Facebook head of brand design calls out trends to watch in 2013

Facebook Head of Brand Design Paul Adams says mobile, small networks and aggregation of data are the three trends to watch in 2013.

Adams wrote about these trends on his blog, giving insight into what he’d like his team and other companies to think about when building on the Facebook platform.


The first area Adams addresses is mobile — something a lot of people are talking about but perhaps aren’t fully understanding.

“Stop thinking about devices,” he says and instead focus on the concept of mobile meaning “access to any information anywhere in the world.”

This shift has so many implications for people and industries, but the one Adams points to is commerce. He believes mobile will help bring value back to physical stores, combining the type of personal interaction that used to only happen in small local stores with the scale of big box retail and the convenience of e-commerce.

Adams doesn’t point to any examples, but consider the Apple Store, which is known for its innovative retail experience. The store doesn’t use traditional cash register stands. Instead, employees walk around freely, carrying iPod Touch devices and credit card scanners. This can be more efficient and personal since customers don’t have to wait in line and there isn’t a barrier between them and a salesperson. But even this is a bit more about the device than the idea of information anywhere, which Adams is talking about.

When Facebook is brought into the equation, it’s easy to see how social information can make experiences in any space more personal. Mobile apps could help consumers easily see their friends’ interests and preferences that are relevant to where they are. At the Apple Store? Here’s a breakdown of which Apple devices your friends own and who to ask if the iPhone 5 is worth the upgrade from the 4S.

Small networks

Adams notes that several start-ups are working on products and services for small groups, which he sees as a “huge growth area,” for connecting either groups of close friends or strangers with similar interests.

Facebook reinvented its groups product in 2010, after Adams, who worked at Google at the time, critiqued how the social network put users’ friends in one big bucket rather than supporting the distinct social circles that occur offline. Adams joined Facebook two months later.

This November, Facebook introduced a way for third-party apps to create and manage groups for users. The API was largely pitched as a way for game developers to help players connect around clans, alliances, guilds or other game communities, but non-game apps could ultimately find use in it as well. For instance, an app like Goodreads might want to allow users to form groups around their book clubs. Fitness apps like Endomondo might do the same for running clubs or teams training together. Fantasy sports apps would also seem to have a good use case.

Aggregation of data

Adams predicts, “We’ll see a shift away from individual tiny stories as the focus of what is being published and consumed and towards powerful aggregated experiences that tell a bigger picture.”

In the first year of Open Graph applications there have been a lot of one-off News Feed stories that tell what is happening now or what has just happened. Adams says to think beyond that and share richer stories about trends over time.

“Don’t think about what song I listened to, think about my favorite music this week, this year,” he says. “Don’t think about yesterday’s three-mile run, think about my marathon training.”

Open Graph apps include monthly and yearly summaries that developers can customize to tell these types of stories on a user’s Timeline. In addition to supporting Timeline summaries, Facebook generates aggregate News Feed stories based on trends it picks up on in Open Graph activity. A common example is “[a number] of your friends listened to [an artist] on Spotify.”

When developers create a more detailed map for their actions and objects, Facebook can return additional stories like “[a number] of your friends listened to songs from [a particular year] on Spotify.” What Adams is suggesting goes beyond an aggregation of similar activity among friends, but a way to express what many individual actions say about a person as a whole.

Read Adams’ post here.