TOP 5 Updates by Facebook That You Need to Know Now (July 2016 Edition )

Be it summer or winter, the holiday season or the busiest time of the year, Facebook never sleeps.

Over the previous month, the social network announced a fair share of updates that are going to affect the way we communicate with our Facebook audiences.

Before you head to Google in search of the latest updates, consider this: We’ve got it all covered right here!

Here’s what you need to know about Facebook updates in July 2016:

Ready to dig in deeper?

Up next, we’ll walk through the five most important Facebook updates every marketer needs to know in July 2016, and will discuss each change’s impact to brands and publishers.

1. Audience Network will be expanded beyond Facebook

Up until now, advertisers had the opportunity to communicate with 1.65 billion Facebook users. This number is about to change very soon (and we’re not talking about a decline here).

Facebook will expand the reach of its Audience Network so that the ads will be visible on third-party sites and apps to anyone who has ever visited Facebook, not just registered users.

The practice, known as online interest-based advertising, is already widely popular across the advertising industry.

So what’s in it for everybody?

According to Alvin Bowles, Head of Global Publisher Sales and Operations at Facebook:

“In Q4 2015 we reached a $1B annual run rate for advertising spend through the Audience Network. With Audience Network, we will continue to introduce new ways for publishers to take advantage of everything that makes Facebook ads valuable to our partners: high-quality demand, people-based marketing, measurement and our ads delivery engine.”

Alvin Bowles, Head of Global Publisher Sales and Operations at Facebook

Your ads will be more relevant to people.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook will use a mix of cookie tracking, its own buttons and plugins and other data to track and identify non-users on third-party websites.

Combined with the social network’s user insights, marketers can rest assured that their ads reach the most interested audience. It might even help to boost your ads’ average relevance score.

“Because we understand people in general, we can still use all the things we’ve learned about people-based marketing to apply and show them a relevant ad based on what information we do have.”

Andrew Bosworth, VP, Ads and Business Platform, Facebook

If hundreds of Facebook users who visited a third-party site are also interested in your products or app, Facebook could use this data to boost the relevance of your ads for its non-users.

By using the expanded audience network, marketers can reach interested people who they otherwise might have missed.

“One of the things we’ve heard from people is that many of the ads they see are annoying, distracting, or misleading. We think companies can do better, and that’s why we’ve been focused on improving ads both on and off Facebook.”

Andrew Bosworth, VP, Ads and Business Platform

The update will be rolled out over the next few months, so keep your fingers crossed to get a hold of new interested audiences.

Important note: Starting today, people have the option to opt out of seeing ads on apps and websites not offered by Facebook.

2. The 20% text rule in ad images has changed

As reported by AdEspresso and Jon Loomer, Facebook updated its 20% text rule in ads.

Before the update, advertisers were struggling to understand how Facebook evaluates the text density in ad images. Marketers used to employ a grid tool to ensure only 5 out of 5×5 squares contain text.

Now, Facebook is looking to eliminate the confusion. It recently announced new rules for text in ad visuals, making clear that it endorses ad images with light or no text.

According to Afsheen Ali, Product Marketing Manager at Facebook:

“Our research has shown that people demonstrate a preference for ads with less text. Previously, if 20% of an ad image’s area was text, it was not approved to run on Facebook, Instagram or the Audience Network. We are shifting to a new solution to improve this experience which allows advertisers more flexibility while still allowing us to maintain an enjoyable experience for people.”

Afsheen Ali, Product Marketing Manager at Facebook

Here’s how the new rule works:

By the old rules, this AdEspresso ad would have contained 36% text, and Facebook might have decided not to display it at all.

Now, advertisers are playing by a different set of rules – the amount of text in an ad image is considered either OK, Low, Medium or High.

Facebook provides a clear-cut formula of the new regulations:

As you can see, a large amount of text on the ad image results in lower reach, leading to higher cost-per-acquisition and wasted potential.

You can test your ad’s text density by using Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool.

Moreover, whenever you create an ad in the ad create tool or Power Editor, you’ll get a notice if the amount of text in your ad image might start limiting its distribution.

More on the recent change:

The new text overlay tool is not perfect and still favors some high text-density images over others. But overall, Facebook now accepts ad images with a higher text-density than it used to (you just need to pay more for distribution).

For example, the following AdEspresso ad is considered to have a low text density.

The following ads with relatively heavy (well over 20%)  text usage are appraised to be “OK”.

The good news is that advertisers are allowed to stack up a considerable amount of text before being punished by Facebook’s advertising-robots.

You do not want to upload a text-heavy ad visual as its reach will be either ineffectively low or it won’t be displayed to the target audience at all (unless you qualify for an exception, which is highly unlikely).

So avoid creating text-crowded ads looking like this:

The new image text rule gives advertisers more flexibility to play around with different visuals and engage in further A/B testing.

