“The only constant is change,” Greek philosopher Heraclitus has famously said. We can’t prove it, but we’re pretty sure he was talking about Facebook updates.
Sometimes its changes delight (see: the introduction of Messenger). Sometimes they cause mass outrage (see: literally any time the interface is redesigned). But one thing’s for sure: Facebook never rests on its laurels.
There’s always something new in the works, which is to say there are always new opportunities for your brand to get ahead of its competitors.
It’s why we’ll be keeping this page updated regularly, spotlighting the most important Facebook updates each month. Be sure to check back often (and maybe even bookmark this page?).
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
Top Facebook updates you need to know in 2021
February 2021 Facebook updates
Improved photo descriptions for visually impaired users
With the launch of a new AI tool to create audio photo descriptions, Facebook has made the site a much more enjoyable place to be for blind and visually impaired users.
While much of Facebook’s content is text — which is simple enough for screen readers to read out with a synthetic voice — images and video have long provided a roadblock for users with visual impairment.
Yes, if visual content is tagged properly with alt text, accessibility programs can interpret the post… but images uploaded without that information (an unfortunately high number) are simply unrecognizable.
To help combat this accessibility issue, Facebook launched a technology in 2016 called automatic alternative text (AAT), which uses object recognition to auto-generate descriptions of photos on demand. (It worked so well that the tool even won a Helen Keller Achievement Award.) Now, a new generation of AAT represents a variety of technological advances to improve on the AI’s photo-recognition skills.
In this update, Facebook has dramatically expanded the number of concepts the AI can identify. Descriptions are also now much more detailed, and may include key details like activities, landmarks, and species of animal.
The new and improved AAT also can now include information about the positions of elements within the photo, as well as each object or person’s relative size. For example, instead of simply saying, “Maybe two people,” the AAT could identify that one person is the central focus of the photo and another is lurking in the back left corner of the photo.
Now everyone can enjoy my cat birthday party photos. Thanks, Facebook!
Learn more about Facebook’s new AI photo descriptions for visually impaired people here.
Exclusion controls for advertisers in beta testing
Facebook has just begun testing “advertiser topic exclusion controls” with a small group of advertisers. If this sounds like a bunch of unrelated words smashed together to you, you’re not alone. Here’s what this actually means:
Some advertisers have experienced problems with their ads appearing in the News Feed next to topics that aren’t very on-brand. For example, an ad for toys might, through random algorithmic chance, wind up being displayed next to a news story about a horrible murder.
To combat this sort of unfortunate accidental placement, Facebook is now experimenting with allowing advertisers to explicitly opt out of placement near specific topics — for instance, “Crime and Tragedy.”
Product development and testing is likely to take much of the year, but this could offer some interesting new control for brands if and when it rolls out on a larger scale.
Learn more about Facebook’s testing of topic exclusion controls here.
New Conversions API allows businesses to share server data with ads manager
As privacy legislation and cookies policies face changes, businesses may start to experience some hiccups with Facebook’s pixel tracking. To prevent disruption, the platform is introducing a new Conversions API to pull data directly from your server into Ads Manager.
The tool is built to target, optimize, and measure Facebook campaigns, as pixel loses some effectiveness. What’s key is that the API will pull from your server, not your browser, establishing a more reliable data connection.
Business owners will have added control over the data that’s shared, and how it’s shared. It’s also designed to be less susceptible to crashes or connectivity issues.
Read more about Facebook’s new conversions API here.
Account Status feature comes to the Profile Settings menu
New! Facebook has added an ‘Account Status’ feature accessed via your personal profile
It shows the Pages, Groups you manage + your account restrictions history
h/t @ahmedghanem pic.twitter.com/dUfBDOl6hw
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) February 8, 2021
Social media consultant (slash super Facebook gossip) Matt Navarra recently reported that Facebook is rolling out a new Account Status feature to the Profile Setting menu. This new section will allow users to view any restrictions — current or prior — that have been applied to their account, pages, or groups.
It’s a minor update, but one that pulls information into one easy-to-view place. You’ll find it in your Account Settings Menu, labelled with a briefcase icon. Tap, and you’ll be taken to your new Account Status screen.
If you don’t see this feature yet, sit tight. Reports are that it’s rolling out widely and should reach your account soon.
Messenger integration added to Oculus
In case you were feeling a little lonely in your virtual reality, Facebook has added a new Messenger feature to its Oculus VR headset. Anyone who has logged into Quest or Quest 2 using their Facebook account will now have the option to chat with friends through their Oculus device.
Type out your message in virtual reality, use the voice-to-text feature, or just shoot out pre-written phrases. You can also start an Oculus Party from the integrated Messenger app, so you can face off with friends virtually in real time. This is the closest many of us are going to get to human contact during this pandemic so we may as well embrace it: Get! In! My! Headset!
For more on Oculus’s latest update, click here.
January 2021 Facebook updates
Facebook Pages redesign and new admin controls
Ooh la la, looks like Pages got a makeover! A variety of updates to the Facebook Pages functionality rolled out earlier this month.
A redesigned Page layout is intended to be more intuitive, with a streamlined new look that makes viewing bios, posts, and important info more clear. The ability to “Like” a Page will be removed, leaving just “Followers” — instead of having the two, head-scratching options for fans to choose between.
Navigating between personal profiles and Pages is now easier to do, as well.
Pages also has a cool new Q&A feature. Add a topic for your followers to ask you about. As you answer them, questions and answers become part of a stack that fans can swipe through. (Right now, this feature is only available on your computer.)
If you’re logged in as your Page, you’ll also now have access to a dedicated Pages News Feed to enable users to discover more relevant content, as well as interact with peers and friends. This News Feed will also suggest new connections specifically for your page, whether relevant public figures, groups, or other Pages.
Additionally, comments from public figures will now be bumped to the top of the comments section for your Page posts, for wider visibility. Facebook users will be able to follow Pages directly from both comments and recommendations posts.
New admin controls
Behind the scenes, updated task-based admin controls allow for more nuanced usage by your admin team. Give someone full control, or just partial access. This could include tasks like accessing insights, creating ads, posting content, or managing community activity, for example.
