Facebook is adding immediacy to its ‘portal of content’ play with plan to make Mentions more widely available

Facebook is trying to capture the immediacy and closeness that’s been missing from its experience by making its Mentions and Live streaming feature more widely available to people.

The social network is making both features available to public figures (think celebrity, musician and athlete with verified profiles) today (10 September), becoming an online social forum that public figures use to engage audiences. Its similarities to Twitter aside, Facebook is pitching the service as an outlet for public figures to engage with fans in a simple and direct way on mobile via the Mentions app.

It would give users access to the Mentions feed which will show them anybody that’s mentioned them or is talking about them as well as being able to see trending topics.

It’s a move that’s been mooted ever since the product first launched last year. Since then, only those public figures with verified pages have been able to use it, which caused many users to call for Mentions to be more widely available. The appetite for the app was further enflamed last month when Live launched as a way for celebrities and other Mentions users to share real-time video with their fans.

“The great thing is that we’ve already seen those verified profiles using Facebook very actively, said Vadim Lavrusik, product manager for Facebook Mentions and Live. “To develop a public following right now you have to go into Facebook and you have to change your publishing setting to public, and we wanted to create an experience that was its own. We think that the folks that are already actively using Facebook and maybe even those that aren’t, are now going to be able to take advantage of Mentions to do that.”

Rather than rely on an outreach programme to grow, Facebook’s Mentions has been working closely with partners over the last few months to not only get their feedback on the service but also develop best practice guidelines in order to make it as easy as possible to use. Of these users, the social network seems particularly interested in journalists and how they have been using and could use Mentions. During an interview with The Drum, Lavrusik repeatedly stressed how journalists had taken to the platform during its beta test, expressing his excitement at how they had been using it to help source news stories and broadcast live Q&As.

“We launched what used to be called Facebook Subscribe about three years ago and even back then we saw a lot of journalists were starting to use Facebook publicly for the first time, using it to not just interact with their friends and family but start to develop a public following and use it for news gathering,” said Lavrusik.

“Over the last two or three years we’ve seen a shift in the way people are using Facebook and we’ve invested more in adapting to that, which Mentions is part of.

Facebook was keen to play down the advertising potential of both Mentions and Live and preferred to emphasis its role in adding to the social network’s portal of content. However, Lavrusik did say he could “imagine that there could potentially be interesting use cases where other types of groups would want to be able to use it.”

Comparisons between Mentions and Live to Twitter and Periscope respectively are obvious, but interestingly it may be Google’s hangouts that Facebook is more concerned about with its latest move – particularly after the Pope used it do a Q&A recently. It’s a capability that instantly positions it with the ability to view what’s going on right now and be a part of the conversation by asking questions, voting etc.

In a nutshell, the features add to the wealth of content increasingly being uploaded to Facebook. Whether that’s content shared through your friends or discovered from preferred brands, the social network is now creating immediacy that’s previously been vacant. And as the likes of Buzzfeed and others have found, new and innovative content distribution formats, particularly with celebrities, drive audiences and in the long-term, revenue.

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