Dating! Delete your history! Virtual reality! Group video calling!
Yep, updates involving all these and more were announced as Facebook held their annual F8 Conference earlier this month.
Oh, you didn’t even know it was on? Luckily for you, I kept an eye on the biggest news and updates from it that you NEED to know about what the future holds for Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, too. So, without any further ado, here are 12 of the biggest announcements…
1. A new CLEAR HISTORY option will be coming out soon
Mark Zuckerberg announced at F8 that, similar to the old ‘clear cookies’ option in browsers - that you only ever use when your laptop is on the blink and tech support tell you to - this feature will literally allow you to wipe out your entire Facebook history.
Sounds useful, right? And not just for people wanting to remove any evidence of them stalking their ex...but, hang on a second.
As Zuck himself said, 'when you clear your cookies in your browser, it can make parts of your experience worse. You may have to sign back in to every website, and you may have to reconfigure things. The same will be true here. Your Facebook won't be as good while it relearns your preferences.'
So, before you go rushing off to hit that delete button, consider whether you want an experience that is tailored to you every time you open up Facebook.
Or, a much colder, impersonal one where any ads you see (nope, even clearing your history won't escape you from those!) will be totally irrelevant rather than based on your interests and activity, and showing you products and services you might actually want to buy.
I know which one I'm choosing...
2. MESSENGER BOTS ARE BACK
There was an unfortunate hiatus in the ability to attach new bots to Facebook pages for a few weeks there while FB ‘reviewed policies’ but this is, thankfully, over and you can now happily connect new bots to pages again.
This brought widespread relief to a whole load of marketers who have come to rely on bots as a cheap way of engaging potential customers (open rates are, in general, far higher than with email and the interaction levels don't even compare).
There are now over 300,000 messenger bots active on Facebook. Still not sure what they are or how they work? Ask me below or send me a message.
Bots are also something you may be hearing more about from me very soon ;-)
3. Augmented Reality (AR) is coming to Messenger
[For anyone wondering what AR is – think Pokemon Go where reality and your mobile/device merge]. Examples of what could be done with this are car dealers who could show people round a virtual car at the same time as chatting on Messenger and Nike who plan on using it to show users different digital shoes in their range.
Pretty cool, huh?
4. A new ‘GROUPS’ tab is coming soon to “make groups a more central part of the Facebook experience.”
This is also designed to make it easier for owners to manage their groups, and FB will be launching a plugin as well that you will be able to add to your website (and also to emails) to encourage more people to join your group.
I've said this to a lot of people lately but if you don't already have a group yet - get onto it now. With business page organic reach declining again this year, groups are one of the best ways you can reach customers without paying for the privilege.
5. Facebook Dating is coming!
You might have seen me mention this on the day of the announcement, but this is a pretty big step for FB who have previously frowned upon dating services (you can only advertise them if you get approved status in advance).
However, it makes a lot of sense - given the amount of data they have on us all - that they could potentially be good at a bit of matchmaking, so it will be interesting to see how this one turns out…
6. Oculus Go release
Facebook paid an astounding $3 billion to buy virtual reality (VR) firm Oculus four years ago, and announced at F8 that the latest bit of Oculus kit - the Oculus Go - was being released, with thousands of games and apps ready to rock.
This stand-alone VR headset differs from most in that it needs no cables/phones to operate, and is also cheaper than most high-end headsets with the entry model coming in at £199/$199. Check out the official promo video below:
Looks pretty cool, doesn't it?
That said, right now I'm not sure I need to be spending 200 quid on a VR headset, maybe in a few months time Depesh Mandalia will have me convinced (he's doing daily Facebook Lives with his at the moment)!
7. NEW FB Analytics App
Yep, just what all social media marketers needed, another app that slowly eats up your phone's storage every time it updates :-)
This one will probably be reserved more for FB ads geeks like me, who maybe need deeper insights into campaigns 'on-the-go' than you get with the standard FB Ads app.
When I've had a chance to check it out properly, I'll let you know if there's much value in it for the average business page user on.
It's safe to say though, if you haven't really looked at your FB Analytics already (past the basic ones you get on your page), this app will probably be overkill for you.
Facebook are also adding a feature to the main analytics package that will auto-detect funnels users go through across your websites, apps and more, which could be very useful and save a fair bit of time if it works properly.
8. Downvote/Upvote feature expanded
I mentioned a couple of months back that FB were adding a 'downvote' feature (users of other forums will be very familiar with this) which they tested in small areas of the US.
Possibly as some kind of 'anti-troll' measure?
Now, they have decided to start rolling this out (Australia and NZ to start with) along with the ability to upvote posts - but only on public page posts not personal ones.
I got a notification myself recently that this feature was being added (see below), although I'm not seeing it live just yet.
Now, don't forget that Facebook also owns Instagram, so there were some announcements for avid Gram fans too...
9. Redesigned EXPLORE tab
Instagram are testing a revamped version of this which is supposed to make it easier for us all to discover and organise the things we are interested in.
This should be rolling out imminently - I love some of the stuff they've done with hashtags recently (namely, allowing you to follow actual # as well as giving you suggested ones) so hopefully these updates continue that trend of improving user experience.
10. Video Calling slides into your IG DM's (and WhatsApp)
Not wanting to step on Messenger's toes, there are numerous improvements in the pipeline to the current Instagram DM/messaging platform.
One of the main ones is video calling - with both one-to-one and group video chat coming out soon.
DM's are big amongst younger demographics so I'm sure this will be a well-received and used feature, especially for under-30's.
Group calls will also be arriving to WhatsApp, another platform that Facebook has big plans for over the next year.
11. Sharing is Caring on IG Stories
Sharing from third-party apps direct to IG Stories is already a thing (noticed it yet on Spotify or GoPro?) but will be expanded to numerous others over the next few months.
With the popularity of Stories growing all the time, this makes a lot of sense and also gives brands a great opportunity to engage users in an organic way.
You'll also be able to do the same with Facebook Stories, but no-one uses those, do they? Or is it just me...
12. Augmented Reality on IG plus a revamped AR Studio
Facebook is releasing new AR features for IG users, which TechCrunch says means that "people will be exposed to user-designed filters based on the accounts that they follow… [and] will also enable users to try out filters directly from their friends’ Stories."
So, in short, instead of seeing cool stuff on Instagram and wondering how the heck people did it, you'll be able to try out the things you see friends doing for yourself.
As for the AR Studio (yeah, even I haven't had time for that one), FB has made updates that will allow developers to create "more rich, relevant, and contextually aware AR experiences".
You can check AR Studio out here. It actually all looks really cool, so I've added it to my ever-growing list of 'Things To Check Out When I Get Time'.
If you get a chance to play about with it, let me know what you think!
So there's all the biggest news from F8 about Facebook, Instagram and even WhatsApp. Anything in particular you're looking forward to trying out?
Gil is a Facebook Advertising specialist, and usually gets a blank look when he tries to tell the 'average person' what he does for a living. So much so that he's thinking of changing his LinkedIn job title to 'Gets Paid to Mess Around on Facebook All Day...'
He also plays Tight End for the Belfast Trojans. Which will probably only confuse some people even more...