Facebook recently began showing a “Friends in [City]” sidebar module to users who are visiting a location other than the current city listed in their profile. It suggests friends to message who live near a user’s temporary location. The module may be designed to incite conversations or meetups between usually distant friends.
By highlighting this value proposition of Facebook, the site can prove to users why its important to maintain a large friend network, helping Facebook to grow.
Facebook has been testing different sidebar modules for years, looking for ones that receive higher-than-average click through rates or that further specific goals of the social network. Most recently, its tested Discover New Games, Memorable Stories, and What City Do You Live In?, which allowed users to instantly update the current city field of their profile — information that is crucial to accurately targeting users with advertisements.
This newly tested module appears to be targeted at users who’s current IP address located them somewhere far from their usual place of login. The module reads “Friends in [City]” where [City] is a nearby location where some of a user’s friends live. For instance, in the example above the module is titled “Friends in Vienna, Austria” and is followed by the profile pictures and names of two friends accompanied by the test “lives in Vienna, Austria” and “Send him/her a message”.
If a user from California was traveling abroad in Austria, they might see the module, reminding them which of their friends live in the country, and making it easy to contact them. This could lead to a meet up and an introduction to more locals who could eventually become the user’s Facebook friends as well.
With users developing social graphs that span across the globe, surfacing acquaintances who are nearby could be very useful. Some criticize Facebook for co-opting the word “friend” and repurposing it to mean anyone you’ve had a social interaction with. The Friends in [City] module could help demonstrate the worth of these weak ties, reminding travelers that someone with knowledge of the local scene is just a click away.