Social media has been undergoing something of a significant transformation over the last couple of years, shifting from being vanity platforms (‘look at me’) to becoming places of discovery (what’s going on?). While Twitter has been breaking news for some time now (such as Margaret Thatcher’s death or Osama Bin Laden’s assassination), other networks have been trying hard to gain a greater share of this news breaking/sharing culture that is driving hits, reach and attention to record levels.
Making aggressive inroads to this end is Facebook. It has just announced a pilot feature that pulls in real-time curated content (public posts, photos, and videos) for live events. Add to that Instant Articles (for publishers to host their content directly on Facebook) and the Trending feed (which shows users topics and hashtags that have recently spiked in popularity on Facebook) and it’s clear the direction that Facebook are heading – to remain as useful as possible to you, the user.
This struggle to aggregate relative and real-time content and be the one-stop shop for news isn’t new. Twitter themselves recently announced Project Lightning which aims to bring event-based curated content to the platform, with tweets, photos and videos (including Vines and Periscopes) as well as the ability to embed those experiences on websites and apps. And then there are Live Stories that Snapchat provides, which takes user submitted snaps to create a curated stream, offering a community perspective of an event.
Services like Storify have previously attempted to gather and share content but they have required a largely human element to curate and manage these, though it needn’t worry too much just yet. This new feature of Facebook is just a test – look back on the roadmap of Facebook’s development and it’s littered with previous features that fell by the wayside: Facebook Places (the supposed Foursquare killer), Slingshot (the Snapchat-esque app they built after their bid to buy Snapchat failed) and Facebook Deals (the short-lived Groupon-ish feature) are just a few. Evidently, Facebook aren’t afraid to try hard and fail fast.
This isn’t to say their new feature a bad idea – on the contrary, it’s a savvy move on Facebook’s part. It seems that the issue is not in the usefulness of providing aggregated content but in (re)educating users of their Facebook experience and convincing them it is better than the processes they may have already devised themselves. If they’re able to do that, they just might have found the very thing that will help them retain their popularity both in active and passive usage.
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