Last month, Facebook unveiled a variety of new products and features at its annual F8 Developer Conference. Several of these updates may affect the way pharma marketers engage with users on the platform, now and years into the future. We’ve highlighted six of the biggest announcements below.


Live Video
As we mentioned in our 2016 trends post, users are strongly embracing live video content. Facebook is making a huge push to position itself as the leader in live video, competing against behemoths like YouTube and newcomers like Periscope. Facebook will begin placing more emphasis on live video in users’ News Feeds, often prioritizing it over other content types.

At F8, Facebook opened up the Live API, allowing brands to broadcast live from more than just their mobile devices. Developers can now stream from screencasts, multi-camera setups and even drones.

Live video allows brands to show the “human” side of their business and should be considered as a content type for brands moving forward.

According to Nielsen, Facebook Messenger was one of the top three apps in the United States last year and now has more than 900 million users. Incredibly, users share more than 60 billion messages per day with this platform — more than three times the global volume for SMS messages, which total a mere 20 billion per day.

To make it easier for users to communicate with people and Pages, Facebook has made several updates to Messenger.

Page usernames — the handles that people can use to start conversations with Pages in Messenger — are more visible on Facebook Pages that enable messaging. Pages also have access to their own Messenger codes, which are scannable codes that enable instantaneous messaging with their Page.

At F8, Facebook continued to bolster Messenger, offering brands the ability to create their own chat bots. Chat bots can understand questions and comments from users and respond appropriately on behalf of the Page. Facebook hopes these will eventually replace 1-800 help centers. While pharma marketers may be apprehensive about creating a bot to respond to users on their behalf, there are steps that can be taken to help ensure they are effective and compliant.

Intouch will have a full POV soon on the implications of chat bots from a social media and relationship marketing perspective.

Social Virtual Reality (VR)
Facebook purchased the virtual reality (VR) technology company Oculus a few years ago and began to stake its claim in the VR space. At F8, Facebook introduced an open-source 3D camera that allows users to record media for VR and 3D videos on their platform. Facebook’s VR demo showed two researchers interacting with each other from thousands of miles apart in real-time, one in San Francisco and one in London, using their recently released Rift headsets.

While virtual reality may not be a part of most brands’ marketing plan today, there may be a time in the future when it is a major part of the social media experience. Doctors may be able to interact with patients or HCPs may get training in 3D settings. Check out our full VR breakdown.

Account Kit
Account Kit was introduced as an alternative to users logging into websites with their Facebook accounts. Intended to kill the username and password combo, Account Kit will use phone numbers as the primary authentication mechanism. Account Kit works like this:

  1. A user is prompted for a phone number.
  2. An SMS message is sent to that phone number that includes a six-digit code.
  3. The user enters that code into the app.
  4. The user is then granted access.

This may make it easier for marketers to communicate and interact with users who have a phone number, but not a Facebook account.

Facebook Analytics for Apps
Facebook Analytics for Apps is expanding with a new interface. More than 450,000 apps have used this analytics tool to reach and grow audiences since it was introduced last year. The new interface introduces additional product capabilities.

For example, People Insights provides aggregated, anonymous demographic information about app users, including their Facebook Page likes, education level, relationship status and purchase behavior. Sharing Insights shows brands the most popular stories shared from their apps, the demographics of the people sharing the articles, and sentiment analysis.

Marketers can use these tools to better understand their audiences and update their apps based on user preferences and interactions.

As a part of Facebook’s goal of connecting everyone across the globe, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab teased two new systems focused on improving the “speed, efficiency and quality of Internet connectivity around the world.” One of the systems was designed to connect low-population-density areas, while the other is intended to connect people in urban areas.

We’ve previously acknowledged that the digital divide remains dangerous to health. Those without Internet access — the poor, disabled and elderly — are at the highest health risks. Facebook may eventually make it easier for people who don’t have access to healthcare information learn more about their health and connect with others who have similar conditions.

Some of these updates may not have an immediate impact, but they all show that Facebook has made connecting people a priority. Facebook will continue to shape the way that brands interact and connect with users for years to come.