Facebook today released a new version its iOS app to include a way for users to change their cover photo and a number of updates related to group messaging. A subtle but significant change not mentioned in the app’s release notes is that the option to hide a post or ad and mark it as spam is now a different color, making it much harder to see.
The images below show what the button looks like on organic posts and suggested posts. Users can still hide a story by clicking the V shape in the top corner, but they might not be able to see the option from their mobile feed. The icon is practically invisible on ads, which could reduce the amount of negative feedback they receive. This could lead Facebook to believe that users are more pleased with their feed than they actually are.
Facebook is testing an update to the page admin panel, which gives more prominence to reach metrics for recent posts and encourages page owners to promote those posts to increase their audience.
Some users are seeing a “Posts” section at the top of pages they have admin rights to, replacing the “Notifications” section, which included recent comments, wall posts and other fan activity. The new section shows the organic and paid reach of each recent post, along with an option to promote the post. Notifications are available from the top menu.
Facebook is testing new built-in Open Graph actions for lifestyle apps, including a “rated” action for books, movies and other content.
The new actions, which were pointed out to us by developer Tom Waddington, can be found in Facebook’s Open Graph action schemas for books and videos. There are new actions for “rate” and “quote,” along with “wants to read” and “wants to watch.” “Review” seems to be a new built-in object type, which can apply to reviews for books, movies, TV shows and episodes or other forms of content. There also seems to be a new way for users to share the percentage of a book they’ve completed. “Quote” is likely a way to share a particular passage.
Facebook tells us it has nothing to announce at this time, but it appears book app Goodreads is already testing some of these new Open Graph features. It has implemented the “rated” action and allowed users to share their star rating. According to Facebook’s Open Graph schemas, it seems developers could also enable users to share a number rating or a link to a review page instead of stars.
Facebook has agreed to display an industry-standard icon on its ads that are targeted using third-party data about users’ Internet browsing history, according to AdAge.
The blue AdChoices icon, seen right, will be visible when users mouse over an ad that has been served through the Facebook Exchange, the social network’s real-time bidding platform that can serve ads based on third-party cookies instead of Facebook’s own data.
The AdChoices program was created by the Digital Advertising Alliance. The icon is meant to provide transparency and give users ways to opt out of online behavioral advertising. Currently, when users see an FBX ad, they can click “About This Ad” to be taken to the website of the demand side platform that served the ad. The DSP will give users information about how their information was collected and used, as well as the option to opt out of remarketing ads. Moving forward, Facebook will offer the same functionality but include the AdChoices icon to better adhere to industry standards.
Facebook is looking to conduct some user research for its latest mobile app, Poke, including phone interviews to understand how people use and feel about the service.
The social network is using Ethn.io to recuit participants through Facebook ads that lead to a short questionnaire. Users will receive $75 Amazon gift card if they are selected to be interviewed over Skype or GoToMeeting. Facebook is requesting that participants have a webcam. [Update 1/10/13 1:19 p.m. PST - Facebook is also using SurveyMonkey to recruit participants for interviews at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, Calif. The SurveyMonkey form asks users additional questions, including what type of phone they have and an example of how they use Poke if at all.]
Poke is a standalone app for iPhone that allows users to send messages, photos or video to their friends for a designated period of time. After a few seconds, the content is removed from the app. The app, which is largely a clone of the popular Snapchat application, was reportedly built in 12 days. It launched on Dec. 21, 2012, hit No. 1 on the App Store’s free apps list, but has since slid to No. 343. Snapchat, on the other hand, has sat between No. 3 and No. 9 for the past month. Today it’s No. 6.
Page post ads in the desktop News Feed once again include a “Like Page” button, which could make the unit effective for fan acquisition once again. However, the mobile version of the ad does not include the same call to action.
Page post ads can be links, photos, videos, offers, questions, events or statuses. These can be promoted to a page’s existing fans, friends of fans and audiences without any connection to the page. It used to be that when the ads were shown to non-fans, the unit emphasized the “Like Page” action over engagement, such as likes, comments and shares.
On Nov. 22 last year, Facebook changed this so users would interact with the post itself and be less likely to Like the page. Spruce Media found that clickthrough rate of this placement dropped from 2.52 percent down to 0.62 percent as a result. Conversion rate fell from 12.8 percent to 6.5 percent. The average cost per fan increased 270 percent.
Now, starting some point in the past week, the “Like Page” button is back for desktop News Feed page post ads, though not for the mobile equivalent. Advertisers should be aware of these differences as they plan their campaigns. Page post ads are generally good for content marketers and pages looking to increase engagement, but they are not optimized for fan acquisition. If getting new fans is an important secondary goal, advertisers may not want to buy mobile page post ads since they do not currently have the Like Page button.
