Facebook's Problem With 'Oversharing'

Back in September at Facebook’s f8 conference Timeline was announced. The controversial replacement for the user profile has since been rolled out worldwide and we hear news today that ‘Timeline for Pages’ is on the way within the next month. One of the other major rollouts at f8 was a host of apps that allow for automatic sharing. I’m sure you will have noticed some of your friends’ use of these integrated apps (such as Spotify, The Guardian, Pintrest) appearing in your news feed. Since f8 over 60 partner apps have been announced, each of which automatically share 'actions' that you take within the apps to your Facebook page. The apps can be great for helping you discover new content, provide great exposure for the companies who develop them, and help Facebook to learn lots more about you for their ad-serving platform. They’re also really annoying.

As I’ve said above, the apps can be brilliant for helping to discover new content, such as an article you might find interesting on The Guardian or The Independent, or maybe a new artist that your friends are listening to on Spotify. They’re also great for giving the companies who developed them exposure; Spotify gained over 7 million new users in 3 months following their integration with Facebook at f8, and MySpace this week announced that they’ve added over 1 million new users since they integrated with Facebook, helping the site to grow “for the first time in years”. They’re also great for Facebook’s ad-serving platform, as it allows them to collect a lot more information about you as a user, and the actions that you take on the wider web as opposed to just Facebook.

However, Facebook telling me about every action that each of my friends takes with these application kind of ruins the News Feed, and doesn’t make Facebook all that interesting. As you can see from the picture above (which is a screen shot from my News Feed this morning), this automatic sharing, when performed by just a few friends across a few apps, leads to ‘oversharing’. When these apps were first released each action by each friend within the apps was displayed as an individual ‘story’ in the News Feed. Facebook quickly realised that this was flooding the News Feed so organised the actions into related groups but, as you can see in the picture, this doesn’t totally work either.

For years Facebook developed and refined their Edge Rank algorithm to make sure that, as a Facebook user, I only saw the stories from the friends that I interacted with the most. To fix this ‘oversharing’ problem, Facebook should continue to use Edge Rank to filter out the ‘actions’ from friends I don’t interact with. If not this, then why not only tell me the actions performed by friends related to the actions that I have performed myself. For example, if I read a story within a Facebook app about football, and so does one of my friends, show me that action. If I’ve never read an article about opera, and one of my Facebook friends that I don’t interact with that often does, don’t show me. Simple.

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.