5 Changes That Would Greatly Improve Facebook

Many of Facebook’s more than 1 billion monthly active users would agree — the site is great, but could use some improvement. As users complain about ads, a cluttered and confusing interface, and several other things, there are a few things that Facebook could implement to make the site much more palatable. Here are five innovations (some possible, some rather imaginative) that we think would improve Facebook.

1. Topic-Based News Feed Filtering

With its most recent News Feed redesign, Facebook aimed to give users more control over what they see when they first check the site. If you only want to see posts from friends, you can do that. Just want to check the latest news from the pages you’ve liked and celebrities you’re following? Click “Following.” You can even drill down to see posts from lists you’ve curated on Facebook.

But how great would it be if you could filter out discussions you really didn’t want to read in the first place? If you’re sick of reading about politics in your News Feed, or have too many friends who use Facebook as a play-by-play stream during sporting events, you could simply uncheck those options.

It’s not as crazy as you’d think. Facebook is considering adding support for hashtags. You could imagine a world where posts are indexed and organized more by keywords. So if you wanted to block all political content from your News Feed, Facebook could create a filter with the terms Barack, Obama, Democrat, Republican, election, and so on. Additionally, you could also click on these options to only view posts dealing with sports, relationships, and politics.

What you can do for now: Use third-party extensions such as Unbaby.me and Social Fixer.

2. Snopes Integration

It seems like almost on a weekly basis, a celebrity dies on Facebook, Bill Gates gives up his wealth in exchange for shares, or “Facebook” announces that it will close your account unless you pay. It takes only a few seconds to share, and if it’s on the Internet, it’s got to be true, right?

Wrong.

Often, those images and posts that are virally shared throughout Facebook are like the social network equivalent of the childhood game, “Telephone.” Sure it may have been true at one point, but the meaning has changed as more people share and comment. Many times, these are just hoaxes.

If Facebook could include integration with Snopes, a hoax and urban legend clearinghouse, it would greatly cut back on the sharing of false information that really helps no one. Bill Gates isn’t giving away $5,000 if you share an image, Bill Cosby may be tired, but he’s not 83, and Facebook isn’t ending anytime soon.

What you can do for now: Simply check Snopes before sharing something that sounds too good to be true (your friends will thank you for it). We also regularly report hoaxes that get shared on Facebook.

3. Personal Post Analytics

When a Facebook page posts something, the page administrators immediately have analytics available. Although Facebook’s free metrics may be somewhat limited, there are myriad services that can provide much deeper analysis with regard to who sees the posts and how well its being shared.

But for your personal posts, there’s really nothing. While you can pay $7 to promote a post, the analytics don’t really tell you how many people saw it — just a percentage breakdown of paid vs. organic. If you just want to see what kind of reach your posts are getting without paying for a Facebook ad, you’re kind of out of luck. You can see who saw posts in groups, but that information might really come in handy with everyday posts.

While there are more efficient ways to make sure someone sees information (creating an event page or sending a message), tech-minded Facebook users might be curious to see the reach on their personal posts. The number of people who see a post is indicated on each post in admin mode for page moderators, but it’s something that everyday users might want to check out, too.

What you can do for now: Utilize better techniques (such as messages, which show a read receipt) if you need someone to see the post. If you’re really so inclined (and think you can get enough fans), create a page.

4. Verification For Contests

It seems simple enough: Share the image or like the page, have a chance to win an iPad, or tickets to a concert, or $1 million. But these contests are illegal on Facebook, and you may end up spamming your friends’ News Feeds for no good reason.

It would be great if Facebook had some way of verifying contests. Right now, Facebook does nix some contests that run afoul of its guidelines, but illegal contests (“share this and win”) often appear to far outnumber the ones that follow the rules. Seeing a verification stamp (see the Pitbull contest) or an X (see the iPad Mini contest) would alert users and make them feel safer to share.

What you can do for now: Stop participating in share-to-win contests and double-check Facebook’s contest guidelines before sharing or participating. If the contest seems too good to be true (“Hey, this pallet of iPads fell and we can’t sell them, so we’re giving them away randomly!”), use your better judgment.

5. A Flat Fee For An Ad-Free Facebook

It’s no secret that many users hate ads. They install ad blocking plugins and use Social Fixer and other extensions to ensure that they don’t see any sidebar ads. Users often hide or report as spam ads in the News Feed.

So why not go to a “free-mium” service, similar to Spotify? According to ReadWrite, 6 million of Spotify’s 24 million users paid for premium services that get rid of audio and visual ads. While it’s nearly impossible to imagine that 25 percent of Facebook’s user base would pay for an ad-free experience, there is some merit to the thought that more than a few people would do this.

As Facebook revealed in its most recent quarterly report, the site takes in roughly $11 in revenue per North American user. So why not be upfront about it? Pay Facebook $11 per year and you won’t see an advertisement anywhere on the site for 365 days. That’s a steal compared with Spotify, which offers payment options of $4.99 per month and $9.99 per month.

But it’s not so cut and dry. While ads by big businesses may seem the most prevalent, several small businesses also pay for ads in order to reach more of their audience. If part of that audience won’t see the ad, that would likely discourage those businesses from promoting posts in the future. Jim Belosic, CEO of ShortStack, recently shared his thoughts with AllFacebook:

A premium service, in which people pay to remove ads, is something Facebook could roll out, but I see it as something of a PR move than a business move so they could say, “If you don’t like the ads, you can pay to have them removed.” One issue is that if they ultimately had more than a fraction of users opt to pay for ad-free Facebook, it would open the doors for a free competitor to come in and break them up.

It would be in Facebook’s best interest to not promote an ad-free option because they make their money from advertising. Even if they made some money from the ad-free, it would be a fraction of what they make from ads, and revenues would go down. There are a lot of small businesses that buy $100 worth of Facebook ads and they add up. They advertise on Facebook because they want to be part of a community, but if their demographic can’t see the ads, the business owners might abandon Facebook in favor of Twitter or Google Plus.

While this could greatly enhance the Facebook experience for regular users who despise advertising in their News Feeds, but still want to make it a fair deal for the company, it could also spurn users who joined Facebook believing in the premise that Facebook is free (and always will be).

It would be a huge gamble for Facebook, but it’s unlikely that the revenue gained from users would come close to the money lost from advertisers pulling out.

What you can do for now: Install ad-blocking technology to hide sidebar ads and accept that News Feed ads are the cost of doing business — much like commercials on TV or ads in magazines.

Readers: What do you think of these ideas?

No. 5 image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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