Last week, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced sweeping changes to come to its platforms, in a message entitled "A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking." With over 2 billion users worldwide, whenever Facebook announces any changes at all, businesses and marketers have to take notice. But when they announce sweeping changes to come and a total refocus of the company? Then it's essential to pay even closer attention.

Before I share what these changes mean for brands and small businesses, I know there are some readers out there thinking, "There's no way Facebook can change so fundamentally." To those of you, I'll remind you that in 2012, Facebook announced an enormous pivot to mobile-first, and, despite its size, was able to fully execute that pivot within months. Make no mistake, Zuck's recent announcement spells the death of the News Feed as we know it and the rise of private messaging. 

Here's what this means for your small business or large brand: 

1. Shareable content in the News Feed will die. 

We've already witnessed the death of organic content for businesses in Facebook's News Feed in what I called "Facebook Reachageddon." With an emphasis on future content to be shared between individuals and small groups, we'll see the continued rise of Stories, Instagram's popular product, and with that, the not-so-slow death of the News Feed. For advertisers, this means your ability to put content in people's News Feeds that they can share with all of their friends (whether organic or paid) will be drastically affected.

Of course, Facebook will focus on pushing advertising in Stories and in Messaging, and businesses will still have an opportunity to create and distribute shareable content. But that content needs to be better than ever. I recommend short video (10 seconds to 30 seconds maximum) for your best shot at getting your content shared. 

2. We will see a continued rise in the importance of influencers. 

There aren't a lot of ways around Facebook's pay-to-play model for brands and small businesses. The good news is, for those companies willing to pay for advertising, Facebook will obviously have lots of ways to intelligently reach the right prospects for your business using private messaging and Stories. For those brands unwilling or unable to afford advertising, you will be able to work with influencers and micro-influencers to get your content and product in front of more people.

People will be more focused on private content between friends and within small groups, as we've seen with Snapchat and Instagram in recent years. But the exception to that rule is that people continue to follow celebrities and influencers, and remain highly engaged with them. So if you're a business owner, you can and should continue to nurture relationships with key influencers your customers and prospects follow. Because they will continue to follow these influencers in the new, "private" Facebook.

3. Facebook will finally get commerce right. 

Facebook has attempted social commerce several times, without much success. At the same time, despite the rise of social media, and despite the growth of social media as an amazing brand-building platform, we've seen email continue to be more effective in directly selling products and services than social media. If Zuckerberg and team's vision comes to fruition, this will finally change.

As more people get used to sending and receiving private messages through Facebook, Instagram, and What's App, they'll also get used to receiving and replying to messages from companies on these platforms. Just as email was a primary sales tool for e-commerce companies over the past decade, social-network messaging (paid and organic) will finally become a valuable sales tool. 

These changes won't come overnight, but they will come within months. Is your business ready for Facebook's pending changes? Are you ready to capitalize on the new Facebook? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Published on: Mar 19, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.