words on (facebook) paper

[@TheDrum contribution]

There’s something quite romantic about Paper. You can touch it, fold it and throw it as you would with real paper. It looks and feels fantastic. Well done Facebook, you have created an app worth tweeting about at a key juncture in your own life story.

Yesterday, Facebook, with its 1.25 billion users and today celebrating its 10th anniversary, took a big leap forward with the launch of Paper. A Flipboard-type app that brings a contemporary (Facebook) experience to social discovery. 

‘What’ it does is not big news. We were all expecting a new way to explore our tired feed. ‘How’ it does it is big news, whilst combining multiple content feeds from (at present) a meagre selection of publishers. Paper does it in a way that insists on an original kind of exploration (for Facebook at least!). Exploration that requires more from the thumb generation (even Flipboard is an experience of constant scrolling!) as we are now offered a user experience that has been designed to within a millimetre of its life. Did you expect any less from Mike Matas (and Loren Brichter), who has single-handedly (pun intended) implanted touch-based interfaces into the DNA of old and young? The experience feels responsive and instantaneous but continues to push the boundary of what feels natural. Pull-to-refresh is out. New and rehashed gestures are in, adding cute touches to every element of the experience. Facebook’s main iOS app feels very dated by comparison. The integration of mainstream Facebook features is seamless but very much secondary (they are there but almost a given). It looks and feels newer; more exciting; and feels like a far better place to spend my time. It doesn’t feel like Facebook. Will we ever go back to the Facebook app?

Facebook say: “Stories that matter the most… your own”. This holds true to their core belief of being the champion of relevant discovery, giving users what they want. The way in which that discovery is delivered through nine by five centimetres has, undoubtedly, taken a big leap forward. What does this mean for brands and marketing? 

Nothing has drastically changed. We now have a new change in Paper users behaviour that brings with it a new environment in which to reach people. How brands get attention will evolve. I would hypothesise that people will explore more, and more laterally, no longer constrained by a stream, with more choice as to which path to venture down. If I look at my own behaviour, I know that I want to consume different things on different days and at different times (this has meant jumping from different sources better suited to giving me those types of content). I might read the Guardian on the way into work, but look for more stories from my friends in the evening. Now I have more reason to remain within a Facebook environment to serve me different content. 

New behaviours bring new data. New data brings new advertising options. Paper is a big step forward in the way businesses can reach and engage with their customers (I sound like I work at Facebook). The old rules still apply but Paper makes Facebook advertising feel more natural. When it doesn’t, we’ll be quick to turn off. Intrusion and irrelevance from advertisers will be particularly obvious in Paper. Those that stand out in this way will not go down well and it’s in Facebook’s interest to avoid such. 

The basic rules are simply even more meaningful. 

Be relevant and engage. Being relevant is ever more crucial. If you’re not, users will be quick to swipe. Engaging users in the context of what it is you’re saying and who you’re saying it to is arguably the most important thing for brands (and users). As Facebook continues to grow, what it decides to show to users is becoming even more policed. If you don’t engage, you won’t be seen. 

Alternatively, get your chequebook out.

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