A Facebook news feed story that says “Tom tracked Muse on Songkick.com” doesn’t tell you much. But with new Flexible Sentences, apps can post stories like “Tom tracked Muse to get concert alerts via Songkick.com” that attract more downloads, are less awkward, and make the Facebook news feed richer. Facebook is also launching a tool to show developers which stories are most shared and could use rewording.
The update plays into Facebook’s “one feed to rule them all” strategy. It hopes to get all types of apps sharing their activity to its news feed and Timeline. This gives it content it can show ads around, and also helps it target those ads based on what people are doing in third-party apps. For example, even if a user doesn’t like the rock band Muse, thanks to the Songkick story discussed above, Facebook knows they’re interested in the artist. It then knows to show them ads about Muse concerts or merchandise.
In exchange for this content and ad targeting data, Facebook helps third-party apps gain exposure to new users and drive intalls. That’s important considering the cluttered app stores make it hard for developers to get discovered unless they reach the top of the charts.
In many cases, the old syntax format of “[User Name] [Verb] [Noun] on [App Name]” will be fine. Developers using custom actions instead of Facebook’s built-in ones (Like, Follow, Listen, Read, Watch) can now further tune how their stories appear. Apps that had custom verbs and nouns that were the same word could end up with awkward stories like “Horatio hiked a hike on Social Hiking.”
The Flexible Sentences configuration tool provides a list of story types most frequently shared by a developer’s users so they know which stories they might want to modify. If they do go to their App Dashboard -> Action Type editor -> Configure Stories and make changes to their story syntax, they’ll have to resubmit story formats to Facebook for approval.
The Flexible Sentences feature strengthens Facebook’s value proposition to developers. More descriptive stories give readers a taste of what they can do in an app much better than the shorter, simpler stories available before. They could pique curiosity and get more people to take the time to try out a new app.
[Image Credit: 4mat]