09 July 2010

Facebook recommendations for existing users

Facebook recommended pagesEarlier this month,  announced a new recommendation engine aimed at helping new users find interests easier as they set up the account. I don’t have opportunity to experience it firsthand, but I suspect this will eventually roll out to older members as well. One sign of this increasing interest of Facebook for suggesting Pages and interests landed on my account last night: Recommended Pages have completely replaced friend suggestions in the right column.

Recommending pages based on what your friends like is nothing new, except now Facebook started suggesting pages similar to the ones you already liked or that are popular, perhaps using the same algorithm as for newcomers.

Facebook recommended pagesNeedless to say, the results are not exactly perfect. One of the first suggestions I have seen invited me to like ‘Californication’ because I liked ‘Californication’… Unfortunately I didn’t make a screenshot, but you will find enough examples like this given time. They just highlight some of the weaker aspects of the Fan Pages system: the duplication of content and the overlap between fan pages and the new community pages. It’s something Facebook should address if they want to build a powerful recommendation service or even a search engine, as many speculate these days. I find some of them just hilarious: because I like Linkin Park, do I also like Avril Lavigne?! Not!

Facebook recommended pagesIn the end, recommendations are good as long as you trust the person making them. Coming from friends or just acquaintances, you could be inclined to give them a chance; coming from an impersonal algorithm and a company recently accused of neglecting privacy, I find them distracting and will most likely be ignoring them, like the ads I never seem to click. I don’t have any intention of turning Facebook into a feed reader or news source, so liking pages just to hide their updates in the stream later seems pointless. Ultimately, this could bring a lot more fans to pages, but I doubt it will increase their real audience and reach. Even though recommendations are presented as a feature for users, to help them discover new interests, I think it’s another step away from the original mission of Facebook – connecting with real-life friends - and towards becoming a marketing platform for brands. And, why not, towards monetization: how long before we will see sponsored recommendations?

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