Friday, 16 September 2011

Has something just changed on facebook?

The quick answer is 'probably'. After all, they always seem to be tinkering with or tweaking something. ,

An interesting aspect of facebook and indeed, many digital products, is how regularly they're updated. Unlike a physical product, where a new model needs to be purchased to receive upgrades, a web based service or desktop based program, like Windows, can offer it's users perpetual improvements. These are generally free and take little or no effort from the user to implement, possibly being automatically installed without the user even noticing.

Imagine you buy a second hand car. You wake up the next day and it's brand new. The next day it's a sports car. It hasn't cost you a penny and has taken no work, but your car just keeps getting better and better.

With products such as Windows, when a big overhaul is needed, a new model is released and then, there's a price. But with Social Media services such as facebook, they haven't as of yet, charged for new additions or indeed a new edition. The updates are just part of the service, which needs to stay up to date in order to stay relevant and ahead in the Social Media game.

Some of these updates, especially the big ones, receive a fanfare, press attention and often notify all users about the change. Security changes with facebook, for instance, usually draw a lot of comment, due to this particular subject always being a bone of contention and privacy as a whole, a constant consideration for the entire population of the internet.

But there are far more little tweeks that go by relatively unnoticed compared to the seismic shifts that everyone hears about. If you really do want to keep abreast of every little change, it's a difficult prospect, but a good place to start is the Facebook Blog.

I think one of these smaller changes may have just happened, but I'm not sure and can't find exact mention of it on the blog.

When a change is trumpeted, it's obviously easy to spot. But if it doesn't make the News, it could go by unnoticed, even by those such as me who work in Social Media. You might suspect it down the line, but chances are, you'll just think that's the way it's always been or not pay it a second thought.

Look at the 'like' link on facebook, next to 'comment' and 'share', which allows users to 'like' content posted by their friends and pages. It's far and away the most popular way of interacting with facebook and is an integral part of the experience.

How long has that been there? Since the beginning?

It's actually only been just over two years ago, yet it's difficult to imagine facebook without it.

This potential new change I've spotted isn't quite as far ranging, but for those of us who manage pages, it could be very useful. I'm fairly certain it hasn't been there forever, but if I'm wrong, please let me know. With so many different aspects to facebook, it can be difficult to keep track.

The change ties in rather nicely with my topic here for the past few weeks, namely the 'share' link. As mentioned above, 'share', 'comment' and 'like' appear underneath posts on facebook, allowing users to interact to them. If a page posted a video, photo or article, that content could be liked, commented on or shared by it's followers.

As discussed last week, share is possibly the most powerful in spreading that content beyond a page's follower-base, but there are problems.

The first is that if a user shares that video, photo or article, that's all they share. The accompanying comment by the page isn't shared, so any message given there is lost. We often recommend including a question or invitation to interact in this comment, which works with the first layer of followers who see the post in their newsfeeds. The second and further layers however, being follower's friends, their friends, and so on, only see what the shared post, without seeing the original comment.

I was going to look at how best to deal with this problem this week, but because of the change I've noticed, we'll leave it till next week. That change is important because it has solved the second, possibly even more crucial problem with share.

Quite simply, that problem was that a user could not share a text only status update by a page. I'm fairly sure I haven't imagined it, but until very recently only the 'comment' and 'like' links appeared under text only page status updates.

The 'share' link is now there.

Text has a far shorter download time than images, sounds and video, and is therefore the most accessible across the spectrum of internet speeds and devices around the world. This means it can reach the largest audience.

The lack of a share link was big limiter in realising that, but not any more. It's a small change, but one I'm very happy about and is undoubtedly good news for Pages.

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