi-Account Support: Manage multiple Pages on Facebook and toggle between them from the same app in the same session–no need to log out of one to log into another to access multiple Pages
  • Notifications: Immediate in-app notifications for key milestones

The most obvious omission is the ability to upload content or create new posts. At the moment, the Creator Studio app only allows you to manage or edit content that has already been posted or scheduled.

Facebook’s dominance of the internet continues, as reports say the company owns 4 of the 5 most downloaded apps in the world this year.

App Annie’s year-end report shows that Facebook helped drive a worldwide record for app downloads with 120 billion apps downloaded between iOS and Android in 2019 – a 5% year-over-year increase.

According to App Annie’s data, the top 5 app downloads of the year are:

  1. Facebook Messenger
  2. Facebook
  3. WhatsApp Messenger
  4. TikTok
  5. Instagram

10 Top Downloaded Apps in 2019

TikTok is the only app in the top 5 not owned by Facebook.

Breakout Apps

In addition to the top app downloads over the past year, App Annie also detailed the top “breakout apps” which showed the largest growth in downloads between 2018 and 2019. While most are still relative unknowns, they could potentially be chart-toppers in the near future.

  1. Likee
  2. Noizz
  3. Helo
  4. Hago
  5. YouTube Music

Top 10 Breakout Apps of 2019

Based on the its current estimations, App Annie believes 2020 is posed to be even more lucrative for app downloads and consumer spend. Excluding games, the report predicts spending to reach more than $30 billion in the coming year.

The holiday season may still feel like it is far in the distance, but most studies show consumers start their holiday shopping in November – if not earlier. That means now is the time to start preparing your holiday marketing efforts.

To help, Facebook is releasing a wave of new tools aimed at assisting businesses with their holiday marketing. 

Customizable Story Templates

Facebook is releasing a number of customizable templates for ads in Facebook Stories, Instagram, and Messenger. 

The templates are simple, visually pleasing ways to showcase products and brands throughout the shopping season, with customizable backgrounds, music, and CTAs. 

These templates will be available this week.

Improvements to Instagram Direct and Messenger

Closer to the Holiday season, Facebook says it will be bringing a number of new features to Instagram Direct to improve communication between businesses and customers.

As the company says in the announcement:

“From fulfilling orders to keeping up with customer requests, we know staying on top of customer communications is important, so we also created new messaging tools like labels, search and folders to help businesses stay organized.”

Within the coming weeks, Facebook will also be launching an ‘instant replies’ which lets businesses create custom automatic responses for when they are not immediately available. 

These “away” messages can be useful for days when your business is closed or when no one will be available to respond to messages for a prolonged period of time. 

Along with these improvements, Facebook is also introducing a new ‘saved replies’ feature which will allow you to respond to common questions with pre-written responses.

Facebook is changing how videos and photos appear on mobile devices, with new aspect ratios for visual posts and less accompanying text in the mobile news feed. 

This means you’ll have to make some changes when optimizing for Facebook’s mobile news feed if you want everything to appear properly in your posts.

What’s Changing

In the past, images on Facebook were optimized for a taller 2:3 aspect ratio to a more square 4:5 aspect ratio. 

Anything taller than that will be cropped out in preview images within the news feed, only actually viewable to those who tap to see the full image. 

At the same time, the platform is reducing the lines of text accompanying these posts – going from 7 lines of text to just 3 lines. 

Anything longer than that will be hidden behind a prompt to show additional text. 

Both of these changes will be put into effect starting on August 19th, giving you a few weeks to make adjustments to your upcoming posts. 

According to a spokesperson from the company, the tweaks are “designed to simplify our formats and improve the consistency of our mobile experience.”

In turn, the company says the new post format will increase the impact of mobile ads and make it easier to use the same content across both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is making some changes to how it handles comments in its algorithm to better promote real discussion.

Everyone knows that Facebook uses an algorithm to help sort which posts get shown to users, but you may not be aware that the social network uses a similar system to help rank comments.

With the new update, the company says it will do a better job or highlighting comments with specific “positive” quality signals, while demoting low-quality comments.

Comment Quality Signals

According to the new announcement, Facebook will be using four types of signals to analyze comments:

  1. Integrity Signals
  2. User Indicated Preferences
  3. User Interaction Signals
  4. Moderation Signals

Integrity Signals

Facebook’s “Integrity Signals” are designed to assess the authenticity of comments. Specifically, it will be looking to see if comments violate community standards or qualify as “engagement-bait”

Engagement Bait is a practice which involves either explicitly encouraging users to react, like, share, subscribe, or take any other form of action in exchange for something else. This can even be something as innocuous as asking followers to do push-ups.

User Indicated Preferences

User Indicated Preferences are established through Facebook’s direct polling of users. By doing this, the social network is able to directly ask users what they want to see in comments and what they think promotes real discussion.

User Interaction Signals

These are pretty self-obvious. User Interaction Signals are indications whether a user has interacted with a post.

Moderation Signals

Moderation Signals are based on whether other users choose to hide or delete comments made on their post. Facebook explains this practice in a bit more detail, saying:

“People can moderate the comments on their post by hiding, deleting, or engaging with comments.

Ranking is on by default for Pages and people with a a lot of followers, but Pages and people with a lot of followers can choose to turn off comment ranking.

People who don’t have as many followers will not have comment ranking turned on automatically since there are less comments overall, but any person can decide to enable comment ranking by going to their settings.”

Why Facebook Ranks Comments

As with Facebook’s post ranking algorithms, the primary goal of Facebook’s new comment algorithm update is to promote the best quality content within people’s feeds while hiding spammy or low-quality content. As the company says in its announcement:

“To improve relevance and quality, we’ll start showing comments on public posts more prominently when:

  • The comments have interactions from the Page or person who originally posted; or

  • The comments or reactions are from friends of the person who posted.”

You can read the full announcement from Facebook here.

Facebook is making big changes to how it ranks and shows videos in the news feed and “More Videos” section of its platform with three new ranking factors for videos. 

While the changes shouldn’t impact the number of videos Facebook is showing overall, the company says it is hoping to better prioritize original videos and content that people are actively looking for.

New Ranking Factors For Facebook Videos

To better sort and rank videos, Facebook is implementing three new ranking factors for videos on its platform:

  • Loyalty and Intent – Facebook will begin boosting the ranking signals of videos that people return to and view repeatedly.
  • Video and viewing duration – Facebook will begin to prioritize videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of times. This will look at both how long a video is (with videos over 3 minutes long receiving the biggest boost) and how long viewers have watched the video on average.
  • Originality – In an effort to cut down on the presence of repurposed or stolen content, Facebook will begin to strongly limit the reach and monetization for unoriginal videos.

In the announcement, the company stressed that while the changes may hurt those copying content or stealing videos, Pages creating original high-quality content should only see positive effects:

“While there are numerous factors that determine video distribution on Facebook, these changes will benefit video distribution for Pages that create original content people want to watch and come back to.”

Major changes are coming to Facebook as the company tries to balance a more privacy-focused approach with several new features aimed at encouraging people to interact with their Facebook accounts more.

At the company’s F8 developer conference this week, Facebook announced a wide range of features, changes, and redesigns which will roll out over the next year.

At the same time, representatives from Facebook hammered home the importance of privacy and protecting data with more advanced encryption and a huge redesign to shift how people use the platform.

The Redesign

Leading the pack of changes is Facebook’s most significant visual overhaul since its launch. While the most noticeable difference is the removal of blue on the page to create a more vibrant space for you to explore, it also holds many deeper revisions which intend to change how we use the platform.

For example, the interface will now highlight more Groups and private messages to make the platform feel more cohesive.

The redesign is already rolling out on Android and iOS mobile devices, though the company says it will take a few months for the full update to go live. Meanwhile, Facebook says it will begin testing the desktop redesign in the “next few months” before bringing it to the public.

Facebook Dating?

Facebook Dating

Image Source: Facebook

One of the most bizarre introductions during this year’s conference was the launch of a new feature called “Secret Crush” which allows users to pick nine of their friends which they have a crush on. Then, if any of those nine friends also select that user as a crush, they will be notified. If the attraction is not returned, however, the other person will never know.

Meet New Friends

In a similar (but less creepy) vein is Facebook’s coming “Meet New Friends” feature. As you might expect from the name, the opt-in feature aims to help connect people who share schools or jobs, or those who live in the same city.

Messenger Comes To Desktop

Image Source: Facebook

As part of an effort to make Facebook’s Messenger a more widely accessible platform, the company is launching a standalone version of the service for desktop computers. While Messenger has always been available on the desktop version of Facebook, it has been limited in several ways. For example, features like Group calling have been exclusive to the mobile app. With the launch of the desktop app, users will now be able to take advantage of all of Messenger’s features from any type of device.

Instagram Create Mode

Instagram Create Mode

Image Source: Facebook

Facebook isn’t the only platform getting an overhaul. Instagram also has several changes on the way, including a considerable reworking of the camera in Instagram Stories. With the new Create Mode, users can now create images for Stories that don’t come directly from their phone without extensive workarounds. Now, you can easily edit your Stories to create the images you want to share without leaving the app.

