Online engagement: the future of Favorites

In the past few weeks, every single social network I’m on (and possibly a few I’m not using) changed in some way.

Just a few examples of recent or announced changes:

    • The ‘like’ is getting even more important – the Facebook search engine (Entrepreneur.com)
    • Profile photographs are getting more important on Facebook and on Twitter (larger photographs on Facebook & the added Twitter headers)
    • StumbleUpon changed its favorites to likes – this completely escaped my attention (thanks Andy Nathan for mentioning it)
    • Twitter is closing down any sharing option which allows Twitter content to be shared without showing its origins (LinkedIn, IFTTT)
    • Facebook is adding a Twitter-like follow option (“subscribe”). LinkedIn has done the same.

What is the future of the favorite - how will we mark items?At least two of these developments affect the future use of Favorites.

Time to look at how Favorites are currently being used – and what the future holds for them.

How to interpret a favorited item

In itself, marking an item is not an action which you would use to ‘engage with others’, it is a way to ‘engage with content’.

However, if someone favorites an item published by you on Twitter then you will receive a message about what they did – depending on whether you have decided to read that type of message. In other apps and social networks, different actions are triggered.

I’ve come up with 9 reasons anyone could have to mark an item:

  1. For later reading
  2. To thank the sharer for sharing (if you’re aware of the message being sent to the sharer)
  3. For later sharing (if you’ve sent too many messages out already)
  4. For later use in their own content
  5. To trigger an action (for example by IFTTT – until next week anyway) which will publish the favorited item onto another social network.
  6. On Zite, a ‘thumbs up’ will help determine what kind of content you are shown in future visits. Zite also has a ‘thumbs down’ option – this app is for your personal convenience.
  7. In StumbleUpon, a ‘like’ (or previously favorite) will help determine what kind of content you get to see in future visits to their websites. In case you’re not familiar with StumbleUpon: use a large screen for interests like Nature or Landscape and prepare to go “Wow!”
  8. To show the item to your followers – others with similar preferences, when they visit the StumbleUpon community to browse or ‘stumble’ their interests
  9. To give you more relevant search results (in Google Search). Google Plus has probably got a bigger over all impact than other forms of marking items: your pluses (as well as your other online activities) are tracked in order to personalize search results.

Note that this list does not include social motives I mentioned for Facebook-type likes in my previous post.

What to do if your tweets are favorited?

If someone adds one of your tweets to their favorites you have several options:

  • Ignore them. It is up to the reader to decide if they like your tweets.
  • Thank them. Most people are now on several social networks, and that means the use of favorites changes. However you may still surprise Twitter newbies if you respond to their actions – especially if they’re not active on other social networks.
  • Send a diplomatically worded message when you have another piece of content which might interest them (unless they’re following you of course).
  • Follow them.

A quick look at someone’s previous likes or favorites, or their presence on other networks, will give you the necessary insight into how that person values his or her actions.

Favorites and the future: social search

In some ways, networks are looking more and more like each other. They check what people like about each of them and implement whatever is lacking, or in need of improvement in their own network. A few trends:

  1. Social networks are drifting closer together. Certain aspects are viewed as normal, and any network lacking them does not meet the criteria of the mainstream users. ‘Social’ has become a commodity.
  2. Judging from recent news on social networks, the future contains more social search. Facebook’s search engine will apparently allow you to check things like: what nearby restaurant have your friends visited recently – and liked? By the way, there is a whole section “Facebook marketing” on Entrepreneur.com if you’re interested.
  3. Favorites will go pretty much in the same direction. Favorites on nearly every social network may turn into likes, if only to blend in with the rest. The way in which favorites are used will converge as well.

Social media convergence, social search – so what?

My main concerns with social search are: I want to know when I’m doing ‘social’ search – personalized search – and I want to be able to turn it off (I’m not kidding).

We need to be able to know what the (online) world looks like when we’re not influencing it.

How do you feel about the current tweaks, chops and prunings social networks and apps are getting? Are you looking forward to enhanced marketing opportunities? Or are you really not liking the way things are going? Love to hear from you!

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