Facebook Testing A ‘Save For Later’ Feature, Chasing That Engagement Carrot

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Facebook is looking at implementing an Instapaper- or Pocket-like “Save for Later” feature, according to AllThingsD. There’s no offline access at the moment, however, so it seems more like a way to try to drive better engagement and click-through rates for stuff shared by users on the network than anything else.

The implementation is fairly simple: When you see a link shared by your network in your newsfeed, you can click a small bookmark icon on the right side to save it to a list of saved links available from your apps menu. The feature is currently visible only to a small selection of Facebook users, as is common when the company rolls out new features. Whether or not it gains wider release is up in the air, and while some features Facebook tests in this way do make it to the general population, many others do not.

The advantage of something like this, as demonstrated by the success of Pocket and other services, is that it results in better engagement for content partners on the site. That’s because people who otherwise might have ignored something they were too busy to read, or to busy to go through the steps to click through and bookmark, would still potentially save that link and view it at a later date.

In the past, Pocket has been quick to point out how strong their engagement stat is. Unlike social networks like Facebook and Twitter, it seems to enjoy a lower growth rate but higher engagement out of that smaller pool of users. Popularity for content on Pocket peaks sometime after it spikes on social feeds, providing an echo boom, and also drives engagement for longer, meaning there’s a more even curve of interaction over an extended period versus how people interact with it on more fleeting platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Even without an offline mode, Facebook could use a saved article mode to drive up engagement, return visits and perceived value delivered to publishing partners, which is a group it’s increasingly interested in bringing on board. It sets up the network to become even more of a portal. I think the danger lies in making it feel too much like a personalized Yahoo homepage and not enough like a social network where you can actually connect with friends and loved ones, but that’s why Facebook tests these things: To see if they strike the right balance with its user base.