The new and improved Pages experience will additionally offer actionable insights, more relevant notifications, as well as safety and integrity features for catching spam and fake accounts.
The new Pages experience will be slowly rolling out to all users, so if you haven’t encountered any of these changes yet, sit tight: change is a-comin’. To learn more, visit the Help Center.
Facebook establishes new civil rights organization
Nationally renowned civil rights attorney and advocate Roy L. Austin, Jr. joined Facebook Facebook this month to help establish the social media platform’s new civil rights organization.
Austin will be helping Facebook curb racial hatred and violence on the platform. In a Facebook press release announcing his appointment, the accomplished lawyer acknowledged the role that technology now plays in every part of our lives, and stresses the importance of harnessing that for historic good.
“It’s important that it be used to overcome the historic discrimination and hate which so many underrepresented groups have faced, rather than to exacerbate it,” said Austin. “I could not pass up the opportunity to join a company whose products are used by so many and which impacts the civil rights and liberties of billions of people, in order to help steer a better way forward.”
It’s now easier to access your information: new segments in Access Your Information
Facebook first launched its Access Your Information tool in 2018 to make it easier for users to view and download their own personal data.
Three years in, the function is getting an update.
Previously, data here was broken into two big categories: “Your Information” versus “Information About You,” which of course is perfectly distinct and we have no further questions.
Going forward, Facebook will break your information into eight more distinct segments, which are further broken down into hyper-specific subcategories.
- Your Activity Across Facebook
- Friends and Followers
- Personal Information
- Logged Information
- Ads Information
- Apps and Websites Off of Facebook
- Security and Login Information
You can also now find data categories with a search: for example, searching “location” will generate information about your location history.
In the new Access Your Information tool, you’ll be able to see information about just how Facebook has been using your data to customize your experience on the platform — like how your primary location was one reason you saw ads for a local sushi restaurant. (While this info was already available with the “Why Am I Seeing This?” tool, Facebook’s goal is to make this more transparent and accessible.)
Right now, you can see the new version of Access Your Information via the iOS or Android Facebook app, and it will be available via desktop soon as well.
Access more information about Access Your Information here. (Knowledge is power! Right?)
December 2020 Facebook updates
Facebook launches music-making app Collab
Launched as an invite-only beta in May, Facebook has recently opened up its collaborative music-making app, Collab, to U.S. users.
With Collab, users can create short music videos by combining two or three separate clips. Let the duets rain down! I call dibs on baritone!
Any video created is posted to the public feed, so other users can view and create their own collaborations. Collab’s automated in-app tool syncs everything up musically to avoid awkward lags or timing problems, ensuring you can make beautiful music together, even with perfect strangers.
External audio interfaces allow you to bring in music from keyboards, guitars and electric drum kits into recordings, too, if an all-acapella jam is not your thing for some reason (presumably medical?).
While the app isn’t integrated with Facebook at this point, your final songs can be exported to Instagram Stories and other platforms so everyone can (all together now, two, three, four) enjoOoooyYY yOuUurRrR SiiIiInnNngGGGiinnnGGgG1!!
Collab is available on iOS and is free to download.
The NPE drops new “zine-like” graphics app, E.gg
Facebook’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) team has been hard at work the past few months. In addition to the music-making Collab app I just mentioned (pay attention! don’t get distracted by my beautiful singing!), they’ve also just dropped an experimental free-form graphics program called E.gg.
Inspired, they say, by the early days of the manic, Geocities-dominated internet, E.gg allows users to slap together images, gifs and text into a graphic collage that can be shared via a unique URL.
In a limited beta, E.gg has been used to create fan pages, guides and tributes, but the structure-less format offers endless possibilities — sort of the polar opposite of the rigidly formatted Facebook itself.
Keep up the good work, you kooky NPE kids!
E.gg is available on iOs in the U.S. Download it here and find more inspiration here.
Social Business for Good site brings do-goodery and commerce together
Even as it’s being accused of anti-trust violations Facebook just dropped a Social Business for Good hub as a new resource for businesses big and small. (Is there still time for Facebook to squeeze onto Santa’s “nice” list?)
The website features a clear guide to the resources and tools that can help businesses advance their social impact, helpful for both companies with specific social-good business models and those who are trying to make an impact through Corporate Social Responsibilities commitments.
On the site, businesses can find easy access to fundraiser tools and tips, but also advice for maximizing reach and amplifying impact through awareness campaigns, Facebook Shops, and events. A one-stop shop for your business-karma needs!
More information on this new Social Good Hub and Facebook’s tools and products here.
Facebook acquires CRM tool Kustomer
This month, Facebook acquired top-rated CRM Kustomer, to aid business profiles with text-based customer communication and management.
The platform compiles conversations from a variety of channels into a single screen view to help businesses automate repetitive and frequently asked responses. “As businesses adjust to an evolving digital environment, they’re seeking solutions that place people at the center, especially when it comes to communication,” wrote Dan Levy, VP of Ads and Business Products, and Matt Idema, COO, WhatsApp. After all, who wants to call anyone for help anymore? I barely can summon the energy to record a voicemail greeting. (Much less actually check them. Just text me, Dad!)
It’s another interesting shift from Facebook into the business operations and retail sphere, following the integration of Shops this spring and the announcement of API updates for WhatsApp and Messenger. Remember this was just a place to share baby pics and ignore invites to my comedy shows? Those were the days.
More information about the acquisition and integration in Facebook’s news release here.
Santa pays Messenger Kids a visit
Just because they now have a direct personal line to message Santa via Messenger Kids, doesn’t mean the youth of today should just automatically get to be on his good list. I hope there’s a coal emoji because someone needs to keep those egos in check.
Parents in the U.S., Canada, and Australia can opt in to message their kids as Santa in a little moment of holiday magic (or, depending on your perspective, holiday lies). The Santa Chat will stay open until January 6 to give your little stinker a chance to say thanks.