Instagram Likes Go Secret

Instagram Likes Disappear From View

Image Source: Facebook

One of the more surprising tests Facebook announced is that it will begin hiding the like count on photos and videos on Instagram in an effort to encourage people to pay more attention to the content and focus less on popularity contests.

In the test, followers will not be able to see a photo’s total likes or a video’s view count while viewing the content in their feed or visiting another user’s profile. However, the person sharing the content will still be able to look at their post’s metrics by tapping through a post. The test is expected to begin this week for users in Canada, though it is unclear when this might appear in the US.

Facebook has announced sweeping changes to its news feed and the way it handles groups or pages that violate the company’s content policies.

The new changes, including a new algorithm signal, are aimed at reducing the reach of sites spreading content with misinformation by judging the authority of the sites the content comes from.

If Facebook believes the site producing content shared on the platform is not reputable, it will decrease its news feed reach and reduce the number of people seeing the content.

How Facebook is Changing its Algorithm

In the past, Facebook has teamed up with highly respected organizations like the Associated Press to validate sites spreading content across the platform.

Now, the company says it is introducing a “click-gap” metric designed to automatically evaluate the inbound and outbound linking patterns of a site to judge if it is authoritative.

Essentially, the click-gap signal measures the inbound and outbound linking patterns to determine if the number of links on Facebook is higher than the link’s popularity across the internet. This will allow the company to distinguish the forced spread of content rather than organic virality.

As Facebook explains in the announcement:

“This new signal, Click-Gap, relies on the web graph, a conceptual “map” of the internet in which domains with a lot of inbound and outbound links are at the center of the graph and domains with fewer inbound and outbound links are at the edges.

Click-Gap looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph. This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content.”

Changes to Groups

Notably, this new algorithmic signal isn’t just being applied to news feeds. The company explained it will also be using these algorithms to automatically remove low-quality content posted in groups, including private groups.

The company defended the decision by saying they can now identify and remove harmful groups, whether they are public, closed, or secret.”

“We can now proactively detect many types of violating content posted in groups before anyone reports them and sometimes before few people, if any, even see them.”

Admins are Required to Police Content

Along with these changes, Facebook clarified that its algorithms will consider what posts a group’s admins approve as a way of determining if they are a harmful group or eligible for removal.

The company says it will close down groups if an admin regularly approves content that is false, misleading, or against Facebook’s content guidelines.

This is how Facebook explained the new policy:

“Starting in the coming weeks, when reviewing a group to decide whether or not to take it down, we will look at admin and moderator content violations in that group, including member posts they have approved, as a stronger signal that the group violates our standards.”

What This Means for You

As long as the pages you participate in or run are sharing content from reliable sources, the new policies should have little effect on your day-to-day operations. However, the changes could have considerable impacts on brands or influencers who go against mainstream science or other non-approved sources. These types of industries have flourished on the platform for years, but may soon be facing a reckoning if Facebook’s new content guidelines are as strict as they sound.

A new survey sheds some light into the real reasons why consumers like, share, and follow brands on social media.

As Yes Marketing reports, their survey of 1,000 consumers reveals:

  • 63% of consumers follow retailers on social to learn about sales.
  • 60% follow retailers to keep up with new products.
  • 29% follow to show support for the retailer.
  • 23% follow because the retailer shares funny and interesting information.
  • 23% follow because the retailer has a positive reputation
  • 16% follow because they agree with the retailer’s stance on social and political issues.

When it comes to specifically why customers engage with content from retailers on social media, here’s what people had to say:

  • 36% engage with content because the retailer promises a discount for sharing the post.
  • 36% engage in order to share a product update or sale with their followers.
  • 35% engage because they agree personally with the content of the post.
  • 30% engage because the post is funny or interesting.
  • 29% engage in order to share positive feedback with the retailer.
  • 20% engage in order to share negative feedback with the retailer.

As for which demographics are active on which social networks, the respondents broke down as follows:

  • Gen Z consumers are more likely to have YouTube (77%) and Instagram (77%) accounts than a Facebook account (74%).
  • Millennials (89%) and Gen X (88%) are most likely to be on Facebook.
  • More Gen Z consumers (56%) are on Twitter compared to Millennials (50%) and Gen X (39%).
  • Snapchat is the least used social network among all respondents (30%), followed by Twitter (36%).
  • Only 11% of respondents are not on any of the major social networks.

Get the full report here to learn more.