Facebook’s sticking point...

On the 18th August, it was reported that Facebook was testing out its instant messaging ‘Sticker’ feature, in user comments.

When Facebook launched ‘Stickers’ through its messenger application over 18 months ago, they were fairly well received. They looked fun, nicely designed and set up a new revenue stream for Facebook as a host of different stickers could be purchased. 

However, it feels Facebook is misplacing its priorities. Do we really need ‘stickers’ clogging up our news feeds? No. Here are a few suggestions, I think, Facebook should turn their attention to. 

1) #collections!

The hashtag. When it first came out on Facebook, many couldn’t see the point and many still don’t. A feature that defines other social platforms such as Twitter and Instagram but on Facebook; a real use has yet to emerge.

Facebook, unlike other platforms, can offer a massive range of content. It’s not just photos, videos and links. It can offer games, bespoke app tabs, event posts and polls to name a few. It’s this content Facebook should turn to in delivering a unique and exciting experience for its users.

It could use hashtags to not only group, but tell a story. If we look at the clean and stylish way Flipboad displays social feeds and news into one ‘magazine’ style collection; it is clear how Facebook could benefit by using its existing platform to show off topical and trending stories. 

The need for this was highlighted during the world cup. Twitter offered an amazingly immersive experience. Prompting you to select your team, create a custom header to support them and showing you live feed pages as the matches happened. Even the home screen highlighted upcoming games, the official hashtags and offered detailed stats post- match on the most tweeted about country, moment or event. Facebook; offered a #WorldCup feed.

It felt like Facebook’s stance was that they were bigger than the world cup. They may well be, but if it matters to your audience - it should matter to you. Thinking about how the Flipboard collections could have been used on Facebook feels a little bit like an opportunity missed. They could have used events to highlight the games being played that day, video highlights of each game, a Facebook game to predict the winners and a poll of which team will win. 

Taking the concept a step further, users could create their own #collections. 

Tags can be seen as an informal categorisation as opposed to a top-down structure imposed by the site’s creators.

Gone on a great summer road trip with all your best mates? Instead of a standard photo album being uploaded multiple times by each friend that went, why not make a collection. Each collection could have multiple contributors to stop clogging up feeds and present the trip in a simple and beautiful manner. 

It could collate all the check-ins generating a detailed map, events that timeline all the amazing things you saw and did, and photos that tie it all together. Facebook could be used to turn your boring photo album into a nostalgic, scrap book style look-back. 

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is another perfect example that could really benefit; showing a well presented wall of videos with an option to donate to the charity, this would not only raise awareness, but certainly raise money.

Making hashtag collections could really help Facebook build their platform to be a place where users stick around longer than just finding the first BuzzFeed article and sign off.

2) Dynamic Learning 

Why all the hate? Facebook gives you the option to report, unfollow brands and hide posts from view but no option to teach the feed. 

During 2014 (and beyond) the increasing trend for awesome UX design is giving users the option to control what they see in their network.

For web apps and communities that rely on user-generated content to attract and engage their audiences, this is an essential part of giving users control over what goes on in the network.
— Chris Bank, UXPin

Facebook should take this approach to deliver a more accurate, exciting and timely news feed. Too often we see spammy messages or content that is of no interest to a user.

This would also help the Facebook ad platform in return. Using the tailored audience data, it could create new ads sets that optimise the CTR rates and ultimately the ROI for businesses.

3) Separate Gaming Platform

No, I don’t want to give you lives on Candy Crush. No, I don’t want to help your farm grow. No, I don’t want to help you reach level 45 of what ever rehashed, pointless game you are playing. Some games are fun; some, are just plain annoying. The gaming platform seems to be the number 1 culprit for busy, spammy looking news feeds. There are only so many requests you can block before you decide not to stick around.

Separating games to their own standalone platform would remove clutter and remove requests. Though Facebook games do have their own site, making all notifications go to one centre and removing it from users’ feeds would be bliss. Realising some people may want to see them, should mean the option does remain open for them to return. 

4) Discovery; not forced ads

With Facebook owning Instagram, it should know full well that people like discovery and not adverts. Facebook’s main priority is to be social with your nearest and dearest; but as second screening is on the rise and all web users are basically just looking for a good time - Facebook should be looking to cater for its massive entertainment demographic. 

When Graph Search was introduced, it promised to be a new, dynamic way to find friends and content. Though it was a great improvement; Facebook still doesn’t offer an easy and organic way to finding an interesting link, news or photos. 

5) Power to the people 

Ultimately; it is the people that make Facebook. Though it has a wealth of brands, companies and fan pages - Facebook was created for being social. Facebook should continue to focus on the products and services that benefit their users and not their share price. The announcement today of the new Facebook satire tag is the type of fun addition that would benefit the community.

All in all, Facebook is still pretty good; but it needs to remember why people took to it in the first place and try to build on its existing content and core offering, to really push the social boundaries.