Other seasonal Messenger Kids updates include festive holiday AR effects, frames and stickers to commemorate Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Christmas, as well as the option to send a customizable digital holiday card to your little ones. (I’m sorry I called them stinkers before, I guess I’m just jealous Santa never wants to chat with me.)
For more information about Messenger Kids, visit MessengerKids.com.
November 2020 Facebook updates
Big changes to Facebook gaming this month
It’s unfathomable to me that anyone would want to play a game that isn’t Animal Crossing, but if you personally would like to spend some time not paying a greedy capitalist racoon an ever-increasing mortgage, I’ve got good news: Facebook is making some big changes to its game offerings and would be happy to serve your entertainment needs.
This month, Facebook announced the launch of several new cloud-streamed games that are available both in the Android app and on browsers in the U.S. With no download required, these games are playable instantly and don’t require any special hardware or controllers.
Notably, this feature is not available on iOS at this point in time — due to a conflict with Apple’s cloud gaming and App Store policies — but for those who are just dying to play WWE Supercard, mobile browsers are a neat workaround.
Importantly for brands, this new technology offers a new advertising opportunity: cloud playable ads will support interactive demos from a game’s native code. This feature is currently available on Android and iOS in the U.S. (Developers can learn more about cloud playable ads here.)
The new free-to-play cloud-streaming titles include Asphalt 9: Legends, Mobile Legends: Adventure, PGA Tour Golf Shootout, Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale, and the aforementioned WWE Supercard. More games will be added to the library in the coming weeks. You’ll find them under Facebook’s redesigned Gaming tab, which includes new discovery features for finding new games.
For games running on the HTML5, the platform has been completely refreshed with new automated performance standards, as well as an enhanced review process. Facebook has also implemented additional editorial feature units to help players discover new games.
Another new feature for Facebook gaming is the introduction of player names. Choose a special avatar to represent yourself in your gameplay, if that cute profile pic from your brother’s graduation isn’t exactly striking fear into your opponents on Asphalt 9. Additionally, developers integrating Facebook Login for Gaming may now enable cross-play between their downloaded games and the Facebook cloud edition. (Developers can sign up for the closed beta here.)
Check out the new games on Android or via your browser here.
Messenger gets an upgrade with new features
Rumours have been swirling and quiet beta rollouts have been, um, rolling for months, and now the truth is out: new Messenger and Instagram features are finally here.
Update your Messenger app to access the highly anticipated Watch Together feature, which (as previously reported) can be used to stream content while you’re in a video chat. In your next Messenger video chat, simply swipe up to view an options menu and select Watch Together. Here, you’ll find TV and movies to view, including Facebook original content like Post Malone’s Celebrity World Pong League.
With this latest update, you’ll also have access to chat themes to personalize the backdrops and colors of your conversations — yes, there’s tie-dye, thank goodness — as well as selfie stickers, animated message effects, and custom emoji reactions.
Read more about the new Messenger and Instagram messaging features here.
Drives feature launched for the holidays
To gather clothing, food, and other necessities for people in need, U.S.-based Facebook users can now implement the Drives feature. Part of Facebook’s Community Help hub, Drives allows you to rally your community around a cause, encouraging and tracking non-monetary donations.
To create your own Drive, open the Community Help hub and click “Request or Offer Help.” Here, you can select “Create Drive,” and fill out the form to set a collection goal — whether that’s 100 backpacks for school kids in need, or 1,000 cans of soup for a local shelter. The Drive will appear in your news feed like any other post, with a progress bar tracking donations to date. This post will also appear in the Community Help hub, so others in your neighborhood can also discover your worthy cause.
As with all posts in Community Help, Drives are held to Facebook’s Community Standards and will be taken down if they feature insensitive or promotional content.
Visit Facebook’s Season of Giving campaign page for more information on the platform’s charitable features.
Facebook takes stock with a new Community Standards report
As a very wild 2020 winds to a close, it looks like the world’s most-used social media platform is taking a moment to reflect. The Facebook news room this month is chock full of progress reports, community updates, and commitments to general good behavior, pulled from its latest Community Standards Enforcement Report.
The team dropped a report in mid-November that measures their progress on combating hate speech, marking the first time they’ve included the metric on the quarterly report. There’s some interesting information here about just how the company balances free speech with public safety, using a mix of AI technology, staff, third-party experts, and user reporting. You can read the full hate speech report here.
Facebook has also reinforced its commitment to being open and honest about its processes, with the release of a Transparency Report that covers the first half of 2020. With information about how Facebook safeguards data and works with governments, it’s a thorough rundown of what’s going on behind the scenes. Read more about Facebook’s transparency here.
Or, just dig into the full, big, juicy Community Standards report here to get the full picture.
October 2020 Facebook updates
Facebook Shops introduces discount feature
Some say the holidays are about family and togetherness. Others say it’s about shopping. We’re not here to pick sides, but we are here to reveal the juicy news that Facebook Shops have introduced a new discounting feature… so perhaps for us, the holidays are actually about gossip?
If you’re a Facebook Shops owner, you can now offer deals to buyers as they pursue your digital storefront.
Put individual products on sale, create automatic discounts for qualifying orders, or activate promo codes. Discounts can also be applied to your entire store or specific collections.
Whatever sweet savings you’re offering, you can let your customers know by adding a banner to your shop.
For now, discount features are only available for shops in the U.S., but if they hit it off, expect the same functionality in Shops worldwide soon.
Learn more about setting up discounts using the Facebook Commerce Manager here.
Facebook Messenger API now supports Instagram messaging
With this update to the Messenger API, businesses can now integrate Instagram messaging with a variety of apps to more efficiently connect with customers. Facebook Shops messaging features are available on this API update, too.
Messages sent by customers through Instagram profiles, Stories, or Shops can now all be accessed (and responded to) on a single platform. It’s another step Facebook is taking to pull its range of communication tools under one umbrella.
Heads up: This updated API is currently in beta (exclusive, oooh!), so only a limited number of businesses and developer partners currently have access. But early results are showing high response rates, quicker resolution of customer issues, and deeper audience insights.
