Available February 3, 2014 on the Apple iPhone solely, Paper is the latest mobile social experience offering from Facebook. According to Facebook, Paper is “a new app that helps you explore and share stories from friends and the world around you.”
In brief, Facebook is taking some of their current product features (shareable news and status updates) and repackaging them, with a slight twist. The process of repackaging is not new territory for the social company, as they have taken other fully integrated features (such as the ability to IM with others via Facebook) and created a standalone app for mobile devices (Facebook Messenger). However, in addition to the algorithm used to push content to user News Feeds, a human curation team will also be responsible for selecting content which will appear in the different content source categories users can choose from.
To social marketers the immersive app may cause concern as it does not currently support any type of paid advertising. However, there is still a play for brands, as posts can still show up in the News Feed of Fans. The operative word here is can, since over the last several months Facebook has throttled back visibility of organic brand posts in Fan feeds.
The Facebook Paper App, Explained
Before delving into how brand marketer efforts are affected by the new app, a brief overview of Paper’s capabilities is needed.
The Paper app is divided into two sections:
1) The first section is the Facebook News Feed, where users find stories from Friends and sources they follow. The way users interact has changed (swipes in place of taps), but the content is still the same, as are the abilities to Like, Share, and Comment.
2) The second section involves various content sources across 19 categories, including:
- Headlines: News content from typically larger media companies, such as the New York Times, Daily Beast, and CNN
- Tech: Content regarding the latest technology developments from large and smaller content sources
- Enterprise: Business related content, including feature stories, editorials, and trends
- Pop Life: Content curated around pop culture
- Score: Sports news and commentary from journalists, fans, and athletes
- Creators: Content from designers and artists
- Flavor: Recipes, reviews, and stories about food
- Exposure: Photos, stories, and interviews from and about photographers
- Ideas: According to Facebook, “A daily in-depth look at one standout idea, event or personality”
- Equalize: Content focused on women’s issues, rights, and advancement
- Planet: Content from news, blogs, and individuals with an environmental focus
- All City: Fashion, art, and culture with a younger, cosmopolitan emphasis
- Well Lived: Currently trending fashion, travel, design, and art
- Family Matters: Content related to parenting and family life for mothers, fathers, and adult children
- Cute: As Facebook describes it, “Adorable animals, cuddly babies, and all things awwww-some”
- LOL: Videos, photos and written stories from comedians, individuals, and even major TV networks/Movie Studios
- Glow: Fashion and style from major to independent content producers, focused on the female audience
- Home: Design, decorating, DIY, and inspiration content for personal dwellings
- Pride: News, commentary, photos, and video with an LGBT focus
It should be noted that any of the 19 categories may offer content as brief as a status update from a single individual. For example, the day after his Super Bowl XLVII win, Seattle Seahawk Malcolm Smith posted the following status update, “I’m going to Disneyworld!! No literally, I am. #StillInShock.” This piece of content appeared in the Score category shortly after Paper’s launch.
What The Paper App Means For Social Marketers
Facebook explains the way the Paper app organizes content as follows:
“Your Paper is made of stories and themed sections, so you can follow your favorite interests. The first section in Paper is your Facebook News Feed, where you’ll enjoy inspiring new designs for photos, videos, and longer written posts. You can customize Paper with a choice of more than a dozen other sections about various themes and topics—from photography and sports to food, science and design. Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications.”
Since Facebook has divided content into 19 categories ranging from news to cute cat photos, brands will need to reinforce efforts to produce even more engaging, relevant, entertaining, and newsworthy content the Facebook Algorithm ranks. However, marketers won’t just be creating content that aims to get a heavier ranking with the Facebook algorithm to end up in user’s devices—they’ll also need to pique the interest of the human curator as well.
With the curation team hand-picking content that the Facebook Algorithm may not have picked up on, new, unique content that otherwise may have gone overlooked has a better chance of going viral on Facebook. However, with the human selection process now a part of the equation, there are no guarantees brand content (such as a blog entry or engaging photo) may necessarily make it’s way into one of the 19 categories. It is probably safe to say it is even less likely—if, at all—status updates from a brand will end up in the one of the 19 categories.
In order for brands to keep the interest of their Fans with status updates, it appears the user’s News Feed section will be the sole place to engage via the app.
Is There A Brand Risk Of Audiences Migrating To The Paper App?
For brands in the retail, pharmaceutical, finance and other non-news oriented industries, it will become more important than ever for them to have a solid, well thought out blogging strategy, as links to news and blogs appear to be the best way to end up in one of the 19 topic categories. For instance, if a home improvement brand wants to sell more closet organizers, they should produce highly engaging, unique blog entries with the aim of appealing to the Home category audience. A tactic to promote the blog entries via the traditional status update is still recommended as part of their content plan. The blog entries themselves will need to stand apart from other entries that just explain the brand has closet organizers to sell. For example, the brand many want to consider using the topic of closet organizers as a backdrop to a comedic video, which parodies the improvement of a husband and wife relationship—all due to finding serenity with the $45.00 product.
Facebook will continue to highlight and connect the human experience for the foreseeable future. Brands will need to continually focus on the human aspect of the content curating process and Facebook algorithm changes. The Paper app is just the beginning of more human interaction as Facebook evolves.