Given its near decade-long reign as the most widely adopted social network, Facebook seems unbeatable in 2016. Since it was founded in 2004, Facebook has grown exponentially, changed dramatically, and innovated almost every aspect of its product. But one of their biggest money makers has been on the decline in recent years: personal stories (aka "original content") shared by users. Facebook users have been sharing news stories rather than photos of them at the club the night before. Amir Efrati writes about the phenomenon for The Information in partial below, the full version here.
Less than a year ago, leaders at Facebook convened to address a serious problem: people using the social network were posting fewer things about their personal lives for their friends to see, according to confidential company data about several types of content sharing that happen on Facebook, which was viewed by The Information.
Thus began an effort to deal with this long-term threat to Facebook’s primary moneymaker, the News Feed. Facebook set up a team in London to help develop a strategy to stop the double-digit decline in “original” sharing that happens on Facebook, according to four people with knowledge of the situation.
Wednesday's extension of Live Video to all users is the latest move to increase sharing of original content. But Facebook has also tweaked the algorithm governing what kind of posts people see in their News Feed so that original posts play a bigger part. Facebook’s Android app was redesigned to make it easier for people to post. These moves so far have slowed the decline. But not by much.
A Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement: “People continue to share a ton on Facebook; the overall level of sharing has remained not only strong, but similar to levels in prior years.”
That comment might be true, but it overlooks one type of sharing that’s more important than the rest, and how it’s ailing.
As of mid-2015, total sharing had declined by about 5.5% year over year while “original broadcast sharing” was down 21% year over year, the confidential data show. Original posts are personal in nature as opposed to popular media like links to news sites. Original broadcasts are the most critical kind of content on Facebook because they bring the most engagement. Think of when people announce engagements or babies; those posts always get the most comments and “likes.” The sharing problem was particularly acute with Facebook users under 30 years of age who were sharing much less than they were a year earlier compared with people over 30, according to the data.
As of earlier this year, original broadcast sharing was down roughly 15% year over year, says one person familiar with the figure.
Several months ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed these problems in remarks to employees at a quarterly all-hands, saying content production needed to go up, according to one person.
*Image of Mark Zuckerberg via The Information