PS: Due to this API update, Hootsuite is part of the beta program that will provide select customers with access to Instagram messaging in Inbox early, before making it available to all Hootsuite customers in 2021.
Wanna be a part of this brave new exploratory expedition? Businesses can get on the waitlist here, and developers can waitlist here. (And just for good measure: more information about the new Messenger API is here.)
New way to connect Groups and brands for collaboration
A community of people united around a cause can be a great thing (save for some key exceptions). But a community of people united around a cause who are also getting swag or support from brands? Even better!
Facebook is trying to make this very thing happen by expanding its Brand Collabs Manager to include Public Groups. It’s like FB is playing matchmaker, connecting brands with communities that could be a good fit.
The Brand Collabs tool has been active since 2018, but has previously only been used to connect brands with creators and public figures for paid product placement.
This recent update expands the potential pool of collaborators now to Public Groups as well. Group admins will have the opportunity to earn money for creating branded content. (Note that any paid posts will be marked as such, in accordance with Facebook’s Branded Content Policies.)
Facebook’s prediction platform Forecast is now available in Canada and U.S.
In these uncertain times, it’s sort of soothing to hear that Facebook has announced that it can predict the future.
Well, at least that its users can predict the future, anyways.
Forecast, Facebook’s new crowd-sourced predictions platform, allows users to collect responses to questions relating to topics like business, sports, and (of course) politics, among others.
The platform is built around what Facebook calls “a prediction market”: people can use virtual points to trade on future outcomes. The hope is this will be a place for measured and respectful conversation, but this is the internet, so who knows.
Forecast launched in beta this spring, and now is available to anyone in Canada or the U.S. via the app or website. More information on Forecast can be found here.
Vanish mode available on Facebook Messenger
Since Snapchat pioneered the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t disappearing message back in 2012, Facebook has been dabbling with its own take on the technology.
Now, with Vanish Mode on Messenger, these automatically disappearing messages are easily accessible. Send a message in Vanish Mode and it will self-destruct (so to speak) after its view for maximum privacy.
Other additions to Facebook Messenger’s toolkit include new color gradients for your chat backdrop and custom emoji reactions.
To access these new features, just update your app, and then get sneaky. More information on what’s to come on Messenger here.
Facebook Neighborhoods is in the works
A limited test of Facebook’s new hyper-local neighborhood groups feature—branded, simply enough, Neighborhood Groups—rolled out in Calgary, Alberta, Canada this month.
Its functionality is similar to that of Nextdoor, a social network designed specifically to connect local residents for community building and safety (with often interesting results).
The goal is to connect geographic communities in a dedicated space online. If you happen to live in Calgary, you’ll find access to your Neighborhood Group under “menu” on the Facebook app. (Although there, it’s of course called Neighbourhood.)
These groups are automatically generated, and do not have local admins. You’ll need to share your location data in order to find your Neighborhood. Facebook will then suggest the nearest Neighborhood to join, alongside a few other local options.
You can invite other neighbors to join as well. If you post in a Neighborhood group, other users will be able to see a specific, Neighborhood version of your profile, protecting your privacy a bit. (You can change visibility in your settings.)
Facebook is taking on NextDoor with a NEW ‘Neighborhoods’ feature! ????????
h/t Leon Griggs / https://t.co/oHkIdU6nbC pic.twitter.com/OHYMW1ig9I
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) October 20, 2020
Facebook introduces Oversight Board
Should your content be removed from Facebook for reasons you feel are unfair, you can now appeal to a board of real live humans.
Facebook’s new Oversight Board is a global body of independent experts (meet them here!), who will make binding decisions on select disputes. It’s like the Supreme Court, but for your social media.
As much as Facebook scrambles to keep clear, updated guidelines in an ever-changing world, not everything is black and white. The goal of this Board is to take decision-making about free speech and safety out of Facebook’s hands in extreme cases.
The Board will make binding, independent decisions on individual pieces of questionable content.
To have your case reviewed by the Board, you’ll first need to exhaust all the existing appeal options on Facebook.
At that point, you’ll be issued an Oversight Board Reference ID in your Support Inbox, which you can then enter on the Oversight Board website. Here, you can also share a statement about why you’re contesting Facebook’s decision.
More info on the process and how to submit your claim can be found here. Will justice be served? Who will prove to be the Ruth Bader Ginsberg of the Oversight Board? Only time will tell.
September 2020 Facebook updates
Transfer your Facebook photos and videos to Dropbox and Koofr
While family photos and videos used to gather dust up in the attic or in the back of the closet, these days, you’re more likely to have your personal archives stowed away on Facebook.
The good news is, your memories are all in one place! The bad news is: they’re all in one place.
But Facebook is working on facilitating data transfers. “We’ve long believed that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it safely and securely to another,” it announced in a press release.
This month, they launched a new data portability tool to move your images and videos from Facebook to Dropbox and Koofr. (Earlier in 2020, it rolled out a photo and video transfer tool for Google Photos, and more options will be coming soon.)
Whether you want to back up your images and videos, or just get them out of the Zuck’s possession, this tool makes it easy to move your albums and uploads to another cloud-based storage system. Find the option under Facebook Settings.
More information about Facebook’s Data Transfer Project here.
Forwarding limit set on Facebook Messenger
To help combat spam, Facebook Messenger has set limits on the number of forwards per message. (That means no more blasting out conspiracy theories to all your favorite estranged high school classmates—sorry guys, we’ll have to catch up at the 15-year reunion instead!)
Each message can now only be forwarded to five people or groups at one time.
Particularly in a time of pandemic crisis, and with so many major elections on the horizon worldwide, this action could be a powerful move to slow the spread of misinformation.
Facebook’s COVID-19 Community Hub and Voting Information Center are two other ways the company is attempting to be a voice of authority and minimize chaos around these divisie issues.
More information on Messenger’s other safety and privacy features here.
Facebook Campus launches for college students
Campus is a new section of the Facebook app that offers both a place for students to connect, and an opportunity for everyone else to say, “wait, wasn’t Facebook started as a place for students to connect?”
