Facebook’s new app Paper debuts today in the United States on the iPhone. The new app is Facebook’s latest attempt to create a must-have mobile experience, especially since its previous mobile apps haven’t been as successful as they’d hoped. Facebook is aiming for planned obsolescence, hoping to make the next “Facebook killer” a Facebook app.
Paper’s promise is a sort of refined newsfeed, isolating you from the all-out onslaught of the regular Facebook experience. Especially important is that the initial experience will be ad-free, perhaps as a way of enticing users who are tired of an endless array of badly targeted Newsfeed ads. Instead, you’ll see a selection of stories from friends and your Newsfeed, made to resemble a series of cards, similar to newer apps like Jelly.
Facebook is also attempting to control the influx of media into its ecosystem. While it incorporates Flipboard-style news sections for inclusion into your Paper experience, reporting from The Verge indicates that users will not have control over which media sources appear in the broad category topics. The Verge writes, “Facebook has hired a team of content curators to pick stories for you in one of a dozen or so categories ranging from basic news to cute animals.”
We’ve downloaded and tested Paper – and there’s something very prominent that’s missing from the casual experience: Brand pages. So far, there isn’t a single brand Page story in the main newsfeed, even from pages I’ve liked, even from the Pages I own, with the exception of the curated top tier media sources and stories that my personal friends have reshared. Brands are not invited to the party, and this is in alignment with Facebook’s ever-increasing restrictions on who can see what brands publish (mostly because the majority of brands don’t publish anything worth reading).
This doesn’t mean brands are completely excluded – it turns out that brand pages are buried deep within the application. You can find them by digging two levels down in the menus, first to the general settings:
and then in the unlabeled menu on the right, which shows you all of the pages you’ve liked and pages you administer:
Realistically, few consumer end users are likely to go digging this far into the app for pages they’ve liked.
If Paper gets traction and takes off, expect Facebook’s ubiquitous advertising system to eventually make its debut with sponsored cards and stories appearing in the Paper stream. In the meantime, savvy marketers and communicators looking to get the jump on a new platform should take away a few ideas:
1. The new app heavily emphasizes the personal Newsfeed, as have recent Newsfeed algorithm changes. To the extent practical, reasonable, and permitted by ethics and law, be sure that you’re not neglecting your personal profiles and those of your employees in your owned media campaigns. Ask (but don’t demand or require) employees to share relevant news, and assist them as resources permit in becoming more proficient at social media. Right now, the ONLY way to get any of your brand’s Page content seen is to have individuals reshare it.
2. The new app emphasizes top tier media. In the first version of the app, we have the Huffington Post, Time, National Geographic, the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, and other major media brands. Getting earned media in these publications matters more than ever, especially since Facebook users don’t have the option to add or customize what they see in this version of the app.
3. Multi-channel is how you’ll survive and thrive. Each social network is becoming more ad-based and is effectively morphing into a broadcast media channel, a fact highlighted by Jay Baer in this excellent post. Each network offers some level of differentiation and the audience you can reach. If Paper takes off, expect Facebook as a channel to become even less accessible for brands until paid advertising options appear. Brands will need to compensate by making use of as many other social platforms as resources permit. If you haven’t already built up your community’s reach on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and the many other platforms, it’s critical that you do so in order to keep reaching people organically, especially if you don’t have a large ad budget.
Paper represents another iteration of Facebook as it attempts to provide more usability for its nearly 1.3 billion person population. Paper is available now in the USA Apple App Store.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology