Facebook puts branded content front and center with its revamped News Feed.

Facebook has just announced its new and improved News Feed, which will roll out to a small percentage of users in the next few days, before a more widespread launch. The updated News Feed focuses on three principles: Richer stories, choice feeds and a consistent user interface across devices. The update creates a more personalized content experience, making it easier for people to find stories relevant to them. What does this mean for social marketing? Brand Pages will need to be fueled with engaging and relevant updates to get products and services in front of the right people online – and the rewards are better than ever for companies that deliver.

Mark Zuckerberg reported a few significant metrics to support why the company revamped the News Feed. For example, photos and other visual media make up 50 percent of social media content on the average News Feed. More, branded content from Pages represent between 25 and 30 percent of all News Feed updates.

The Facebook team realized they needed to make the overall user experience even more focused around this media, highlighting what matters most to the network’s users.

Richer Stories – more real estate for quality content

Facebook's News Feed focuses on quality content.The current News Feed dedicates approximately 40 percent of the screen to its stories. However, Facebook’s aims to position content front and center to keep users engaged and aware of their friends’ updates.

Publishing graphics or company photos? If not, it’s time to start: Photos look more vibrant and beautiful in the new News Feed, and photo albums now tell the whole story, showcasing several images at a time.

The update raises the stakes for featured images that accompany shared website articles, too. These are given more real estate, with the News Feed directly displaying images and summaries – think a table of contents in a major magazine like GQ. It’s amazing. Posted articles also feature bolder titles, longer descriptions and highlight the original publishers, which could boost click rates among viewers who want to immediately navigate to the entire piece. (See the CNN snapshot below for a preview of how shared site content will look on News Feeds.)

Brand advocacy gets a boost 

Within the News Feed, the social media giant’s developers also revamped how “new friendships” or “Likes” appear. Now when people add a brand Page on Facebook, users will see all of their connections who have added the same Page, and a portion of that Page’s Timeline photo will appear in the News Feed. This also works with friendship requests.

Facebook Stories Are BrighterCatering to local audiences? The new News Feed also features check-ins more prominently with a map, description and pictures of friends who have checked into the place before. Facebook’s treatment of third-party apps, photos from Pinterest, Instagram and elsewhere also got a face lift, and users will see the latest updates from their friends clearly in the new News Feed.

Content marketers who worried that their updates would get lost in the clutter have more opportunities to leverage Likes for added reach. When multiple friends share the same article or video, the News Feed will showcase this trend with larger graphics, relevant social chatter and allow people to engage content on the same screen.

Choice Feeds – opportunities for posts to be prioritized

Facebook’s tech lead, Chris Struhar, noticed users want more control over which feeds they engage with. His observation led to the new News Feed “switcher.”

Facebook's Switcher ToolThe feature allows users to jump to any type of feed they want – Music, Photos, Following, Games, Close Friends, whatever. When fans tune into the “Following” feed, branded content has the opportunity to take center stage. More, each feed features content in chronological order, so viewers never miss an update, and brands will increasingly reach the right people over time.

The switcher also adapts to user preferences. If a person visits the Music feed most often, it will always show up first on the list.

Cross-Interface Consistency – simpler connection across devices

Facebook’s new News Feed is inspired by its mobile application. Members will notice that the experience they have on their smartphone will match what they see on their tablets or desktop computers. Facebook now provides users with a truly global navigation, so no more fumbling around looking for a Page.

Consistent UI on FacebookThe new responsive design adapts to users’ screens, so even if people access the network on a smaller screen, they can chat with their friends and engage with the features that people with larger devices enjoy daily.

The new-look News Feed showcases Facebook’s drive toward remaining the most influential social media network in the game. As Brafton noted in its Social Media Horse Race Infographic, Facebook still dominates across the board, and if the company continues to unveil features like the new News Feed, it’s hard to imagine it will ever go away.

The update also puts a premium on content marketing for social efforts. Facebook’s Dan Levy, director of small business, acknowledged earlier this week that small businesses struggle to drive interaction on the social site because “content is really hard to scale.” The improved News Feed looks to make content distribution and discovery a little easier for both brand Page managers and consumers – companies have to be prepared to put out good posts.

Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.