Facebook Needs More Personal Content to “Power the Money Machine”

The Social Network

I started using Facebook around 2005 or so, which means I’ve been on Facebook for about a decade and—if I scrolled long enough—might be able to find some of my very first posts.

(The only post I can remember is the one where I rewrote the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” to be about my cat, as follows:

What you gonna do with all that cat

All that cat inside that fur

Imma make make make make you purr

Make you purr make you purr

This is why I am glad my original Facebook posts are not easily accessible.)

But people don’t post on Facebook like they used to. In fact, we aren’t even posting on Facebook the way we posted a year ago, which is causing Facebook some financial distress.

As Bloomberg explains:

Facebook Inc. is working to combat a decline in people sharing original, personal content, the fuel that helps power the money machine at the heart of its social network, according to people familiar with the matter.

Overall sharing has remained “strong,” according to Facebook. However, people have been less willing to post updates about their lives as their lists of friends grow, the people said.

Instead, Facebook’s 1.6 billion users are posting more news and information from other websites.

There are a couple of factors involved here. First, as Bloomberg notes, those of us who have been on Facebook since 2005 have “more than a decade’s worth of acquaintances” among our Facebook friends. Although it is possible to segment those lists and ensure personal updates only reach “Close Friends” or “Friends and Family,” a lot of us have chosen to simply pull back on the personal sharing. There are things, after all, that we don’t want our Facebook friends to know.

The second factor, which Bloomberg doesn’t directly address but which I think must be part of this, is Facebook’s decision to both include and promote professional content. Last July, Pew Research Center released data indicating 63 percent of Facebook users use the site to keep up with news. Pew writes: “This rise comes primarily from more current users encountering news there rather than large increases in the user base overall,” noting that the change was in fact Facebook-driven. The News Feed became a literal news feed, with links and content coming both from publishers and users.

Personal content, as Bloomberg reports, has dropped 21 percent year over year.

I’m very interested in the idea that Facebook, now flush with professional content, needs more personal content to “help power the money machine.” I don’t know how the Facebook money machine works. I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to know how the Facebook money machine works.

But I do know that the top third of my News Feed often contains a direct ask for personal content:

In 2005, I might have done it. Now, I think about showing a baby picture of myself and my sister to all of our mutual Facebook friends, and it just seems too personal.

What about you? Has what you’ve chosen to share on Facebook changed over time? Did you share a picture of yourself and a sibling this weekend?

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