Today Facebook officially announced its suggested Pages feature, which it started testing with first-time users in April. This “Add Interests” step invites users to like a selection of Pages from a “list of Pages that other people in a similar demographic…also commonly like.” The addition helps to ensure that new users don’t see a blank news feed before any of their friends confirm their requests.
When someone signs up for a Facebook account, they are now taken through a 4-step process where they find friends, add interests, add profile information, and upload a profile picture. If a user doesn’t like any Pages or have any friends, instead of being shown their news feed they see a dry list of additional options like activating Facebook on their mobile phone or learning about privacy controls. Not a very exciting start to the Facebook experience, and one that might lead first-timers to write-off the site before being exposed to its true value. Getting users to like even just one Page gives them a taste of what’s to come.
Facebook did well to base suggestions on a user’s demographic instead of showing the same list to every user. In January, Twitter changed it’s suggested user list from a single set for all to allowing users to select a category of interests from which they were shown popular accounts, as seen below. This came after much criticism that the single SUL, akin to Twitter playing favorites, brought those featured many new followers a week and skewed the network’s focus towards celebrity worship and away from real connections.
To avoid these issues, Facebook says “The list of Pages is strictly determined by an algorithm, so none of the suggestions is [sic] sponsored and Page administrators can’t pay or ask to be included” and “we’ll only suggest Pages that are posting engaging updates”. Signing up for a new account as a 25 year old, US English-speaking male led me to be suggested numerous alcohol brands, sports teams, and action-adventure media Pages, many of which I was actually interested in. None had less than 25,000 likes and no community Pages were included. Overall, the feature succeeds in getting new users started on the right foot without giving an unfair advantage to any Page.