The Day Facebook’s App Strategy Suddenly Made Sense

I’ve been annoyed at Facebook for some time. Not because of anything particularly serious, but because of the irritating habit they have of creating standalone apps for various functions.

For example, there are now apps for:

  • managing your pages
  • sending and receiving messages
  • sharing private photos with friend and family
  • managing groups
  • managing adverts (as an advertiser)
  • … and more.

This is all before we get to what I would call the “main” Facebook app. You know, the one that lets you use Facebook as a social network.

All of the core functions used to be in the Facebook app. You could send messages, chat, manage photos, and, of course, post to your timeline and your pages. So why on earth has everything been separated out into different apps? It frustrated me no end.

And then one day it made sense to me. I decided I was spending too much time on Facebook but I didn’t want to leave altogether because I manage a couple of pages; one for Geek-Speak and one for my IT company. So I deleted the Facebook app.

Suddenly I wasn’t tempted to spend all day looking through my friends’ status updates. If I wanted to do that I had to load the site in the browser and that pretty much meant I would only do it when I was sitting at my laptop. Yes, I know Facebook works in a mobile browser, but I never really got into the habit of using it like that. The key thing is that I was still able to send and receive messages for my pages, still able to keep my pages updated, and still able to keep up with what was happening in a few groups that interested me without the temptation to get bogged down in what I previously thought of as the central Facebook experience.

Now, you may very well be reading this and thinking, “Duh – tell me something new”, but I had never considered ditching the personal part of Facebook before and now that I have… well… Facebook’s app strategy makes sense to me. It lets me tailor which parts of the platform I want to use. Sure, if I want to use everything it means I have to have a load of apps on my phone, and that’s still a bit annoying, but it also means I can cut out any particular app and disregard that part of Facebook.

I still check Facebook regularly, and I’m still fairly active on my personal timeline… just less so than I used to be, and you know what? I feel better for it.

This blinding flash of the obvious has been brought to you by the letter F :)

Rhett & Link: Facebook (old but good)

I’ve been looking through old posts on Geek-Speak lately, deleting ones that were very much of their time and no longer relevant, and rediscovering some stuff I’d forgotten about.

Here’s one from the depths of the archive – Rhett & Link’s Facebook song. It’s odd to see Facebook looking as it did all those years ago, but the song is still fantastic. Enjoy :)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens giveaway

Star Wars: The Force AwakensHi all,

Just a quick post to say we’re running a giveaway of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on DVD over on our Facebook page. If you’re interested, swing on by for more details.


Twitter or Facebook – which wins for you?

Twitter vs FacebookWay back in 2010, I asked which you would rather have: Twitter or Facebook. There was quite a mix of responses at the time, and I was clearly in favour of Twitter.

I’ve changed my mind since then, though, and now spend much more time on Facebook than Twitter.

Why? Well, here are some of the reasons I like Facebook:

  • Pages: I think having a place where you can showcase your product, business, website, or community through a page is really useful. I wasn’t making use of pages when I asked the previous question, and this might be a big part of my change of heart.
  • Timeline: Yes, I know many people dislike it, but I think the timeline is great. It lays out what you (or your friends) have been doing in a nice way – and those cover images can be put to great use with a bit of imagination.
  • Photos: There’s something about being able to see photos right there in your news feed that works better for me than clicking a link. Laziness? Convenience? You decide.
  • Community: This is the big one for me – and I recognise that this may be why Facebook works best for me, but not for other people. More of the people I know in real life are on Facebook than on Twitter. So, if I want to find out what an old school friend is up to, Facebook is the place to go. If I want to see the latest product from another friend’s home business, Facebook again. If I want to share with people who I will meet at the school gate, or in the town… well, you get the point.

There is one thing I don’t think Facebook is as good for, however, and that’s interacting with large brands. Sure, O2 have a page, as do Honda, but I always have better luck getting a response from large companies such as these on Twitter than on Facebook. Not sure why that is… but them’s the facts.

What do you think? If you could only have one out of Facebook and Twitter, which would it be? I’m curious to know if the balance has shifted one way or the other since the last time I asked. Let us know your thoughts in the comments – including your reasons if you feel like sharing.


