Friday recap: Virtual Reality friendships, an app for a busy social life and ads popping up in Groups: A week of Facebook updates
Facebook has been relatively quiet for a little while now, but it’s popped up in the last week with some interesting announcements across its platform.
From VR to a new social engagement tool, ads in Groups and the (now official) Workplace by Facebook, let’s take a look at what’s been happening with the worlds largest social platform.
Facebook Virtual Reality
Ever since Facebook acquired Oculus in March 2014, it was inevitable that at some point the social networking giant would release virtual reality technology designed for communication, not just entertainment.
Mark Zuckerberg posted a video on his Facebook page from the Oculus Connect event to showcase their latest piece of tech. The clip demonstrates how you can be connected with others through ‘avatars’ designed to mimic facial expressions and gestures while looking similar to the actual person you’re speaking with. The technology will allow users to explore various destinations and play games with their friends, connecting people in a very different way to just voice and video calls.
According to Techcrunch, the appointment of Rachel Rubin Fraklin to head up the Social VR team at Facebook is a clear indication that there will be a lot more to come in this area. Her previous position at EA Games oversaw the production of The Sims 4 – the best selling PC game of 2014 and 2015.
Facebook’s VR technology is a potential rival for Google Daydream, which was also announced last week at the Made by Google event.
Facebook Events app
Due to the popularity of events with Facebook’s platform, the company has decided to create a standalone Events app to manage them in conjunction with your calendar.
As well as storing all the events you are invited to, the app will suggest events that your friends are attending as well as events from Pages that you like. You can use the app to search for events according to location, time and your interests.
The app contains an interactive map that allows you to search for events in specific locations and add them to your list. Users can still sync events from the Facebook app to their phone’s calendar to keep everything in one place.
This development is great news for businesses that actively use Facebook to create events such as bar openings, clothing pop-up stores, retail sales or other company events. Previously these events could only be seen via the News Feed or through invitation, but can now be found when searching the map for things happening nearby or looking up what events friends are attending.
The app will still talk to Facebook so that any actions taken within the app will be reflected in the corresponding Facebook account. Events is available in the App store for the US and will be rolled out on Android in the near future.
Ad testing in Facebook Groups
Real estate for ads is becoming more and more limited on Facebook, especially since users were put in charge of selecting which ads appeared in (or were removed from) their Feed. Ads have been expanding into many areas of the platform, including Messenger, but the demand for more advertising means the company will need to look into other ways of offering paid promotion for businesses.
After some users began noticing ads popping up in their favourite Groups, Facebook confirmed to Techcrunch that they “have started to test delivering ads to people in Facebook Groups, and will be evaluating the response before determining how we will move forward.”
The ads themselves will have the same appearance as those that appear in your News Feed, and will be targeted according to both Group topic and individual interests and preferences. While trialling the new promotion tool, it’ll only be available in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
Given that the latest Marketplace feature to roll out on the platform is not available for Pages, advertising in Groups could be the way forward for businesses wanting to reach more users.
Workplace by Facebook Launched
We mentioned last week that the rollout was predicted to happen within days, and Facebook has now come through with the goods.
The official announcement was made in a company blog post, ‘Introducing Workplace by Facebook’, and the platform is now available to “any company or organisation that wants to use it”.
This network is much the same as the Facebook we know and love, except it is internal to your company and you can only connect with your colleagues. It still has News Feed, Messenger and Groups, but also includes extra features such as analytics dashboards and Multi-Company Groups, which allows workers in different companies to interact and collaborate.
As was expected, using the platform comes at a price. A free trial is available for a 3 month period, and then users will have to select between three options that charge per active user per month. Full pricing details can be found on the Workplace website.