As it continues to lose ground to TikTok, where people are increasingly spending their social media time, Facebook is constantly trying to figure out new ways to keep people engaged, and glued to its app instead.
The Social Network’s latest experiment on this front comes in the form of new Stories-like notification bubbles within your Notifications tab, which alert you to new posts shared by your connections.
As you can see in this example, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra, some Facebook users on iOS are now seeing these new alert bubbles at the top of their Notifications stream, which serve as quick links to the latest posts from your connections.
As you can see in the second image, when you tap through on one of these profile images, you’re taken to a listing of that user’s latest posts, making it easier to stay up to date with that user’s updates specifically.
It could be a good way to maximize engagement, and remind users that their most important connections are active in the app, while it may also help to avoid potential algorithmic re-ordering issues, which could see you miss certain updates.
Or it might just be a handy way to catch up with your top friends and what they’re posting – but at the same time, it does feel a little needy from the app, using Stories-style notifiers to juice in-app engagement.
I mean, it does seem to have some practical value, so that’s to say it’s useless. But as noted, with more recent stats showing that users are spending a lot more of their time on TikTok, Facebook really needs to work at providing some more compelling reasons to keep people around, as opposed to them just checking in each day and staying on top of the latest big news from friends and family (or just ensuring they don’t miss somebody’s birthday).
This is the key element missed from Meta’s own reporting – as Meta shared last week, Facebook added 31 million more daily active users in Q1 2022, taking its total DAU count to 1.96b.
Which is great news for Facebook – especially considering it reported a quarter-on-quarter decline in daily actives in its previous update. That announcement tanked Meta stock, and while it's now seemingly back on track, with the trend graph pointing upwards once again for users, the data that Meta hasn’t shared is how long these people are actually spending in the app.
Are they just checking in, then moving on to other platforms? Because if they are, that greatly reduces the value of Facebook’s unmatched reach, because if people aren’t spending much time in the app, that means less ad exposure, and it could well be that TikTok, with fewer users but potentially more time in app, is now a better placement option in terms of reach and boosting brand awareness.
Meta hasn’t shared an official update on time spent in its apps since 2016, when it reported that people were spending 50 minutes per day using Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.
The fact that Meta has chosen not to update this figure would appear to suggest that it’s not increasing, as it would be keen to tout that type of information, while the amount of time that people spend on TikTok is clearly on the rise, in general, based on total downloads alone.
Which is why activations and tests like this are interesting. Does this improve time spent in the app, and get people to stick around for longer, or is this just another prompt to juice Facebook’s numbers, and make it seem like it’s generating more ‘engagement’?
In some ways, the format also aligns with Meta’s push to boost appeal with younger users, with the Stories format now more native to many than the traditional feed.
But still, it’s more just tweaking around the edges, likely with no real impact.
But maybe I’m wrong – maybe this is a valuable, practical tool that will help Facebook users stay in touch, and improve utility in the app.
The new notification format is being tested with some users, with no word on a full rollout plan as yet.