Showcase your projects with Wickes Facebook app

Wickes project screenshotIf you’re wondering why the frequency of posts has been a bit erratic lately, it’s partly because we have just moved house. There’s always so much to do in a move, plus there’s the inevitable wait for the Internet connection to be set up.

I’m lucky to have a friend who is very handy at DIY; as well as him doing so many things I am clueless about, I get to learn some hints and tips at the same time. If you think you have some tips to share, or want to show off your ninja DIY abilities, Wickes now have a Facebook app to let you do just that.

The idea is simple – upload photos, enter a brief description of what’s going on, and you can publish your own DIY project guide to your Timeline. It’s not just about DIY dunces showing off their new-found abilities, though; builders, decorators, interior designers, and so on can use the app to create an e-portfolio of projects so that potential customers can have a look at their previous work online.

It’s a clever idea – and there’s a certain voyeuristic pleasure in taking a look at some of the projects other people have undertaken! To try it yourself, visit Wickes Facebook page and click on “My Project”.

And now… Facebook buys Instagram

Instagram logoFollowing on from Monday’s post about Instagram coming out on Android, there’s more news about the photo sharing service: Facebook has bought it for $1bn (around £630m).

Facebook is already a huge photo sharing site, with around 6 billion photos being uploaded per month, but the acquisition of Instagram adds in those hipster processing effects that seem to be so popular in iPhone (and now Android) photography. It also neatly takes care of a possible rival in the social network field, as Instagram allows you to share your photos online as well as just snapping them.

So, did Facebook opt to buy a nice new technology to compliment their existing photo sharing offerings, or did they choose to buy out and own an up and coming rival social network? To be honest, few people really know that and I don’t think they’re about to tell us! What Mark Zuckerberg does say, though, is that Facebook is committed to developing Instagram as an independent brand, and that the ability to connect to networks outside of Facebook is part of what makes the service so attractive.

It remains to be seen how this deal will affect Instagram’s reputation and user base. I can’t help but feel it will only increase the number of people using Instagram, although there will be some churn as users who distrust the Facebook giant walk away from the service. What do you think about the deal? Are you suspicious of what the motivation behind it could be? Is it just Facebook adding to its technology portfolio? I’d love to read your comments – so post ’em below.

Facebook Pages get an update

Facebook Pages are undergoing a bit of an update at the moment that aims to make them even more useful for users. The updates were prematurely launched in December, and then quickly taken down again, but that mistake did give us an insight into what was coming. Tabs are gone, and there is now a built-in option to export page updates to Twitter.

On the whole, the pages look a little more like normal user profiles now, but there’s one new feature I think is going to stand out among all the others.

Use Facebook as Page

I think the most useful feature for page admins is to use Facebook as the page rather than as yourself. Just select “Use Facebook as page” from the account menu and you will be given the opportunity to change your identity to that of any of the pages you have admin rights to.

You won’t be able to comment on users’ walls or posts, but you can interact with other pages. This is handy if, say, you have a page for your company and want to show that you “like” one of your suppliers or customers, or if you want to comment on a page in your company’s name. It will open up new opportunities for business-to-business networking and may give a slightly more professional appearance than having to comment on pages using your own name. Mind you, there’s something to be said for presenting the human face of your business isn’t there?

I like the idea of interacting under my page (Geek-Speak)’s name, but what do you think? Is it better to do this, or interact as yourself?  What do you think of the updates as a whole? Will it make any difference to you as a user? Or if you’re an admin, can you see the update improving how you use Facebook? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Facebook unveils new messaging system

Kevin Tea, over at Web 2 And More asked this question yesterday: Is Facebook about to launch a “gmail killer” today? Well, the Facebook announcement came, and the answer is… “sort of… maybe… maybe not”.

Facebook didn’t just come out with a new e-mail service, but a whole system of messaging that incorporates e-mail, instant messaging, chat, and SMS. Mark Zuckerberg was clear that this is not a “Gmail killer”, or indeed an “e-mail killer”. Rather it incorporates e-mail into the whole system. I don’t know, though – I’d bet it crossed his mind at least once that giving 500 million users the option of a e-mail address might cut into Gmail’s market share a little!

