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FACEBOOK Prods Users to Share More as New Content Slips...

FACEBOOK Prods Users to Share More as New Content Slips...

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Sharing isn’t what it used to be on Facebook.

Surveys show users post less often on the social network, which relies on users for an overwhelming majority of its content. In the third quarter, market researcher GlobalWebIndex said 34% of Facebook users updated their status, and 37% shared their own photos, down from 50% and 59%, respectively, in the same period a year earlier.

Facebook users still visit the network often. Some 65% of Facebook’s 1.49 billion monthly users visited the site daily as of June. But these days, they are more likely to lurk or “like” and less likely to post a note or a picture.

That isn’t a problem today for Facebook, which makes money by showing ads to users. The company is expected to report a 36% jump in revenue when it reports third-quarter financial results Wednesday.

But it could be a problem down the road. In a 2009 paper, Facebook researchers said it was “vital” for social networks to encourage a broad range of users to contribute content.

If fewer users post, “Facebook can potentially seem quite dry or quite boring,” said Jason Mander, head of trends at GlobalWebIndex.

So Facebook is fighting back with new features. Since May, the social network has placed prompts related to ongoing events at the top of some users’ news feeds, aiming to spur conversations. The prompts are partly based on a user’s likes and location, according to Facebook and companies working with Facebook.

On May 25, for example, Facebook reminded users that it was Memorial Day, displaying an image of an American flag above its standard prompt, “What’s on your mind?” On Sept 27, it displayed an image of a crescent moon as a prompt about the supermoon lunar eclipse. In October, it worked with AMC Network Entertainment LLC to remind fans of “The Walking Dead” about the show’s season premiere.

A Facebook spokesman said the company is testing “timely reminders about things people might want to post about.” So far, the response rates have been “excellent,” the spokesman said, declining to provide specifics.

“People continue to share a ton on Facebook and the overall level of sharing has remained not only strong, but similar to levels in prior years,” the spokesman said.

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