5 Facebook Updates and Tests Spotted This Week
Anyone who works in social knows that Facebook is always testing new tools and features - in fact, it's likely that the version of Facebook you're using is different to the one your friends see.
And while not all of their experiments evolve into fully functional additions, it's always interesting to note not only what they're testing, but to consider why, as it can provide some additional insight into Facebook's way of thinking, their strategic approach and the behaviors they're seeking to encourage.
So what's Facebook trying out this week? Here are some of the latest experiments and updates which have been spotted by various eagle-eyed users.
1. Amber alerts
You may have noticed in the last month or so that Facebook is widening the availability of its new Amber Alert notifications on missing children.
Facebook's Amber Alerts system has been in place since 2015, but they've recently rolled it out to more regions. The system utilizes Facebook's ubiquity to help raise awareness of such incidents in your area, which may now be the most effective way to get the message out.
Users have reported seeing the alerts in place for the first time in the UK, while Australian authorities also started using the system just last month, so more users will now be seeing such notification in their feeds.
This is an amazingly powerful use of the world's largest social platform, and it's great to see it being given more capability.
2. Facebook Phone?
Could Facebook be looking to develop their own smartphone? Business Insider reported last week that Facebook's working on a new modular phone device, according to a patent filed by the company this month.
But the patent description and images are unclear - it could be a phone, but given the challenges any hardware player would face in getting people to move away from their existing devices, it seems more likely that Facebook's looking to develop an in-home speaker type device, like Amazon's Echo or Google Home.
That move definitely seems in-line with Facebook's plans - smart home devices are on the rise, with forecasts suggesting that there'll be more than 33 million voice-first devices in circulation by the end of 2017, a massive increase in both adoption and usage.
Image via VoiceLabs
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also been working on smart home technology, developing a system to control elements in his own house.
Given the rise in voice-controlled device usage and related trends, it makes sense that Facebook would want to stay in touch - filing a patent doesn't actually mean they're close to doing anything of the sort, or that they ever will, but on balance, it seems more likely that this is where Facebook is headed, as opposed to developing its own smartphone. But then again...
In addition, a smart home device would also give Facebook a means to enable direct connection to people's home TV sets, which would greatly expand their push into video content and in building themselves as a genuine TV rival.
As noted, detail is fairly limited, but it's not overly surprising to see Facebook working on tech options of this sort.
Now to see what comes next.
3. Job Applications
Facebook's also added a new 'Applications' section on Pages to help manage job applicants.
This is an extension of their on Page job ads, which Facebook officially launched back in February. The Applications segment doesn't necessarily add anything new to the process, but it will make it a little easier for people to use the job listings.
Facebook hasn't put huge emphasis on their Page job listings option as yet, but given their wider research around careers and using Facebook data as a predictive element, it could become a bigger deal for the platform moving forward - particularly if LinkedIn starts seeing more growth and Facebook think they might lose traffic.
4. GIF Creator
This is a big one - some users are now seeing a new GIF creation option within Facebook's camera.
You can see the GIF creation option at the top of the window
It's unclear at this stage how many users have access, but really, it seems like a no-brainer for Facebook to add. Actually, it's somewhat odd that no social platform has added their own GIF maker before.
Of course, there's already a range of options for creating GIFs online, but having such capacity built into the social network on which your posting is a significant step.
Facebook has only recently decided to allow GIFs back onto their platform - to mark the 30th anniversary of the GIF, Facebook last month announced that users can now add GIFs in comments, while posting GIFs natively (as opposed to via third party links) was also rolled out in July. Facebook also started allowing GIFs in ads back in February.
Having to capacity to create your own GIFs could be a big winner for Facebook, giving users new creative options and fully tapping into the rising popularity of GIFs.
We'll keep you updated on any news related to this test and subsequent roll-out.
5. Video Profile Images for Pages
Netflix seems to be Facebook's guinea pig for new Page video features.
As noted, Netflix's 'Narcos' was the first page noted as using the new video cover images, now it's another Netflix show 'Glow' testing this option. So if you want to know what's coming next for Pages, keep an eye on Netflix program Pages.
Video profile images aren't essentially new - Facebook's enabled users to post video as their header shot on personal profiles since 2015.
But this is the first time the same capacity has been extended to Pages. The new option - if expanded more widely - could give brands another way to help make their presence stand out and grab attention. While most Pages only see a small percentage of their Facebook traffic coming to their profile (most engagement comes from individual posts in News Feeds), any option to help enhance and improve your Facebook presence is worth considering. It may be a little harder to come up with great creative in a smaller window, but still, it'd be another consideration.
These are the latest tests and updates we've seen - we'll keep you updated on any new additions as they come up.
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