Using a e-mail address won’t be compulsory – apparently Project Titan, as the new system was codenamed, will route messages to you however you choose to connect. If you do want to use a address, though, you’ll want to set up a human-readable username by visiting If you have any pages, and if they have enough fans, you’ll be able to set up usernames for those too.

The new messaging system will be rolled out over the next few months, with users being invited to try it out at a more controlled rate than everyone jumping in at the same time. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes communication through Facebook, and whether it will change communication on a wider scale too. Watch this space…

Halifax suggests your perfect holiday via Facebook [Paid Post]

This is a paid post – what does that mean?

Ah, summer. Apparently it’s here – although if the weather is any indication it seems to turn up for brief periods before heading off on its own holiday and leaving Mr Rain to feed the cat while it’s away.

Mario's holiday destinationIn celebration of summer, Halifax have released a Facebook application that will analyse your profile and Facebook usage to suggest a holiday destination. On top of that it will also suggest where you should stay at the destination, what you should do, and what you should eat… all based on what the app thinks it knows about you from your Facebook data.

When I tried the app it told me I wasn’t sharing a lot on Facebook (that’s true) so my recommended destination was a desert island. I have to admit, that does sound quite nice. To get the result from a more frequent Facebook user, I asked my wife to try it out… apparently she’ll be with me on the desert island. It does make me wonder how much information you need to be sharing to get a different result, or perhaps if there’s specific information (like interests and hobbies) that has an impact and we just aren’t sharing that.

OK, here’s some of the marketing information that might explain why Halifax created their app:

The Holiday Match Maker from Halifax. It’s one of those rare things, a Facebook application that is genuinely useful and entertaining at the same time. It’s also pretty clever. By analysing the content of your profile, it will ’calculate’ what your ideal holiday destination is, where you should stay, what you should do, what the weather’s like at the moment and how many plastic Eiffel Towers you can buy for a fiver. Now it doesn’t get much more useful than that. Oh, and it will also point you in the direction of Halifax Travel Money, something you might find handy when going on holiday.

Did you catch it? OK, yes, it’s fun and will help place Halifax in your mind when you think about holidays but it will also point you in the direction of Halifax Travel Money, where you can buy the currency you’ll need on your break (of course, I’ll be paying for everything with coconuts). So there’s a dual purpose here – to increase brand awareness though a fun application, and to drive business to Halifax’s foreign currency outfit. Sneaky? Not at all – that’s what advertising and promotions are all about, it’s just that you might actually find it fun this time.

The Halifax holiday matchmaker can be installed by clicking here (Facebook app link).

Disclosure: I will receive financial payment for posting this article. Please be aware that I will never accept offers of paid posts where I am required only to give a positive review – objectivity is important to me and you can be sure that what I write, even in paid posts, is what I really think.

Internet statistics to blow your mind

I’m a bit of an internet statistics junkie – I actually enjoy checking the visitor stats for this site. When I send out an e-mail newsletter it interests me to see how many where opened and what content people found the most useful.

Mashable posted a great video on Friday that outlines some statistics on Internet use, and I wanted to share that with you here:

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

There are some amazing numbers there: 81% of all e-mail is spam!? Thank goodness for spam filters. I was (for some reason) surprised to see that there are more Internet users in Europe than the US. I don’t know why, but I often think of the US as being the market to crack… but perhaps I’ve been ignoring European users. Of course, then there are the massive numbers in Asia to be considered too!

The huge amount of traffic Facebook receives is just mind blowing, although I can see why that would be the case given the social networking, applications and games offered there. That massive user base is one of the reasons Geek-Speak has a Facebook page too – you have to go where the people are if you want them to hear about you!

I’m also a bit surprised that just over half of all web pages are blogs, according to the video! If ever there was an indication of the massive take-up of blogging, that’s it. Sure, I guess a lot of those are failed or failing blogs (ones that the owner hasn’t written on for a long period of time) but it certainly shows there’s an interest in people setting up their own piece of blogging real-estate.

What went through your mind when you watched the video? Did anything surprise you? Is there anything you’d dispute? I’ve love to know what you think, so please leave a comment!