Back in April, The Information published a report which suggested that Facebook had seen a significant decline in people sharing original, personal content - like their own thoughts and photos - on their network. That's a big problem for a company which uses such those personal insights and data points to fuel their ever-powerful ad targeting system. And what's more, if people weren't sharing those type of updates on Facebook, where were they sharing them? Snapchat was clearly their biggest concern on this front.
Since then, Facebook's introduced a range of new ways to get more personal updates back into News Feeds - many of which with a distinct, Snapchat-like feel.
For example, in the three months since the report was released, Facebook has introduced:
- SlideShow, which stitches all your photos and videos from the past 24 hours into one compilation post
- Topic-specific news feed options (currently in beta) with new streams like "Sports" and "Funny", highlighting more of the content being shared within your network
- MSQRD Masks for Live (which are now also being tested in Facebook proper)
- A News Feed algorithm update focussed on highlighting more content from friends and family
- A new birthday video tool that amalgamates all your birthday messages into a video clip
What's clear from all of this is that Facebook wants - no, needs - people to keep posting those personal updates to their network, it's where they really make their money. And from the looks of their latest test, Zuck and Co are not yet comfortable with the levels of personal content being uploaded to people's News Feeds.
In Facebook's latest effort to get users sharing and interacting more with friends, they're testing out a new "What friends are talking about" feature that highlights active conversations within your network.
Image via Mashable
As noted by Mashable:
"The feature collects posts from your friends in a special section of your News Feed, just a little bit down from the top, and highlights how many comments the content received from other people. It's roughly the size of one image post in your News Feed, meaning you get a little more bang for your buck."
It's similar to Twitter's "Trends" box, which highlights trending hashtags and who, among your connections, is discussing each.
Facebook's new version provides a little more context, but the idea is similar - highlight what your connections are talking about in order to inspire you to also comment on the same.
It's an interesting option - Facebook's always excelled at keeping people active by providing a means constantly to stay in the loop with friends, highlighting what everyone else is doing and working that "FOMO" element. This new tool takes that to another level - it essentially says "here's what everyone's talking about, you don't want to be left out of the conversation, do you?"
Straight away, you can see that it'll be hard for people to resist clicking through - and while the News Feed already uncovers much of this type of conversation, bringing the most engaging posts from your closest friends front and center, it'd provide another way for Facebook to put a spotlight on some of those stories that maybe didn't quite make the cut for your feed, some of those friends who're maybe in your fringe groups, but whom you'd still be interested in know what they're up to.
Based on initial reports, the new option will only highlight conversations from personal profiles, not Pages, meaning it probably won't be much of a marketing tool (if it ever gets released into live). That said, it may provide another avenue for influencers to spread the world about products throughout their personal networks, giving them a additional avenue to extend the reach of their message.
As noted, the new "What friends are talking about" option is currently in test phase with a small group of users. No word on a wider rollout - if any - as yet.