Entries in Facebook (15)

Wednesday
Jan162013

The Pace of Change is Crazy (Facebook)

(First in this series on changes was yesterday.)

For the majority of people Facebook is just the place where they follow a newsfeed with updates from their friends and occasionally a brand or two they like. But Facebook is always trying to do more, usually for obvious business reasons.

Two updates to Facebook in the last month, the most recent yesterday, demonstrate that the platform never stands still:

Graph Search

Despite the odd name — who but geeks know the Facebook term 'social graph' — the new search functionality (currently only available to a small number of users in beta) is ground-breaking. Although it is search as we know it, it is fundamentally different from web search:

Instead of a Google-like effort to help users find answers from a stitched-together corpus of all the world’s information, Facebook is helping them tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands. (Steven Levy writing in Wired) 

(Image originally posted on Wired)

It is true 'social search' in the sense it allows you to look for people, photos, videos, places and subjects of interest based on plain language terms such as 'restaurants in Toronto that my friends have liked'. And it has the additional capability to refine the search on such criteria as gender, name of current city, school, hometown, employer etc., with reported esults based on the strength of the relationship or connection in your social graph (your Facebook friends and connections.)

The primary impact on companies, non-profits or brands is likely that they will have to refresh their Facebook posting strategies to offer more interesting and complete content — more frequently — and to continue to work on engagement with their connections so there is simply more 'stuff' for 'Graph Search' to find.

EdgeRank

This is a much subtler change than 'Graph Search', but still with considerable punch. Facebook has started to reveal more information about its EdgeRank algorithm, which 'decides' what shows up in peoples' news feeds on Facebook pages.

The EdgeRank decision at its most basic is established by such criteria as the number of 'likes' or connections and the extent of engagement with posts.  Chad Witman's summary of a discussion with Facebook’s news feed product manager Will Cathcart is a valuable primer on these EdgeRank criteria that are used to move content into a person's feed. 

Of particular note, though, is Witman's conclusion that "These insights confirm that Facebook has indeed made a significant change to EdgeRank, and the change is rooted in the impact of negative feedback." Facebook defines negative feedback as a user clicking 'hide', 'hide all, 'report spam' and 'unlike' on a page, the most common of course is 'hide'

The implications for companies, non-profits and brands are clear: Your page has to meet your fans' expectations, provide valuable content regularly and make them feel connected to you through on-platform interaction. Otherwise, EdgeRank will punish you. 

Thursday
Oct112012

Facebook Push Back 

Facebook's steady march towards what it thinks of as a sustainable business model continues with the announcement that it is experimenting with 'want' and 'collect' buttons for Facebook pages.

Only a few retailers have the feature live on their Facebook pages at the moment, and frankly I can't find them. Gini Dietrich of Spinsucks suggests it's a frontal assault on Pinterest which is having better success at pushing eyeballs from looks to purchase, something which gladdens retailers of course.  

Danny Rubin talks about the move this way:

With 'Want' and 'Collect,' Facebook is hoping to put every company on the planet in our News Feed. Then, we'll use their products to create 'wishlists' so people can buy us stuff.

No matter how much you love Facebook —and I'm on it every morning before work — the very idea behind 'want' and 'collect' buttons must be seen as so unpleasant it's worth parsing.

'Want and 'collect' are evidence in two short words of what is wrong with the direction of many social networks today. As Facebook seeks to 'monetize' (what a horrid word) every interaction on its platforms, as it feeds the commercialisation of relationships and connection, it is to my mind moving — nay leaping — away from its core mission. At least that seems to be the case with Facebook's mission as articulated by Mark Zuckerberg in what might be seen — in the shadow of 'want and 'collect' — as a hypocritical letter to shareholders last winter:

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected . . . 

At Facebook, we’re inspired by technologies that have revolutionized how people spread and consume information. We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television — by simply making communication more efficient, they led to a complete transformation of many important parts of society. They gave more people a voice. They encouraged progress. They changed the way society was organized. They brought us closer together.

Explain to me how being "inspired by technologies that have revolutionized how people spread and consume information" is fulfilled through collecting and wanting. Facebook isn't to my knowledge developing game changing applications to make social networks more private and safe, nor more efficient, creative and visual. Its time appears to be invested in finding ways to feed narcissism and encourage consumption. And the idea that life is made better by the more we own or can parade in front of our friends is, well, truly sad, deleterious to our social well-being and oh so boring.

In his post linked above, Rubin suggests some alternative buttons he would like to see Facebook develop — 'pumped' and '4 stars' look good. As dumb as some of his others are, I would take any of them over the commercial nonsense that is 'want' and 'collect'. Facebook . . . there is still time to repent. Please do.