The Law and Business of Social Media
August 26, 2015 - Marketing

“Notes” Update Shows Facebook’s Continued Efforts to Increase Already Impressive User Engagement

“Notes” Update Shows Facebook’s Continued Efforts to Increase Already Impressive User Engagement

As the number of social media platforms continues to grow, users’ online activity is becoming increasingly divided, requiring social media companies to prove to potential advertisers that they not only have a lot of registered users, but that those users are engaged and spending a lot of time on their platforms.

Having accumulated nearly 230 billion minutes of user-time, Facebook is several lengths ahead of the competition in the user engagement race; its users have spent 18x more time on the platform than users of the next-biggest social network, Instagram (which, of course, is owned by Facebook). Despite its clear lead, Facebook seems to be keeping user engagement at the top of its priority list, introducing features that reduce its users’ need to access resources outside the Facebook ecosystem.

Take, for example, Facebook’s introduction of “native video.” Native videos are videos that are posted directly to Facebook rather than first being uploaded to another site such as YouTube and then shared on Facebook as links. Native videos on Facebook have been shown to significantly outperform videos shared on Facebook from other sites in terms of engagement.

A Facebook feature known as auto-play further increases user engagement by ensuring that Facebook native videos—and only Facebook native videos—automatically play as users scroll down their newsfeeds. After one quarter with the auto-play in place, Facebook experienced a 58% increase in engagement.

Now, by testing an update of its “Notes” feature, Facebook may be indicating a desire to keep its users from venturing off the platform to use third-party blogging platforms and personal websites, too.

Before 2011, when Facebook statuses were limited to 500 characters, the Notes feature allowed Facebook users to create longer posts that, like their photo albums and favorite book choices, would always be attached to their profiles. Since Facebook has significantly loosened up its character limits, the purpose of Notes has been unclear.

But Facebook recently updated Notes to allow users to create posts with a more sophisticated look and an accompanying picture. The updated Notes was described by a Facebook spokesperson as the company’s attempt “to make it easier for people to create and read longer-form stories on Facebook.” Some social media industry observers have suggested that this update is intended to provide users with an alternative to Medium, a blogging platform favored by those in the technology and media industries.

“But that might be too early an assessment,” writes Motherboard’s Clinton Nguyen, “as [the new Notes feature is] a work in progress, the revamp is only available for a handful of users.”

Nguyen is right; it’s too early to tell whether social media enthusiasts will want create and read lengthy personal essays on Facebook. One thing is for sure, however: Facebook is not letting up on its efforts to remain the user-engagement king.