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  • Ishbel Macleod

F8 2019: Eight announcements you need to know from Facebook’s conference

F8 2019

Facebook’s F8 conference is over for another year, leaving a raft of changes in its wake. From booking appointments in Messenger to Instagram shopping through influencers, here’s what you need to know.

Instagram shopping through influencers

Being able to shop in Instagram has been around for a while, and Instagram Story shopping even rolled out last year.

But during F8 2019, Instagram announced that it was rolling out the ability for influencers (or ‘creators’, as Instagram calls them) to tag products in posts so that their followers can instantly shop without leaving the platform. The tool is currently being tested with a small group of influencers including Kim Kardashian, Vogue, and Cole Carrigan.

While this is an exciting feature, given the recent crack down on influencer ads by the ASA and CMA we imagine that there will be stringent rules on this in the UK.

F8: Instagram shopping through influencers

Focus on Facebook Groups and Events

Facebook Groups are a brilliant way for people to connect – so it’s no wonder that over 400m people belong to at least one Facebook Group. It’s also a great opportunity for brands to connect with their audience and get feedback.

Facebook has noted this and is rolling out a range of updates for Groups, including a redesigned tab which shows activity across all your Groups, as well as discovery to suggest new communities you might be interested in joining.

Another new tool is community specific features: for example, on Health Support Groups, users will be able to post questions and information anonymously; and in Job Groups there will be templates for employers to post jobs and better functionality for applying on the app itself.

With the growth of like-minded communities, Facebook has launched Meet New Friends: an opt-in way to meet people with similar interests (such as being in the same Group or having attended the same University).

The Events feature is also getting a make-over, with a new tab to see what is happening in your area, coordinate with friends to make plans, and discover local businesses.

F8: Facebook Groups

Hiding Instagram Like counts

As spotted by Jane Manchun Wong over two weeks ago, Instagram has begun testing a feature which hides public Like counts on Instagram. Instead of stating the exact number of Likes, it will state ‘Liked by username and others’.

The idea behind this, it seems, is to allow followers to focus on the photos and videos, and not the engagement it has received. However, the actual post creator will still be able to see the exact number of Likes – something that social media managers may have been worried about! This could be an interesting move in particular for influencer marketing, as it will be more difficult for brands to tell before approaching an influencer what their engagement rate may be and what the average number of post likes is.

F8: Hiding Instagram Likes

Messenger booking and Q&A

Use of Messenger and messenger bots as a communication tool is great for businesses of all sizes, so it’s exciting to see new functionality being rolled out in this area.

While it is been discussed for a while, an appointment experience has been created in Facebook Messenger to allow users to book appointments with car dealerships, make up artists and more, without leaving the app.

This isn’t the only update on Messenger though: Facebook has added a new lead generation template to Ads Manager, which instead of taking potential customers to a form, will take them to a Q&A in Messenger, essentially acting as its own messenger bot.

F8: Messenger Bots and Lead Gen

WhatsApp business catalogue

As well as Messenger, WhatsApp is a great way for customers and businesses to have a conversation. As part of this, Facebook is rolling out the ability to create a catalogue of goods – allowing businesses to showcase what they offer so users can easily search for what suits them.

With the WhatsApp Business app having launched earlier this year, this combined with the Messenger update shows a move towards more personal online selling across the Facebook companies.

Fundraising on Instagram

It’s been in the pipeline for a long time, so it’s good to see that Facebook has rolled out the Instagram donation sticker to the US.

By adding a donation sticker to an Instagram Story, users will be able to create a fundraiser and raise money for a cause close to their hearts.

Users have been able to create fundraisers on Facebook for some time now (with Facebook announcing in 2018 that over $1bn had been raised using Facebook Fundraisers) and it’s great to see this expand to Instagram Stories.

F8: Instagram Donor Button

Using AI to catch ‘questionable content’

Over the past year or so, there have been more and more complaints about ‘questionable content’ on Facebook, whether it is racism, pro-anorexia or spam. As such, Facebook has revealed that it is making updates to its AI systems to try to find and catch problematic content as soon as possible.

The company revealed a new approach to object recognition, called Panoptic Feature pyramid Network (FPN), which helps understand the context of photos from their background.

Spark AR expansion

Last but not least, AR and VR were a big part of this year’s F8 conference.

Facebook Portal and the launch of two new virtual reality headsets were among the announcements, but the most exciting news was about the growth of Spark AR.

Having revealed that over 1bn people have used a spark AR powered experience in the past year, a host of new features and functionalities have been rolled out to aid in creativity. Later this year, the whole suite will be opened to Instagram creators and developers.

F8: Spark AR


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