Just when you think you've got your Facebook strategy all worked out, Zuck and Co come out with some curve ball to throw you off balance.
The Social Network is always trying out new things, testing out new processes and options as they work to stay one step ahead of the next big thing. Facebook, after all, supplanted MySpace, they know too well that something could come along and steal their audience. So they work to add new features, or buy opposing companies that are on the rise. Or copy them.
Regardless, Facebook is always innovating, so much so that it's hard to keep up. To help with this, we compile a weekly list of the top five Facebook tests and updates seen 'in the wild' each week.
Yes, every week we can report on at least five more significant, new tests in progress. There's a lot going on at Menlo Park HQ.
Here's this week's list of five Facebook tests and features spotted by users.
1. Facebook Live Stories/Public Stories
Facebook has, you'd have to say, successfully copied Snapchat's popular Stories format on Instagram. They've also created a similar Stories option on WhatsApp which has done equally well, while their other Stories tools - on both Facebook proper and Messenger - haven't fared so well.
Well actually, we don't know how well they're going, as Facebook hasn't released any user data on Messenger Day or Facebook Stories, but we can assume, since they haven't, that those numbers are not amazing (Messenger chief David Marcus did say early indications for Messenger Day were solid, but nothing official as yet).
To boost Facebook Stories, specifically, The Social Network is reportedly experimenting with a new 'Live Stories' option, just like Instagram added back in October.
There's not a lot of detail at this stage, but it would appear to function similar to Instagram Live, in that you'll see an indicator when the user is broadcasting, prompting you to tune in. Instagram quickly evolved their live option, going from ephemeral (only available as the broadcast was in progress) to now a saveable content option, adding enhanced utility. It's possible Facebook's looking to do the same, to combine Facebook Live with the top of feed presence of Stories to help boost both options. But again, there's not much to go on as yet.
On top of this, Facebook has also added an option for Stories users to make their Stories public, which could provide another avenue to boost Stories engagement.
Facebook actually says they added the option a few weeks back, but no one seemed to notice, which, as noted by TechCrunch, may point to the lack of interest in the tool.
Public stories could give users a lot more exposure, which could give another way for Facebook to popularize the option. As noted, anecdotal feedback is that not many people use Facebook Stories, and that it doesn't really fit with what most users come to Facebook for. It'll be interesting to see what the actual user numbers are, if/when Facebook gets around to releasing them.
2. Events Custom Audience
Facebook's also adding a new custom audience option - the ability to target people who've expressed interest in events your Page has created.
The functionality provides another way to reach potentially interested users - as you can see here, there are three different options for targeting users based on event interactions.
Obviously, people who've expressed an interest in an event you're running have at least some connection with your products and/or services. By targeting these users with event-relevant offers, it could be a great way to generate new leads.
3. New Security Options
Facebook's also looking to beef up its security options in a couple of ways.
First, there's a new tool which can highlight unusual activity and provide directions on how to secure your account and what to do if you think you may have been hacked.
As you can see in the last panel above, the tool shows you all the activity associated with your profile, including posts, comments, connections and log-ins. There's also information on any payment methods you may have linked to your account.
Identity theft is obviously a rising area of concern for Facebook, because they've also added a new type of two-factor authentication, in which you can nominate friends to help you unlock your account if you're ever unable to get access.
The process, when utilized, sees Facebook send your 'trusted contacts' a set of security codes that you'll need to enter in order to log in. It's essentially the same as the two-factor authentication process (which sends a log-in code to your phone), but it uses actual people as the delivery method.
Cases of identity theft are on the rise, and more people are becoming increasingly reliant on Facebook for business, with their personal profiles connected to their business accounts. It makes sense for Facebook to stay ahead of the curve where possible - definitely, if you have any concerns (or even if you don't), it may be worth investigating these new security features.
4. Round Profile Images
Hey, remember when Twitter changed their profile images into circles and everyone freaked out about it for, like, a day? Looks like Facebook is now doing the same, on desktop at least.
It's actually a bit inconsistent at the moment - as you can see here, the profile pics are all round, but the profile in the main frame is still square, so who knows who's seeing what at the moment.
Like on Twitter, moving to round profiles could create some headaches for brands whose logos may need to be re-calibrated to adjust, and it's unclear if this is a wholescale change - if it's being rolled out to everyone, everywhere, on all versions - but it's definitely in place for some users.
5. New Payments Options
And lastly, Facebook's also adding in some new payments options to make it easier for users to make purchases in-stream.
(Image via Matt Navarra)
With Amazon sniffing around in both social and (reportedly) messaging, it's not surprising to see Facebook fast-track their in-app payment options. Amazon's advantage could be their one-click payments - while their social network may not stack up to existing players (most notably Instagram), the ease of payments could be a draw, and Facebook may see that as a threat.
Facebook's already been working to evolve their in-stream payment options in Messenger, and Shopping Tags to streamline buying on Instagram. Amazon stepping on their turf could see such efforts pushed forward - we might just get Instagram Shopping Tags sooner than expected.