For those who joined ol’ FB back in 2005, this feels a little familiar. But obviously, times have changed, and an influx of angry uncles over the past 15 years have broadened the demographics.
In a time where many college students are now taking classes from home, Facebook Campus will offer an opportunity to connect digitally with fellow students via clubs and study groups.
To set up a Campus profile, you’ll need a college email and your graduation year. Your Campus profile will be different from your main Facebook profile; here, you can add information such as your major, your classes, or your hometown. Content shared on this profile will only be visible to others on Campus.
From here, you’ll be able to discover Groups and Events related to your school, and connect with classmates. Find your classmates by class, major, or year, and get school updates via your college-specific news feed.
Facebook Campus is rolling out to select colleges in the U.S. to start, but stay tuned for further schools being added.
More information about Campus’s privacy and security policy here.
Facebook’s new Watch Together brings co-streaming to video calls
Messenger’s newest chat feature, Watch Together, offers the chance to watch videos together while video chatting, which is good news for those of us who miss communal viewings.
Just pull up anything from Facebook Watch videos right in your Messenger chat on mobile for iOS or Android and start streaming. For creators, it’s also an excellent opportunity to test out viewing parties or interactive screenings.
More information about Facebook’s Watch Together feature here.
Facebook Business Suite interface launches
Understatement alert: It hasn’t exactly been the best time to be a small business owner.
But digital tools offer at least a little relief in these strange times. Facebook’s been hustling to provide options like Facebook Shops and personalized ads.
In a cumulation of these efforts, it’s launching Facebook Business Suite, an interface designed for business owners to manage Facebook and Instagram pages and profiles in one spot, as well as messages for these platforms, Messenger, and Whatsapp.
Notifications and alerts for all platforms can be found in one place. Insights for both Facebook and Instragam will be available on Facebook Business Suite, too.
Right now, Business Suite is just available for small businesses, but Facebook’s intention is to roll it out for businesses of all sizes next year.
Get started with Facebook Business Suite here.
Improvements to safety features for Facebook Groups
In the last year, Facebook has taken down 12 million pieces of hate speech content from Groups, and shuttered over a million groups. Unfortunately, Community Standards are still regularly being violated in public and private groups.
But Facebook recently announced an update on its ongoing work to keep groups safe, including:
- Stopping repeat offenders from creating new groups. If a group is taken down, admins and moderators will not be able to create any new groups for a period of time. For those who violate within a group, they will require approval for any posts made within the next 30 days.
- Ensuring groups have active admins. For active groups who have an admin step down or leave, proactive detection will suggest admin roles to members. Groups without an admin will be archived.
- Health groups will no longer appear in recommendations. To prioritize authoritative health sources, Facebook will no longer suggest user-created health groups in recommendations. These groups will still be searchable, and group members may still send invites.
- Community Standards policy expanded to address groups tied to violence Facebook aims to limit the spread of groups with ties to violence by removing them from recommendations, restricting them from search, and soon reducing content in New Feed. Groups will be removed when they discuss potential violence, even in coded language.
- A new “remove, reduce, inform” approach to misinformation. Groups that share content that violate community standards will be removed; groups that share content rated as “false” by fact-checkers won’t be recommended to others; labels will be applied to fact-checked content to give context.
More details on Facebook’s attempts to improve Group safety can be found here.
Rights Manager now available for images
Copyright in the digital age is a real minefield. Countless stories of creators’ content getting appropriated or shared without consent make you wonder why anyone bothers putting anything on the internet at all. (See: the nightmare story of the poor illustrator who’s drawing was co-opted into a white-supremacy mascot.)
Hopefully this new version of Rights Manager in Creator Studio can help future creatives avoid such a fate. The tool is designed to help image content at scale, using image-matching technology to detect unauthorized use across Facebook and Instagram.
To access this feature, Page admins can submit an application identifying the content.
Facebook also offers a quick IP reporting system and a repeat infringer policy.
More information about copyright protections on Facebook here.
August 2020 Facebook updates
Obviously, in a pandemic, the usefulness of Facebook’s Events feature has dwindled. Even if you have an amazing poop-emoji-themed birthday planned for your child, it’s not exactly a great time to get together.
So Facebook has smartly pivoted its Events pages to help businesses host online events… and even make money in the process.
Business owners will be able to set a ticket price, promote their online event, collect payments, and host a digital event, all on one page. Trial paid events so far have included trivia, meet-and-greets, fitness courses, and lectures. No disgusting/cute birthday parties that we know of.
At this point, Facebook won’t be collecting fees for any tickets sold on web or Android devices—which should strike fear into the heart of all other ticketing and event platforms. We’re looking at you, Eventbrite.)
The social media platform is, however, in a bit of a tussle with Apple’s App Store over tickets sold via the iOS app. For purchases made from an iPhone app, businesses will only be able to collect 70 percent of their ticket sales due to Apple’s 30 percent App Store tax. If we may editorialize for a second: ouch.
The new feature launched in 20 countries to start. Check if you qualify for access here. Or, read more about Facebook’s launch of paid online events for small business recovery here.
Diverse-owned business categories for Facebook business pages
Facebook dropped a $100 million in grants in support of Black-owned non-profits, businesses, and creators earlier this summer. Now, the commitment to lifting up Black voices continues with new Diverse Business labels for Business Pages.
This self-applied label allows a Business Page to identify itself as Black-owned (among other diversity categories), so that users can easily find them using the Businesses Nearby feature.
To be considered a diverse business, your company must be at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by one or more people from a designated diversity category. (In addition to the “Black-owned” tag, you can choose a variety of other ethnicities, as well as women-owned, veteren-owned, LGBTQ-owned, or disability-owned.)
This designation won’t appear on a business’ Facebook Page, or be associated with the Admin. Page Admins can skip this optional tag, or edit or remove diversity information at any time.
The Diversity Categories feature will be gradually rolled out, so if you don’t see it on your Page settings yet, keep checking back. While you wait, why not apply to put some of Facebook’s money to good use?
