As Facebook works to maintain its position as the leading social media platform in the world, it’s constantly trying out new measures and testing new tools in order to boost user engagement and keep you using Facebook for longer.
As such, there are always tests and features being pushed out to user subsets, minor updates that may not make big waves, but are still relevant and worth highlighting.
To help provide some additional context on these smaller tweaks and tests, we’re co-ordinating them into a weekly update to help keep you abreast of what Facebook’s trying out, where they’re focused and what you should be watching for in future.
Here are five smaller tests or updates seen ‘in the wild’ in the last week.
1. INSTAGRAM PHOTOS SECTION ON PAGES
Ove the past few months, Facebook’s slowly been working towards better integration and connection with Instagram, utilizing the popularity of the two platforms for cross-promotion, while also making it easier for brands to manage their presence, and advertise, on the two.
Adding to this, some Facebook Pages which are linked to an Instagram account also now seeing an Instagram photos section on their Facebook Page.
The option could make it easier for Pages to generate more interest in their Instagram presence, while adding another visual element to engage Facebook Page visitors.
As noted, this is just the latest in Facebook’s efforts to further integrate the two platforms – they started rolling out a combined Instagram/Messenger/Facebook inbox back in February, and they’ve been testing out cross-app notifications for connected accounts, which alert you to interactions on each from within Facebook.
There’s also the continual integration of the ad options across all three – earlier this month, Facebook extended ‘Click to Messenger’ ads to Instagram.
The integrations make sense, but it’s also likely in Facebook interests to maintain some level of separation, as not everyone who uses, say, Instagram will want to use Facebook. Thus far, they’ve done that, and all indications suggest that will continue, but it is interesting to note just how similar each platform is becoming, and considering where that trend leads.
2. COMMENT THREADS ON FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM
Both Facebook and Instagram are also testing out new looks for their comments, with new threads to help rationalize replies in a discussion.
As you can see, on the left here we have Facebook’s new comment test, which shows you an indicator bar based on how many replies a comment has received. On the right we have Instagram’s nested replies, which better highlight replies to each comment in a stream.
Making comments easier to follow has been another focus for Facebook of late – just recently, they added Reactions to Messenger to enable specific responses to comments in a chat, which helps to more clearly signify what it is the user is replying to (which can get confusing in group chats).
These new tests are along the same lines, and will make it easier to follow along and make sense of the comment discussion.
3. ANIMATED REACTIONS IN VIDEOS
This one’s been around, in some capacity, for a little while, but is being tested more widely. Facebook’s testing out animated Reactions bubbles which float up on screen, signifying when someone ‘reacts’ to a video as you watch.
It’s similar to Periscope’s hearts, and Facebook’s more common Live reactions, except these ones appear in a three dimensional form, and can appear on any video you’re watching, not just live broadcasts.
Maybe, by giving you a more clear indicator of live response, it might encourage you to do the same, or it might help make the video viewing experience more communal and social by letting you know someone else is watching at the same time.
But it could also be distracting. It’ll be interesting to see the response, and whether this gets a wider roll out.
4. CATEGORIES IN VIDEO TAB
Facebook’s still refining its video tab before a full roll out, and one of their more recent tests has seen them add easy to access categories within the tab to help better guide user viewing options.
Facebook first revealed the video tab back in 2015, and announced they were rolling it out more broadly last December, but as of right now, it’s still not available to all users.
The tab is part of Facebook’s wider push on video content, which is likely to get more emphasis in the second half of 2017, with reports suggesting that Facebook’s looking to launch its own, original programming (The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is paying up to $3m per half hour episode to create new content). In that, it’s very likely we’ll see a broader push on the video tab, and the potential of it having defined sections like this – similar to YouTube – also makes sense, though you’d also expect them to be either customizable or more aligned to your tastes than the broad sections shown here.
5. PAGES TAB
And the last Facebook test we saw this week was a trial of a new Pages tab for some iOS users.
The exact functionality of that tab is not clear, but it looks like it will help connect users to the Pages they follow more easily – which could help give Pages a reach boost by making it possible for users to discover relevant updates even if they don’t show up in their News Feed.
The tool would also enable Facebook to get a better understanding of the Pages you like, which it could use to further refine your feed.
But then again, will people use it?
Interestingly, it’s an extra tab, not a replacement, so it’s likely Facebook is just testing out variations of that extra button to see what response they get.