8 Ways the Changing Facebook Home Page Will Affect Application Virality

For developers who live and die by the changes Facebook makes to the way information flows through the service, every little Facebook tweak has the potential to make a big difference to the performance of core viral loops developers have optimized their applications for. With every change comes the need to rethink, redesign, and retest.

As most developers have heard by now, Facebook is launching a redesigned home page on Wednesday that reflects Facebook’s increasing priority on real-time sharing and participation in the real-time stream. Last week, we highlighted the major ways developers need to be preparing for the upcoming redesign. Today, we take a more detailed look at what the various elements of the redesigned home page will mean for application developers.

1. The new home page Stream will include all posts made by a user’s friends through the Publisher or Feed Forms.

Previously, Facebook algorithmically selected which feed stories to show on the default News Feed tab of the home page based on a variety of variables (the algorithm was of course never publicly disclosed, and it changed frequently). Rarely did application stories get syndicated to the News Feed, as a percentage of overall feed stories shown.

In the new home page Stream, ALL application stories made by a user’s friends either through Feed Forms (on your canvas page) or the Publisher (on the profile page) will show up in the Stream. This means that applications providing users with valuable contexts for sharing information with their friends will get more viral distribution in the Facebook ecosystem.

Design Questions

  • How could your application could take advantage of Feed Forms and the Publisher more?
  • How can your feed stories take advantage of the real-time nature of the new Facebook Stream (in terms of content or calls to action) to convert more users to engage with your application?

2. One line feed stories will not appear in the Stream, but they could appear in the “Highlights” section.

Unlike stories published through Feed Forms or the Publisher, one line stories will NOT be syndicated to the Stream. Because one line stories can be automatically published on behalf of users by developers, Facebook has determined that they are not fit for automatic Stream syndication. However, they could still appear in the “Highlights” section (details below).

Design Questions

  • Which types of feed stories convert better for your application: one line stories on the profile page, or short stories that could also be syndicated to the home page? Your internal analytics system should be set up to allow for flexible A/B testing.

3. The new Stream is focused on what users are saying and sharing in the 1st person voice, and Facebook will introduce new APIs to enable developers to “pre-fill and access” comments users make when publishing application stories.

As we covered a few weeks ago, Facebook is encouraging developers to update their feed stories to let users publish in the first person voice in order to fit Facebook’s conceptual model for the Stream. As such, Feed Forms will now prompt users for comments whenever posting content to their profile.

Facebook says it will “introduce some new APIs that will allow you to extend the new Feed forms and Feed publishing to pre-fill and access the comments users make as they are publishing stories.” While these APIs have not yet been released, developers should take advantage of them when they are to maximize the conversion performance of their stories in the Stream. The pre-filling capability will make sure feed stories aren’t accidentally published without any comments, and comments access will enable developers to capture conversations inside their canvas pages to make applications more conversationally compelling.

However, all existing feed stories will work automatically in the new system without developers needing to change anything. They just may appear more “dull” in comparison to those published with user comments.

Design Questions

  • What is the most appropriate and compelling first-person-perspective copy for your application’s feed stories?

4. The prominence of your application in the Feed Filters section will be determined by how often your users’ friends share content with your application.

By default, only Facebook applications will be listed as filters. Users can choose additional applications from a drop-down and add them persistently to this list. The applications “most likely” to appear in this list will be determined by three factors:

  1. How frequently your users engage with your application
  2. How frequently your users’ friends engage with your application
  3. How many application feed stories are available if this feed filter were to be selected

Design Questions

  • How can you increase the density of application feed stories published in tightly knit friend groups?

5. The outstanding requests/invitations dashboard is being further consolidated into one single count.

When the Facebook Platform launched, the applications for which users had outstanding requests or invitations were fully enumerated on the right side of the page. Since then, Facebook consolidated the list into just a few items, with a link to view all requests.

Now, Facebook is consolidating ALL non-friend-requests into a single “other requests” count. This means application invitations/requests may experience a decrease in conversion performance due to less discoverability.

6. Application bookmarks are being removed from the right side of the home page.

Previously, up to six application bookmarks were persistently present on the right side of the home page for direct navigation to applications. These are no longer present in the new version. Instead, application bookmarks are now only accessible in the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. This means application bookmarks may experience a slight decrease in retention performance.

7. The new home page Publisher supports application content attachments just like the profile page Publisher.

Facebook says that all existing profile page Publisher integrations will be supported on the new home page Publisher. However, now the comment will appear above the application attachment buttons given Facebook’s new emphasis on first-person story telling.

Design Questions

  • How can your application provide users with compelling contexts to share your application’s content on their or their friends’ Wall?

8. The frequency with which your application appears in the Highlights section will be determined by how often your users’ friends use your application.

Facebook is unlikely to disclose the algorithm for choosing items which appear in the “Highlights” section, but Facebook has said that a primary signal it will use is frequency of application use by friends. Facebook is planning on using this space for sponsored content as well.

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