More info on diverse business categories can be found here.
Facebook Portal announces new home conferencing apps coming soon
Facebook’s video call tablet, Portal, achieved new relevance in the COVID-19 era as people have been anxious to see family and friends from afar. Watching my nephew use the cowboy filter is basically my new favorite TV show, honestly.
Then, with the introduction of Workplace for Portal a few months back, the tool aimed to help the business community, too, facilitating meetings, live streams, and remote one-on-ones.
Now, to build on Portal’s new corporate applications, Facebook’s adding a suite of business-oriented video conferencing apps. These apps include Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans, and GoToMeeting. They’ll be available on Portal, Portal Mini, and Portal+ in the coming weeks. (Portal TV is planned for the future.)
For apps with whiteboard applications (like Zoom and BlueJeans), you’ll even be able to draw right on the Portal screen with your finger. None appear to involve adorable cowboy filters at this point, unfortunately.
More info about Portal’s latest updates can be found here.
Facebook Messenger is taking over Instagram’s Direct messages
The day the Facebook oracle foretold is coming: the great messaging merge is here.
Facebook announced its plans last year to combine WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct messages to use the same platform. This month, Facebook is starting that transition, with Messenger taking over Instagram’s private messaging tool for some users.
With this change, the icon on Instagram for direct messages will now be that of FB Messenger. The merger will allow for cross-communication between Instagram and Facebook users, and allow for emoji reactions and swipe-to-reply abilities.
No word on when WhatsApp will join this messaging super-service, but when it happens, we’ll see a 3.3 billion user network under one umbrella. It’s an opportunity for one hell of a group chat.
Music videos come to Facebook
In the U.S., you’ll now find a “Music” button on Facebook Watch. This is where official music videos will live on Facebook going forward—basically MTV 2.0.
The platform has big plans for some global music video premieres. In the next few weeks, artists that I have never heard of (Calibre 50? J. Balvin? I’m sure they’re very nice) will be dropping exclusive premieres on the social platform.
On Facebook Watch, you can explore videos by genre, artist, or even mood (what do they recommend for “Hungry”?). Themed playlists will be available as well.
Some artists are planning Facebook Live events in the lead up to dropping their videos, and sharing countdown and music stickers in Stories and fan Groups. Artist Pages will now feature links to these official music videos as well.
Similar to other video content on Facebook, users will be able to comment on, react to, and share across the site. To start, maybe share your favourite J. Balvin song with me so I can catch up with the rest of the world.
Read the full press release for Facebook music videos here.
Facebook launches its U.S. 2020 Voting Information Center
Facebook has set an admirable goal of helping get four million voters registered for this year’s U.S. election. Naturally, they’re using their own platform as a starting point.
The 2020 U.S. Election Voting Information Center will provide up-to-date information and official government resources to help Americans prepare for the Presidential Election this November. It’s available on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.
Facebook’s press release called the non-partisan Center a “one-stop-shop” for registering to vote. It also includes a tool for users to sign up as poll workers.
A complementary new feature is Facebook’s Voting Alert, which will help both state and local election authorities reach voters with updates as we get closer to election day. (Only government pages are eligible for this system.)
All that being said: why wait for Facebook to remind you to register when you could just do it now and embrace your democratic rights? Go go go go!
Read more about Facebook’s Voting Information Center here.
Redesigned Facebook Ad Preferences rolling out
A redesign for Facebook’s Ad Preferences settings is rolling out over the next few months.
Split into three tabs—Advertisers, Ad Topics, and Data—the revamped Preferences will offer increased transparency and control. It will also offer a reminder that the internet is watching everything you do and knows all-too-well that you love both “hip hop music” and “shorts.”
Users can change what information is shared with advertisers, or which advertisers they’d prefer to hide all together, as you can see in this Tweet from Facebook’s Director of Product Management.
Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out a redesigned Ad Preferences. None of the transparency and controls are going away, but now it’ll be easier to navigate. It’ll be split into 3 tabs: Advertisers, Ad Topics and Data (1/2) pic.twitter.com/3h0vWsft7M
— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) August 18, 2020
July 2020 Facebook updates
Taking action with anti-hate measures
Responding to feedback from the civil rights community, Facebook is making changes to policy and communications to reflect more transparent—and hopefully more just—systems.
As part of this, Facebook has participated in a civil rights audit and released a Diversity Report.
They’ve also expanded their voter suppression policies so that any ads interfering or intimidating voters will be prohibited, and launched a robust census interference policy.
Facebook also is promising to go “above and beyond” existing hate speech protections with more specific anti-hate ad bans.
Check out the full scope of Facebook’s ongoing anti-hate measures here.
Expanded markets for Instagram Shop and Facebook Pay launch
On the heels of May’s Facebook Shops launch, businesses in supported markets (check out the full list here) can now sell products directly through Instagram with Instagram Shop.
Integrate your pre-existing e-commerce platform, or create a catalog within Facebook Business Manager. Once you’ve got your products connected to your Insta account, submit your shop for review and await the thumbs up.
When you’ve enabled the shopping feature, you can use Shopping Tags or stickers to spotlight your goods in your feed or Stories. Let the shopping sprees begin.
Find full details on setting up your shop here.
New emoji upgrades in Messenger
In honor of World Emoji Day (July 17), Messenger gave its default sticker pack (Moodies) a makeover.
The little faces you know and love—the cool one, the barfing one, the whole gang—have a sleek new look and bubbly animated flourishes.
Is it a big update? No. But it’s a cute one.
App Lock for Facebook Messenger
To keep your group chats safe and secure, Facebook is rolling out the option to add another layer of security with fingerprint or face authentication via App Lock.
Even when your phone itself is unlocked, when App Lock is on, Messenger appears illegible—with sort of a frosty overlay—until you use your face or fingerprint to unlock.
This offers a level of confidence that when your brother is scrolling through your phone to pick a sweet road trip song, he won’t get a glimpse of the messages your sister sent you complaining about him.
It’s a feature that’s available now for iOS users and should be coming to Android this fall.
