Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

The problem with Facebook’s Trending Articles

posted by Will Salkeld

Forgive me for sounding a bit cynical about Facebook’s Trending Articles feature, but I’ve just spent 30 minutes of my life reading stories about ‘Snooki’s tan’, ‘Real-life Russian Barbies’ and ‘The ten best movie explosions of all time’. Needless to say, I’m feeling a little disillusioned with the state of humanity right now.

Facebook Trending Articles

If you haven’t yet had the displeasure of witnessing Trending Articles, let me break it down for you. It’s basically a stream of content aggregated from social reader applications, displayed in a simple yet highly visible box in the Facebook newsfeed. An article starts trending when multiple Facebook friends using the same social reader app (e.g. The Guardian, Yahoo, Washington Post, etc.) open the same article.

It’s what Facebook likes to call “Frictionless Sharing” in its most literal form. But if we’re going to be literal about this, let me tell you another thing that’s literally frictionless: A vacuum! By implementing Trending Articles, Facebook is sucking out all the social utility of shared content and damaging the fabric of organic interconnectedness that it seeks to foster.

Evidently I’m not the only dissatisfied customer, with new data revealing a mass exodus of social reader apps among Facebook users.

    Why Facebook’s Trending Articles feature is bad

What makes these ‘trending’ stories of relevance to me? Just because I’m friends with someone on Facebook, doesn’t mean I share the same interests as them. Furthermore, these are articles that my friends are simply choosing to read, not articles they’re actively sharing. By attempting to be intuitive, Facebook is effectively breaking down the power of word-of-mouth driven advocacy that has traditionally been one of the platform’s strong points.

As Facebook users, every day we continue to allow more and more permissions to third-party applications utilising the Open Graph API. Brands have new opportunities to automatically post information to a user’s network of friends and family without even being prompted to do so. It’s perpetuating a pattern of information sharing that is confusing and, in some cases, disingenuous. How can I trust a friend’s content recommendation if I’m not even sure they approved of it in the first place?

    Social actions need to be authentic

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Open Graph applications that post on a user’s behalf as long as they do it right. But the only ‘right’ way to do this is with authenticity. Just like with any form of communication, transparency is intrinsic to establishing meaningful connections.

Digital platforms may be able to more comprehensively mould behaviours and shape user experiences than other mediums, but they should never be used by brands to hijack a user’s profile and push messages that are out of sync with said user’s personal identity.

Brands should be integrating, emulating and [where possible] propagating the ideas and information that engaged users hold dear, rather than subverting existing behavioural norms for their own benefit.

It will be interesting to see where Facebook takes the Trending Articles feature and if they can reinstate some kind of relevancy with future iterations. With a bit of work it definitely has the potential to become a very useful and fluid form of content generation.

How users view Facebook Timeline

posted by Will Salkeld

Did you see this? EyeTrackShop just released details revealing how Facebook users’ eyes scan content situated within Facebook’s new[ish] Timeline format. Although the sample size was only small, the results have some interesting implications for branded profiles.

EyeTrackShop data on what users view on Facebook Timeline

“EyeTrackShop recorded eye movements of 30 participants as they were shown brand profiles — before and after being converted to timeline — from the Dallas Cowboys, Good Morning America, “The Muppets” and Pepsi in 10-second intervals.”

You can read more about the results here, but one takeout from the study that I found particularly interesting was that ads on Timeline are less visible than ads on Facebook’s old format for branded pages.

According to Mashable, “30%-40% of study participants looked at ads on brand Timeline pages, 80% looked at them on Brand Pages. In both cases, ads placed higher up on the page fared better than those below them.”

The visually arresting nature of Timeline makes it hardly surprising that cover images and custom tab images are usurping the more text laden messages of advertisements, but it’s difficult to understand why the data varies so heavily from EyeTrackShop’s last study.

It’s only been a few months but it’s odd to think that at one point EyeTrackShop claimed Facebook ads got noticed more in Facebook Timeline. (Sounds like they need a bigger sample size!) Inconsistencies aside, there’s one parallel we can learn from the two studies:

Cover photos are prime real estate for brands.

Having great content is one thing, but as your most visible page asset, the cover photo now trumps wall-posts as your first point of call for impressionable Facebook users.

Make your cover photo powerful and make it relevant to your audience to establish a unique value proposition that brings people back to the page. You can also use dynamic custom tab images to assist conversions and promote engaging Facebook apps.

From then on carefully crafted content is your best friend when it comes to keeping your audience on song.