For advertisers, it can be hard to keep up with Facebook’s tweaks, especially since the social network often tests different variations with different users. These design changes can significantly affect how users interact with ads, but advertisers do not get any information about whether their ad was shown to someone in a test group. An ad could be effective in gaining fans one day but then greatly underperform the next because of a small difference an advertiser can’t see. This makes it difficult for advertisers to compare past campaigns or to feel like they can apply previous learnings to their strategy today. We’d like to see Facebook give advertisers an accurate preview of what their ad will look like to the majority of the audience being targeted. Currently the social network gives advertisers a basic idea of what elements are included in an ad but day-to-day design changes are not reflected in the preview.
Facebook today announced new “flexible sentences” options for apps that publish to Facebook using custom Open Graph verbs.
Developers can now better control the sentence structure for stories that users share from their apps. Not only can they edit the tenses of their custom verbs, they can add additional text to provide more information about the activity. Although it adds another layer of complexity to Open Graph, this change allows developers create more compelling stories for their apps, which could lead users to share more and lead more of their friends to discover the app. See the Songkick example below, which now has added context to make it clearer what it means to “track” and artist:
To help developers prioritize which story formats to adjust, Facebook’s sentence configuration tool will now note which stories are shared and viewed most frequently. The percentage of impressions a story format receives will be listed to the right. By clicking “Edit” next to the percentage, developers can add free-form text or property expressions. Developers can also remove objects from the sentence. Facebook pointed out an example for a hiking app, which would not want to share the story “Horatio hiked a hike on Social Hiking.” Instead, it could remove the object and change the app attribution to say “Horatio hiked using Social Hiking.”
Flexible sentences are available to developers starting today, though they only apply to custom actions. Apps that use Facebook’s built-in verbs like read, watch or listen cannot be customized this way. Developers who modify their existing actions to change their tense or sentence format will need to resubmit their actions for approval.
A basic how-to for flexible sentences is available here.
Inside Network Research’s newest report, Facebook Games: Increasing Consumer Engagement, finds that almost half of Facebook’s games-playing audience are daily active users.
The study, on sale now, surveyed 1,418 adult Facebook users in the United States between August and September on their games habits. Of those, 31 percent played games several times per day while 18 percent played at least once per day. This highly engaged audience seems to be enjoying the games that bring their friends into the experience either in turn-based games (e.g. Words With Friends) or competitive games (e.g. War Commander).
Not surprisingly, Inside Network Research also found that niche games and those with coherent cross-platform experiences like Candy Crush Saga increased retention better than Facebook-only games aimed at a broader audience. At our Inside Social Apps conference in New York earlier this month, we heard developers on the monetization panel say that their philosophy toward game design has increasingly become a quality discussion, with platform coming at a much later point in a game’s development cycle.
You can find this report and others from Inside Network Research here.
Facebook today announced a major update to its Android application that improves the speed of launching the app, viewing photos and loading Timeline.
The update is similar to the one done for iOS in August. Previously, Facebook’s mobile applications were basically HTML5 sites within the frame of a native app. That approach made it possible to release daily updates without requiring users to download a new version and helped the company scale its mobile offering across different devices during a period of rapid growth. But the user experience suffered because the app was so slow. This has become more pronounced as other mobile apps, built natively, have greatly improved. Now Facebook can be on par with other apps and continue to make changes to improve speed.
“The infrastructure in place will let us continue to make the app even faster, smoother, and feature-rich,” engineer Frank Qixing DU said in a note on the Facebook Engineering page.
Photo viewing is a particular area of focus since it’s so core to the experience of the social network. With Facebook for Android 2.0, when users tap on a photo, it will open more quickly and they can scroll through photo albums without losing their place in News Feed. Facebook says it has improved speed 2x in this area. Liking and commenting is more efficient, too, and the company says that Timeline loads faster and the app overall opens more quickly than in the past.
These changes will make browsing Facebook more enjoyable for users, increasing the amount of time they spend using the app and making them more likely to view and interact with page posts, app stories and ads.
The new version will be available for download later today in the Google Play Store.
Zynga.com is no longer an extension of the Facebook platform, according to an SEC document filed today.
Originally, Zynga’s games platform featured an extremely deep integration with the Facebook platform that appeared to be born of the developer’s privileged relationship with Facebook. Zynga.com previously supported Facebook ads and Facebook payments in a deal unlike anything any other developer had enjoyed. As of March 2013, however, Zynga is relegated to using the standard terms of service that every other developer agrees to when integrating Facebook with their own sites.
With the new agreement, Zynga is losing some (but not all) of its exclusivity with Facebook. As the developer struggles with falling stock prices and decreasing returns on investment in blockbuster social games, losing some protection from Facebook might cause stock to dip even lower. Zynga closed today at $2.62 and is now at $2.35 in after-hours trading. Facebook is also slightly down in after-hours, but still trading higher than the company has been since July.
Effective on March 31, 2013, Facebook will no longer guarantee Zynga certain web or mobile growth targets in exchange for continuing to invest in games on the platform. Facebook also will no longer be prohibited from developing its own games, however, it’s unlikely that the social network would get into the game development business any time in the near future. The company has generally taken the position of being a platform rather than producing its own content.
“We’re not in the business of building games and we have no plans to do so,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We’re focused on being the platform where games and apps are built.”
Continue reading on our sister site, Inside Social Games.