Screen sharing now available in Messenger mobile app
In a time of social distancing, we’ve never been more grateful for technology to keep us closer—and with so many video chat apps available at our fingertips right now, everyone is racing to offer the best ways to connect.
It’s why Facebook has just added a “Share Your Screen” option to its Messenger mobile and web apps.
Now, formally side-by-side activities can be translated to the screen as you keep chatting. Browse an online store together, scroll through recipe options, or look back on travel photos from those glory days when we could, you know, leave the house.
Screen sharing is available with the latest update of the app.
Choose your layout for posts with multiple images
Next time you upload a batch of photos, you might be given the option to choose their layout, as Facebook slowly rolls out new photo post options.
The platform has been testing this visual tool since October, but it looks like this new composer functionality is being unrolled en masse at this point.
That being said, it doesn’t appear to have popped up for Pages users (yet!), so you might have to save your layout creativity for your personal account for now.
Facebook will soon give you layout options when posting multiple images pic.twitter.com/8K23afZ9bp
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) July 14, 2020
Create custom audiences out of interested or previous customers
In Facebook’s Ad Manager, you can now target ads specifically to people who have perused or shopped your products.
Click on the “Custom Audience” option and you’ll now see a “Shopping” category. Under this, you’ll find people who viewed your products, people who added products to their basket, or people who made a purchase.
With this info in hand, you can target the audience of shoppers who are most likely to follow through or return to your page and ramp up that engagement.
Make live-broadcast video calls with up to 50 participants
Got a group video call you want the world to see? Facebook’s on the case. By combining its Messenger Rooms video chat capabilities with its live stream services, users can now broadcast video calls with up to 50 participants.
Think of it as a combo of video chats and live streams, and it’s clear the possibilities for a brand are pretty intriguing. It could mean interesting opportunities for TV show reunions, networking, live interactive tutorials or courses, and beyond.
These calls can be broadcast from an individual profile, on a Facebook Page, or within a Group. The creator of the call can admit or block participants, or lock calls all together.
Zoom’s already shaking in its boots: when Messenger Rooms was launched in April, stocks fell by 5%, so who knows what this expanded capability might do to the video conferencing brand.
June 2020 Facebook updates
Financial support for gamers
In an attempt to lure gamers over from Twitch and Youtube, Facebook is expanding its streaming subscription options.
Fans can now support gamers with tips and donations as they live stream, and gamers can access in-stream ad breaks as well. These ads can be pre-roll, mid-roll, or an image below the stream.
Any streamers who see at least 250 regular weekly viewers will be able to register with the Level Up program to access these features (and the sweet paydays that come with them).
Learn more about these fan subscriptions and Level Up here.
Facebook Collections are now sharable (in the U.S., at least)
The Collections feature on Facebook allows users to archive links, photos, pages, and posts for accessing later. This month, Facebook announced a new sharing functionality that allows those lists to be made public… which might just offer some interesting opportunities for business partnerships. (Though unfortunately, it’s a feature that’s only available in the U.S. market right now.)
Look out, Pinterest. Influencers could build sponsored lists to share with followers (”My Favourite Mexico City Restaurants”) or companies could share on-brand content (like “Best Cocktail Recipes” for a vodka company).
Maybe our first list should be a list of how handy lists will be?
New – .@facebook shared #facebookcollections. Can share links, photos, posts, etc., which can be ‘followed’. #curatedcontent pic.twitter.com/Oah4eXW9dz
— whimchic (@whimchic) June 13, 2020
Privacy setting makes CCPA compliance much easier
Any business selling to California-based customers is probably already aware of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CPPA), which grants residents the right to control their personal data.
Facebook’s new “Limited Data Use” feature makes compliance with the CPPA fairly easy. Enabling this feature allows businesses sending data to Facebook to limit how Facebook actually uses that data.
Once it’s applied, Facebook will technically act as a business’s service provider while processing information about California customers, keeping in line with the state’s unique privacy laws—and keeping both your business and consumer data safe.
New email marketing tools now available for small businesses
A small number of small businesses are testing out Facebook’s new email marketing tools.
If you’re one of the lucky few plucked from obscurity to be an FB guinea pig, you’ll be able to send group emails and track performance, all within the Facebook platform.
Upload subscribers’ contact information (with permission, of course) and then tweak your audience demographics and customize your design.
If the test runs prove to be helpful to businesses, we might see the option rolled out further… but with so many other marketing email solutions out there, it’s not certain this tool will stand the test of time.
Send marketing emails from your page? What new sorcery is this Facebook?!
Have you seen this new feature where we can now send emails directly from Facebook? This is definitely new to me and only available on one account so far. pic.twitter.com/aSIkSx1uDo
— Meg Coffey (@TexanMeg) June 1, 2020
Facebook to warn if an article is over 90 days old
In another attempt to combat fake or out-of-date news, Facebook has announced a new pop-up feature to alert users if a story is over three months old.
The goal is to highlight the timeliness (or rather, the lack thereof) of news sources to try to tamp down on out-of-context stories that might muddy the understanding of current events.
The context button Facebook added in 2018 might not have done much to quell the spread of hoaxes, but here’s hoping this addition has an impact.
May 2020 Facebook updates
Facebook launches mobile-friendly native shops
This may not be the first swing Facebook has made at in-platform shopping, but Facebook Shops is definitely the best yet.
Like previous iterations, you can upload product pictures and descriptions into your digital boutique, but now users can convert and checkout right in the app.
With Facebook Shops, you’ll be able to chat with customers via WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct messaging to offer support or personal shopping guidance.
Plus, businesses can customize the look of e-shops with on-brand fonts and colors. Fancy!
Group chat app “CatchUp” launches for group calls
In a time where staying connected is tougher than ever, CatchUp aims to help bridge the distance. Think of it as a voice-only version of Messenger Rooms, facilitating one-on-one or group calls up to eight people.
Unlike other group chat apps, CatchUp flags when users are available and “Ready to Talk” (similar to HouseParty). It’s an attempt to overcome people’s key hesitation with the old-fashioned phone call: you don’t want to interrupt.
