Thursday, March 21, 2013
People do spend a lot of time Facebook. They also show a high degree of engagement with other Facebook users. But this is not surprising as 'Engagement is Facebook's most important metric'. And everything the social giant does is someway linked to the metric.
But will Facebook be able to successfully connect this engagement with revenue is an entirely different question. People may engage with others in a social setup, but do they have buying intent during this process is another thing.
That said, Facebook seems to have realized that it can't make money as Google does (by showing ads). And good or bad, it has to devise a way to make money via its strength -- the engagement. And what better way to strengthen the engagement than improving on conversation. Allow Facebook people to talk more personally and pointedly to each other and stronger will be the engagement. Working on the same, Facebook is preparing to roll out a new feature on Pages and popular Profiles that will help increase interactions with fans and readers: Replies. Notably, Replies are already a part of Facebook’s commenting plug-in, which are put on blogs and websites.
At present, visitors can comment on a Facebook post; but if the post has more than one comment; then neither the Page/profile owner nor any member can effectively reply to any specific commenter. Although at present, Facebook owners and users do respond to each other by prefixing '@ followed by name' before their reply to a particular member; but still still this is not cool both from time and efficiency pov (if one has to look for all the replies made to a particular comment; he/she has to scroll down the entire page. difficult more with mobile devices). To improve on this situation, Facebook has been running tests of the new 'Replies' feature since November last year. When the Replies feature will be launched, people will see a Replies button under individual comments. This way any one can post a counter reply to any particular comment.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook will launch the Replies feature formally as an opt-in on Monday, March 25, before turning it on for everyone in July. At present, only those Pages with more than 10,000 followers, not personal accounts, are testing Replies feature. Replies initially won’t work on mobile, users of the native iOS and Android apps will see Replies as regular comments. That apart, there will be not Reply feature on posts via the Graph API. This will also mean that third-party page management apps for now will get the short end of the stick because they will also not be able to write Replies — only comments.
Another feature that will be launched at the same time is "Active-thread shifting" or "Most Active Thread". Aimed again at strengthening the engagement metric, the new "Most Active Thread" feature is a bit difficult to understand, particularly how it works. If explained in plain words, the feature will fetch the most active conversations at the top of the posts using an algorithm.
But Facebook is not using some simple criteria like number of likes or replies (that's why Replies feature is introduced alongside), to decide on the most active threads. It has been reported that the algorithm Facebook uses is a a bit complex. The algorithm, which even though ties in with how Facebook generally prioritizes content for you based on your own social network and likes; will evolve a deciding strategy based on the profile or page owners friends/members and how the this sub-social network (formed by the profile/page owner and friends/fans react to content on the profile and the Page). In short, "Most Active Thread" different profiles/pages will be fetched to the top based on different set of considerations. As a consequence, no two Facebook profiles/pages will resemble each other. For instance, if people you are more friendly with, comment or like a particular post; that will reach the Top (so that you take notice of that conversation or join it). Conversely, threads or comments flagged as spam will drop down the list, and Facebook says it may also “down-rank” comments made by frequent spammers.
What do Replies and Most Active Thread mean to a user and a marketer:
The changes are in a way are correcting the skewed concept of 'Friends', Facebook (and other social networks) invented. One can make 5000 friends on Facebook, but he/she will interact and listen to only that many friends, as humanly possible. Close friends can be 6 or 7; and extended circle can be 20 or 25. But it's not possible to be friends with 100 people.
With Replies and Most Active Thread, Facebook will restrict Facebook users to their inner circle of freinds (6 or 7 friends). This group will have more meaningful interaction with each other. And that interaction will sometimes solicit purchase opinions from one another.
Marketers will benefit, as much as Facebook wants them to. That's the information Facebook will provide them. Curating information one one's own, will become difficult for marketers, as smaller friend groups will mean, less amount of generalized intelligence.