Facebook has introduced a new type of news feed story for when multiple friends write on the wall of one of your friends on their birthday. These stories are formatted similar to the “x # of friends are attending [Event Name]” stories, but with the event time and location replaced with “Birthday: [Date of Birthday]”, and a reel of the wall posts plus a prompt to add your own appended to the bottom. Birthday wall posts are one of the most deeply ingrained user behaviors, and this new story type aims to keep it that way.
In May, Facebook reordered the home page’s right sidebar, moving upcoming birthdays to the top, but hiding them behind a “See More” button for those with multiple upcoming events. We thought this change would make users more likely to forget to write birthday wall posts, and in June Facebook changed this panel to always show all users that day’s birthdays.
The timing of the introduction is interesting because last month Facebook closed its virtual goods Gift Shop. The shop allowed it to monetize birthday wall posts by letting users pay for a special image like a cupcake or balloon to accompany their post.
Currently the birthday post norm in English speaking countries is to simply write a generic “Happy Birthday” sometimes followed by the person’s name. As unique birthday messages are more frequently liked and commented on, they may show up above the “view all posts” fold in these stories more often. This could encourage users to write more personalized birthday wall posts themselves.