August 14, 2013

Facebook Building App Just For Celebrities And Fans

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

According to All Things D’s Mike Issac, Facebook is currently developing a mobile app meant to give celebrities — and celebrities only — the ability to monitor their fan pages on-the-go. The social behemoth is testing the app with a handful of VIPs right now, though they say they’re still in the early development phases of the project. Such an app could help Facebook compete with the real-time conversational appeal of Twitter.

Facebook has recently been adding some features to the service which seem borrowed from the 140-character microblog, such as hashtags and trending topics. Facebook also recently rolled out a feature which allows page owners to reply directly to commenters.

“We are currently testing some mobile features designed to help public figures interact with their fans,” explained a Facebook spokesperson in a statement to Issac.

“We are testing these features with a small group of partners and will share more details should we roll it out more widely.”

The very nature of Twitter allows for easier sharing between lay folks and celebrities alike. Getting involved in the conversation is as easy as finding the list of @replies. Getting involved in Facebook conversations might be as easy as adding text to the reply section, but speaking directly to a commenter can feel a little awkward, especially since this means using their full Facebook name.

This move is seen as a way for Facebook to shift their attention towards being the one place for celebrities and other high profile figures to share publicly with their fans and friends.

It sounds odd for a social network, especially Facebook, to focus their attention on public sharing, but following a long string of controversies over the way the network handles their users’ private data and how much of this data is collected and shared, it’s likely Facebook needs to win these sharers back — not just to learn more about their lives, but to drive interaction and keep more eyeballs looking at potential ad targets.

Perhaps more importantly, if celebrities begin sharing to Facebook the way they’ve been sharing on other networks (see, for instance, Rihanna’s Instagram account or Kanye West’s Twitter account), they’d see more traffic and hopefully more interaction. As it is, when a celebrity flies off the handle and says or posts something outlandish, Twitter, Instagram, Vine or whomever gets all the free advertising from it.

Issac points out that Facebook isn’t the first platform to cater to celebrities. One app, called WhoSay, also allows celebrities to maintain their social image across a multitude of networks, including Facebook.

Facebook still comfortably rests as the number one social network with more than one billion members, yet they’ve seen several small startups pose very real danger to their business in recent years. Instagram and SnapChat, to name just two, have grown to be  large, popular networks.

Since the social behemoth first went public last year, they’ve been just as much on the defensive as they have the offensive, focusing their attention on mobile apps — including Home — and borrowing ideas from other social networks and websites. When they rolled out replies in March, it was immediately compared to the commenting section in Reddit.