Facebook will be testing the app in the U.S. for a limited time. We’ll have to see if it sticks around.
April 2020 Facebook updates
Ads Manager status tool introduced to track outages
With the addition of a new ads status page, ad buyers can track if the platform itself is experiencing any issues.
Here, any major changes to the key tracking metrics will be reported as well (from impressions to amount spent to reach) so you can be in the loop about every little tweak.
The ad reporting tool gets an update, too
Facebook announced updates to a variety of ad reporting tools—all the better for brands to measure campaign performance.
Access cross-account reporting, custom metrics and conversion paths to see just how your campaign is doing in graphic detail like never before.
Messenger comes to the desktop
If chatting in the browser or mobile app aren’t convenient options for you, the new Facebook Messenger desktop app will allow for group chats and videos right on your computer desktop—no Facebook account is even required.
Download it here.
“Quiet Mode” introduced
The recent roll out of Quiet Mode on both browser and mobile allows the option to silence all notifications in one fell swoop, similar to iOS’s “Do Not Disturb” functionality.
Keep the dings and pings to a minimum so you can actually get some work done.
Improved accessibility for live streaming
While video live streams have certainly been popular on Facebook, the real-time broadcasting format did create a barrier for entry to those who rely on screen readers or have an auditory disability.
To combat this problem, Facebook announced the release of a new audio-only live mode with the option for automatic captioned.
Automatic captions aren’t always perfect, but it’s better than nothing, and hopefully will allow hearing-impared users to follow along with your content.
March 2020 Facebook updates
New Facebook rolls out worldwide
While the new Facebook redesign—the fifth major one in the platform’s history—rolled out to mobile users in late 2019, we’re finally getting a chance to see it on desktops this month.
There are big aesthetic changes here: the modern layout is a cleaner, more minimalist design, and features the ability to switch between all-white and dark mode.
The interface gets a makeover with this redesign as well, favoring activities from Groups and Events over News Feed content. The Groups Tab has also been redesigned to make it easier to find new groups to join.
Additional features will benefit specific communities: a new Chat option for gaming groups, for example, or improved interactions with Facebook Live.
To get the New Facebook design on your desktop, just select “Switch to New Facebook” from the Settings drop-down menu. And if you don’t already have it on mobile, just update your app.
COVID-19 delays ad review
An announcement this month from Facebook revealed that reduced staffing and changes to the moderation process might create errors or delays in the review process for ads.
The platform also has banned any advertising or e-commerce product posts that attempt to use fear of the virus to drive sales. No magic cures for sale here.
Along with discouraging ad campaigns, Facebook is also testing out tools to reduce the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 on WhatsApp and Messenger. If a rumor about a miracle drug pops up in your chat, you’ll also be prompted to fact-check and confirm your sources.
New “Mood” frames come to Facebook Stories
Rep those feelings with the new Mood feature on FB Stories, which harnesses the power of GIFs for self-expression.
Change the frame and background color to further personalize what Michelle eating her bodyweight in spaghetti on Full House really means to you.
Source: Facebook app screenshot
Express yourself with customized avatar stickers
Following in the footsteps of their Bitmoji forefathers, Facebook is now introducing personalized humanoid stickers for use in comments, Messenger, Stories and posts.
Options to customize hairstyles, outfits, skin tones and accessories offer a wide range of representation, from headscarf to side-buzz.
Here’s how to make yours on the Facebook mobile app:
- Tap the three line menu
- Scroll down and select “See More”
- Choose “Avatar” and follow the prompts
Source: Facebook app screenshot
Convert photos into 3D images
Any 2D picture can be transformed into a 3D masterpiece with Facebook’s latest photo tool. The technology simulates depth within a regular photo to allow users to “tilt,” much like a 360-degree image.
It’s an opportunity to make a boring old product photo pop, and grab attention on the newsfeed—no 3D glasses required!
February 2020 Facebook updates
Facebook’s “Clear History” tool now available globally
It’s been in test markets for a while, but the Clear History option is now available to Facebook users worldwide. When prompted to do a Privacy Check-Up, you’ll have the opportunity to clear your entire off-Facebook activity.
This is finally a chance to see all of the data Facebook has stored and tracked regarding your other internet activity, and delete it from their servers if you so choose.
“One Time Notification” API available for Facebook Messenger
To protect Facebook users from spam, Businesses Pages are only given 24 hours to respond to messages. Messaging individuals outside of that isn’t allowed (unless you’re using ad campaigns).
But a new One Time Notification API is the exception to the rule. Users can opt in to enable one-off notifications via Messenger for relevant news—for example, product availability or being notified about a future sale.
Facebook teams up with Reuters for expanded fact-checking services
In an effort to curb misinformation and propaganda that has run rampantly on the social media site the past few years, Facebook is partnering with Reuters for expanded fact-checking efforts.
The news organization will help Facebook detect and correct false stories as they’re posted so that users can more easily identify biased or fake sources.
Learn more about Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program here.
Creator Studio mobile app released
The mobile tool is designed to help manage Pages on the go, offering the same features as the browser-supported Creator Studio in an app format.
Via a simplified mobile dashboard, users can upload and publish content, and engage with audiences.
You’ve got the option to check your insights and analytics on the go with this new tool, too.
Download for Android here or iOS.
Source: Google Play store
January 2020 Facebook updates
Political ad policy update
The amount of politics and social issues popping up on Facebook and Instagram can frankly get exhausting, and Facebook obviously knows this, because they’ve recently added a control to the Ad Preferences settings so users can opt to see fewer ads with political content.
Page Management History now available
For Pages that are managed by multiple people, the new Page Management History tool may be helpful.
It’s a brand new feature that shows every action ever made on your Page, who made them, and when… perfect for tracing back both errors or smart moves to the source.
Here’s how to view it.
Now that you’re familiar with Facebook updates, try using Hootsuite to manage your brand’s Facebook presence. From a single dashboard, you can schedule posts, share videos, engage your audience, and measure the impact of your efforts. Try it free today.