Facebook’s dilemma if people are no longer caring about sharing

11 Apr 2016

Ahead of F8 there are claims that fewer people are sharing original personal posts on Facebook, preferring to use Snapchat or Instagram instead

Ahead of F8, there are claims that fewer people are sharing original personal posts on Facebook, preferring to use Snapchat or Instagram for among their intimate, private circles. Facebook should be worried.

The look of derision on the 13-year-old’s face when I asked her if she is on Facebook yet would have stopped a train. My iPhone-toting niece tells me Snapchat is where it’s at and rolls her eyes with the exclamation: “My god, don’t you know anything?”

I know enough to step back and admit to myself I’m out of my depth when it comes to talking technology with sophisticated teenagers, and it’s none of my business anyway.

But one company whose business it really is, Facebook, has reason to be concerned. This is a far cry from a few years ago when one of the problems Facebook had was kids under 13 faking their age to get a profile.

Double-digit decline in personal sharing

Last week, a report from The Information emerged, citing “confidential data” indicating that Facebook is seeing a double-digit decline in original personal content sharing – effectively Facebook’s traditional cash cow and apparently a marketer’s dream in terms of context.

People are now more likely to share news content and video, which on the surface is fine because Facebook last week made Live video available to all users and tomorrow at F8 is expected to launch Instant Articles to all publishers.

According to the report, total sharing on Facebook has declined by 5.5pc year-over-year.

Particularly worrying is that “original broadcast sharing”, such as announcing a new birth or an engagement, is down 21pc.

Overall, Facebook is a behemoth that keeps growing and is now at more than 1.5bn monthly active users, as well as 900m active monthly Messenger users and 1bn WhatsApp users

But if people are sharing less about themselves and Facebook just becomes a conduit for publishers, then Facebook has a big problem on its hands.

Part of the problem appears to be that the size of people’s personal networks is getting so substantial that people are less inclined to post publically, preferring to keep intimate details to within intimate circles on other social networks.

The imposing size of people’s public circles also reinforces the notion that Facebook is no longer a safe place to post personal details

Facebook fights back by sharing new tools and apps

Facebook has been fighting back by tweaking its algorithm to post original content higher in the News Feed and by making it easier for Android users to post content. It has also introduced new features like “On This Day” to coax people to reshare old memories.

It is understood that Facebook is also working on a new user interface for mobile, geared to encourage people to post more about themselves.

Last week, announcing Live video for all, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed an internal build of a new Facebook app for the iPhone that appears to make it quicker and easier for people to post a photo, start a Live video and post notes.

Facebook faces a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, it wants to be the go-to place for next generation media – the SpaceX rocket landing at the weekend pretty much announced Live video as the new TV – and on the other hand, it wants to keep its original magic alive as a social network.

Ultimately, Facebook needs to convince the masses that it is not too big to care.

Main image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years