You may have seen this article and accompanying graph over the internet lately – The Facebook Chart That Freaks Google Out.
The graph shows where US consumers spend their online time, and it’s not surprising that Facebook is rocketing whilst mature internet destinations are becoming less sticky.
Internally, we’ve been discussing why we think Facebook is powering ahead, and we came up with four primary reasons, listed below. But first, let’s look at why Facebook want you to spend more time on site.
Advertising. To those “social media gurus” who believe Facebook is all about the “engagement”, the “interaction”, the “social lifeline” - sorry, but it’s not. Facebook make money through advertising – cost per impression and cost per click.
Cost per impression – the more page views you make, the more impressions you add to Facebook’s ad impressions, which makes them money quicker.
Cost per click – the more ad views you’re presented, the highier likelihood that you’ll find one interesting enough to click on, and make Facebook money for that click.
So, by understanding why Facebook want to increase “engagement” (read: impressions of adverts), we can then understand why they are doing the things they are doing to make their platform sticky.
Reason 1: Semi-Closed Platform
Facebook is a semi-closed platform – users live in there. Communicating with friends, playing games, watching videos, looking at photos, creating events, connecting with brands, showing interests in specific shows or songs, asking questions, shopping – you can do almost anything within the confines of the 3-column page with the blue header.
And Facebook know about it – which leads us on to reason two.
(P.S – having a semi-closed platform also means they can put adverts everywhere – on your profile, on pages, on app pages, etc.)
Reason 2: Integrated Platform
Everything you do on Facebook is recorded and related back to datapoints – that might be your profile, a friend, a brand, a page, an external property (a Liked website, for example), an integrated property (a Youtube video), a photo, etc.
Facebook can then understand the context of your social “transaction” – tagging a friend with you in a photo means you will be quite close friends; mentioning a brand in a status update with a negative word means you probably won’t want to see them in your timeline.
With Facebook’s recent “Like”, “Watch”, “Read” and “Listen” button extensions, they can now better understand your “transaction” with other properties in the appropriate context. Integrating this with other services, such as Netflix and Spotify, also gives Facebook more data to play with, such as your previous history, genres you might be interested in, actors you like, etc.
The “Like” button has got Facebook so far, but the three new buttons really help Facebook take the next big step into understanding your life.
(P.S. – having an integrated platform also means they can put more relevant adverts in front of you – if they know you like Johnny Depp, you might click on an advert for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film.)
Reason 3: Explicit, fact-based personalisation
You’re a man: aged 28, living in London, you note Music as one of your interests, and you “Like” Oasis. One of your female friends posts a Youtube video to a new song by a pop girl group – it probably won’t appear. One of your male friends posts a Youtube video for Liam Gallagher’s new solo single – it’s a Top Story.
This isn’t coincidence. Facebook is continually using everything it knows, factually, about you, other users and items, to skew your Facebook experience to encourage you to “engage” more.
(P.S – this is why Facebook is so good for advertisers – they can target users by age, location, interests and more.)
Reason 4: Implicit, behaviour-based personalisation
This is where Facebook can get clever. With every social “transaction” you make, you also give away lots of other information that means something. Here are a few examples:
- Tagging yourself and a friend in the same photo means you might be quite close friends – they can promote that friend’s status updates more.
- Liking a Facebook Page because your friend likes it means they might be an Influencer – they might promote that friend’s status updates more.
- Continually looking at and leaving comments on a particularly interesting photo means the photo is good, and will be promoted to encourage other friends to click on it
- Making positive status updates about a brand might mean Facebook will promote their adverts higher up the page.
There are many examples that look at different behaviours, from whether you scrolled to the time you spent on the page, and more. All of the data is available to be collated, crunched and understood by complex algorithms; it can be manually analysed to provide new user insights which can then be sold or published.
This blog post covers the top 4 reasons we think can be attributable to Facebook’s massive 16% share of US consumer’s online time, why we think Facebook are determined to build a sticky platform, and takes a look at how they have used personalisation to increase “engagement”.
Personalisation is now no longer just for the big players – our IntentPredictionServer helps content publishers, aggregators, and any other platform, services or systems to improve engagement and pageviews by implementing personalisation technology that utilises onsite implicit behaviour with explicit information to dynamically adapt user experiences.
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