Facebook Changes: New Layout Coming, Graph Search Here

Facebook garners a certain amount of glee from its ever-changing layouts, hyped press events, and its ability to keep bloggers and techies on their toes with a myriad of site/app alterations. Its most recent push to create a more universal Facebook experience reveals just how mobile friendly the social networking giant is willing to go, with service pushes like Graph Search, chat additions like Stickers, and the resurgence of Notes.

Coming Soon: Seriously User-Friendly Layout

It’s true. Facebook regularly redesigns its pages and newsfeed, but this time there is one actually worth mentioning. For desktop users, the layout experience will soon transform into a cleaner newsfeed that includes larger imagery and a side chat panel. Currently, chat is camouflaged in the bottom corner, and Facebook is presumably hoping to make the “live conversation element” a bigger part of the user experience by imbedding Chat Heads into every page of your Facebook visit. Messages, events and apps will also be more prominently arranged on the left-hand column.

Besides being aesthetically pleasing to the eye, Facebook’s new desktop layout will also make it easier to organize your newsfeed the way you want. Whether you like only photos, just news stories, or want to feature your friend’s status updates, the new super-charged Newsfeed will offer more control over what types of stories showing up at the top of your feed. That means more of this: best friend’s vacation pictures; and less of this: your childhood best friend’s dinner pics. Did we just hear a sigh of relief?

Just Added: Better Mobile Layout

With close to half of all Facebook Page visits coming from mobile, Facebook wisely redid the design of its mobile layout. The new Facebook mobile is more linear, more intuitive and all-around more mobile-y. It takes photos and increases them to utilize more of the your small screen and places a heavier emphasis on the chat feature by making it more accessible via a roll-over side panel that only takes up screen space when you’re using it. When you’re not, it hides away.

Just Added: Graph Search

Click for larger view

Graph Search was innocuously combined with the regular search bar at the top of the page. Though Facebook advertised the search as a way to discover new music and start real-world hobby clubs, its actual use will probably be a little different from that. There is the possibility of some people turning the whole thing into a Myspace remix by treating it like an online dating site (searching for “photos of single men who are older than 25 and live in my city ” turns up an endless album of bachelors who are just a message away). Aside from that, Graph Search uses Facebook’s bottomless pit of user data to offer a few exciting possibilities for data acquisition and forecasting.

Employers can use it to...

  • Find talent (“people who live in Houston, Texas and work as freelance writers”)
  • Find employees who could be embarrassing your company by listing their employer and their recreational misdeeds in one place (“people who work at Generic Company Name and like getting stoned”
  • Another interesting (and, honestly, touching) idea we’ve seen involves large companies running a graph search of their employees’ interests to determine company team-building events, after-hours activity groups, volunteer opportunities or gifts that delight the largest percentage of workers.

Marketers can use it to...

  • Find out how people are using apps, websites, coupons and more (“people in Austin, Texas who have used Rdio”)
  • Find out shared interests of fans and better tailor social marketing to them (“fans of Hank’s Tractor Supply who like music”)
  • Gauge fan loyalty by finding out how many fans are also fans of competitors, and which competitors are your biggest rivals when it comes to social media.
  • Gauge the market for a new company, franchise or service in a particular location, especially for niche markets (For example, “men who live in Portland, Oregon and like fashion and like dogs” turns up over 100 individuals, which might be heartening to someone hoping to open a pet-friendly men’s boutique)

Graph Search isn’t a totally accurate portrayal of your fans and prospects. Not everyone has a completed profile, and many people have strict privacy settings, but it does provide insight that isn’t available anywhere else, and the search options are expected to become more complex with time.

Graph Search sheds light on untapped markets (Did you know over 1,000 French-speaking Texas residents like Buc-ee’s?). You can bet all that marketing minutia is going to be creatively harvested in the coming months and years.

Just Added: Stickers

Facebook recently went early 2000s on us when they rolled out “stickers” for chat and “emotions” for status updates (think Live Journal and Xanga). The emotions are organized into categories of “feeling,” “watching,” “reading,” “eating,” “drinking” and “listening to.” These categories allow users to select specific book or song titles to share with their friends, while “feeling” has over 40 yellow-faced emoticons to help all your friends understand your current emotion.

For mobile, your Chat Heads have just become more comic-friendly, there are stickers depicting squishy cartoon characters, deranged cupcakes, adorable Pusheen cats and much more. The full set became available for Android just last week.

Besides keeping us on our toes, these changes indicate that Facebook is traveling in the right direction when it comes to guarding its overwhelming edge over other social media platforms. Competitors have a lot to contend with if they ever want to win the social war for users and marketers.

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