Is Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” causing well…friction?

facebook logoSince launch of the Facebook timeline, we have been discussing the changes and their implications on this blog – see the three links below for recent articles. (You may wish to register on our blog using the email icon on the top right hand side of this page. That way you will receive an automatic email alert when a new ‘Social Media Channel Update’ has been posted on the site.)

One of the most innovative (and at the same time controversial) changes is called frictionless sharing. This has allowed app makers to reach a huge potential audience for their content with relatively little effort. It has generated high volume traffic for many early adopting content providers, propelling some to super-stardom. However, in the last few days this traffic has seemingly ‘fallen off a cliff’.

In this article we explore in more detail frictionless sharing and the related traffic phenomenon whilst trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on and what this means for businesses. 

What is frictionless sharing?

Essentially, Facebook users can configure their much loved applications to share with their Facebook connections; for example, the Guardian app allows you to ‘automatically’ share what you are reading with friends on Facebook.

From a user perspective, this type of app simplifies the sharing process, perhaps generating welcomed discussion or for those of a younger generation, just letting your peer network know what you like or what you are ‘into’.

According to Techcrunch in ‘The Timeline Bump: Khan Academy And Quora Latest To Integrate With Facebook’s Open Graph‘ companies that have been active in creating ‘frictionless’ apps for Facebook have seen enormous benefit in terms of traffic increases.  Well, at least until very recently…

What Goes Up Must Come DownWhat goes up must come down

According to an E-Consultancy article, recent Facebook changes have sent social reader apps into a nose dive. The Guardian, for instance, has seen its daily active users fall 6-fold to under 100,000 with the Washington Post seeing their monthly active users drop by almost half, from 17.4m to 9.2m in the last 30 days.

This traffic freefall is not restricted to news apps. Socialcam, The ‘Instagram-For-Video’, Just Lost About Half Of Its Daily Users according to the Business Insider.

So what is going on here?

With platforms as large and undeniably changeable as Facebook, there is always the chance that a tweak is made that is quickly reversed.

However, it would be surprising if Facebook has not looked at the benefit that brands like the Washington Post and the Guardian are deriving from their ‘frictionless’ apps and thought….

Too Much FunYou are having a bit too much fun, remember whose customers you are courting

And therein lies the rub. In many ways Facebook is a huge opportunity for business. If your valued customers are hanging out on Facebook, it is sensible to engage and energise them through this platform.

But, and this is a big but, there is an inherent risk in building your strategy solely around a third-party platform and aligning your future success too tightly with a platform that may change, be bought over or even cease to exist.

Perhaps you should ask the question, ‘what if’…a bit more often?

The more we, as businesses rely on third-party platforms for our business success, the more we need to adapt to the changing environment. This means listening to our marketplace and our customers.

We should be trying to understand what platform changes will affect our business as well as constantly evaluating where our customers are spending their time. Do you know what other platforms you should be exploring or investing more time in?

These are interesting times – time to be nimble as Facebook has once more shown.

We look forward to your comments.

Alan, Jim and Vincent

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