For more on the new rules, here’s your go-to guide: Facebook Changes the 20% Text Rule

3. Facebook is putting maps in ads, helping to measure store visits

For years, brands have struggled to measure the impact of Facebook ad campaigns on store visits and sales.

Now, Facebook is adding maps to its Local Awareness Ads and will start reporting estimates of how many store visits those ads drove. Store Visits is a new metric added to Facebook’s Ads Reporting tool.

This is how a local awareness ad with a map will look like

As you can imagine, knowing the impact of your Facebook campaigns is highly important when running a store.

While people use mobile in 45% of all shopping journeys, the majority of sales still occur in brick-and-mortar businesses. In fact, more than 90% of retail sales take place in-store.

Moreover, the Local Awareness Ads help to bring people to your business in different locations. Mixed with Facebook’s extensive targeting capacity, these ads make it easier for you to pop literally up on people’s maps when they search for local businesses. Use a call-to-action such as “Get Directions” to attract new customers.

There are two main features of the ads with a local awareness objective:

  1. Map card – including a map pin for your business location, distance to business, hours of operation and a direction link
  2. Call to action button – Get Directions, Call Now, Learn More, and Send Message

According to Facebook:

“The store locator shows a map of all of the locations that a business has nearby. People can click on the map in the advert to view information about nearby locations. Without leaving the advert or app, they can view the address, opening times, phone number, website and estimated travel time for each store.”

Moreover, by placing maps in your ads and tracking the store visits, you’ll get a more accurate overview of your Local Awareness Ads performance.

Facebook says that advertisers can use store visits reporting to:

Wouldn’t it be nice to show up on mobile mapping tools such and Google Maps and Apple Maps with directions to your store? Give the new ad format a try to see whether it works for you.

4. The much talked about News Feed update

On June 29, Facebook announced that it would change its News Feed to be more family and friend-centric. The goal of the algorithm update is to show people the most relevant stories.

Up until now, over 40% of Facebook users got their news from the platform, according to a survey by Pew Research.

But this trend is likely to decline shortly. As one can expect, the number of posts from friends and relatives showing up in people’s news feeds is going to grow at brands’ and publishers’ reach expense. But more on this later.

First, let’s have a look at the core reasons for the update.

The decision to reframe the entire News Feed came as a reaction to a recent decline in original sharing – people started posting less original ideas and increasingly sharing content published by brands and publishers. This led to our newsfeeds being populated with articles and op-ed pieces instead of news from our friends and families.

“Our success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most. If you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would they be? The answer should be your News Feed. It is subjective, personal, and unique — and defines the spirit of what we hope to achieve.”

Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management, News Feed

What’s going to change for marketers?

As we mentioned before, our news feeds are going to be populated with more posts from our friends and family.

For regular Facebook users, it means that fewer posts from publishers will show up in their News Feed.

For (brands as) publishers, the algorithm change denotes a continuous downfall of their posts’ reach.

According to research by SocialFlow, publisher reach on Facebook declined 42 percent from January to May.

If you compare it to another chart displaying a mounting trend of posts published on Facebook (the graph shows posts that went through SocialFlow’s platform), you’ll see that published posts don’t mean a higher reach.

You’ll have to spend more to reach the same audience

According to Joe Lazaukas at Contently, brands will soon need to increase their Facebook advertising budgets to keep their campaigns’ reach on the current level.

With an increasing number of brands competing to show up in our News Feeds, brands are forced to up their bidding game and contribute more resources to each campaign.

When will the algorithm update occur?

According to an article in The New York Times, Facebook plans to start making the changes as soon as this week.

“We view our work as only 1 percent finished — and are dedicated to improving along the way. As we look for ways to get better, we will continue soliciting feedback. We will be as open as we can — providing explanations in News Feed FYI wherever possible and looking for opportunities to share how we work.”

Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management, News Feed

We’ll soon see where this big algorithm change leads.

5. Facebook Exchange will soon be the past

While this news doesn’t impact a large share of advertisers, for those using Facebook Exchange (Facebook’s desktop-based ad retargeting exchange FBX), it’s been sad news. Soon, the tool will be shut down.

According to Facebook’s most recent earning’s report, mobile now accounts for 82 percent of the company’s overall revenue.

Moreover, the number of mobile-only monthly active users is increasing at a rapid rate.

Facebook VP of Monetization Product Marketing Matt Idema explained that Facebook Exchange is primarily a desktop retargeting tool, adding that newer product such as Dynamic Ads for Carousel, video campaigns, and custom audiences have mobile retargeting features not supported by Exchange.

Idema told Adweek that “the company has already begun moving clients and ad tech partners over to newer products with the goal of being fully migrated by Nov. 1.

For small publishers and brands, this news won’t make a big difference. So rest assured.

We’ve covered the five top news from Facebook. Let’s revisit them once more:

Have you recently come across another important Facebook update? Share the news with our community of thousands of marketers by leaving a comment.