While it was interesting to see Zuckerberg getting back to his college roots, it comes as little surprise to report that Meta has now decided to shut down its ‘Campus’ internal school network experiment.
Originally launched in September 2020, Campus was essentially designed to function in a similar fashion to Facebook Workplace, with separate, enclosed Facebook networks for each college campus, enabling better connection and community-building among students.
Membership to each campus network was only available to those with a verified college email address, and the idea was to create a social space for students to help keep them socially engaged, particularly during the pandemic.
But evidently, it hasn’t caught on as Meta might have hoped.
As explained by Meta (via TechCrunch)
“We’ve decided to end our pilot of Facebook Campus. We learned a lot about the best ways to support college students, and one of the most effective tools to help bring them together is Facebook Groups. We’ve notified students in the test schools that Campus will no longer be available, and have suggested relevant college Facebook groups for them to join.”
Those who have signed up to Campus are also now seeing this notification in the app:
As noted, the closure is no big surprise, given that students already have a range of options to connect in various social apps, including dedicated Facebook Groups, while the fact that Campus is part of Facebook, which doesn’t have a great reputation for privacy, may have also played a part in its limited take-up.
According to TechCrunch, Campus has been made available in 204 US colleges and universities in total.
The closure will likely have limited overall impact on Facebook engagement, but it is interesting to note, in a broader context, how this aligns with Meta’s narrowing focus as it looks to the next stage of social connection.
Facebook has shut down almost all of its app experiments, which had been launched by its New Product Experimentation (NPE) team over the past few years, while it’s also now re-aligned the NPE team around a new goal of building for and with communities that have “historically been overlooked, underestimated, and undervalued by our industry”.
“We’re expanding from our current US footprint to build with and for communities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and scaling what works there across the globe. We need to be more intentional about building with proximity to how the world looks today, and how it’s going to look tomorrow. In time, this is how we’ll learn to identify universal experiences.”
The NPE team will subsequently be less focused on trends (i.e. identifying the next TikTok or Snapchat before it can gain traction) and more on understanding different communities, and the uses of social apps, and creating new economic opportunities in developing regions.
It seems that Meta is moving on from challenger mitigation, in line with its metaverse shift, which really is the big focus, in developing new apps and experiences that can tie into the next stage, as opposed to stemming the flow of users away to other apps.
In some ways, that could be seen as a concession, with apps like Snapchat and TikTok already gaining a foothold in its key market, and reducing its overall presence. But then again, Meta’s reach is unmatched, and with Facebook usage declining in developed markets, maybe now it makes more sense for Meta to focus on new uses, in new regions, as it looks to play a more significant role in the framework of the digital transformation in these nations.
Which will then enable it to connect more people into its metaverse experiences, and shift away from traditional apps.
That, overall, seems like the biggest impetus, re-aligning its development focus on the next stage, as opposed to tracking app trends and trying to beat out emerging players in the market.
Because the market itself is about to change, and within that, apps like Campus just won’t matter as much in broader context.
Facebook Adds New Groups Engagement Options, Including New Side Bar Access to Latest Group Updates
Hey, have you noticed a sudden influx of notifications about Facebook groups in your News Feed this week?
You’re not alone, with Facebook kicking off a new push on groups, that will include a new, dedicated notifications space for groups in the sidebar of the app, and more options for smaller discussions within group spaces.
First off, on the new sidebar sorting option for groups – Facebook’s testing a new listing of the groups that you’re a member of that will be accessible by swiping right from your main News Feed.
As you can see in these images, the new listing will display all of the groups that you’re a part of, which will be displayed in order based on the latest activity.
The sidebar display will also include a range of group engagement options, including the capacity to pin your favorite groups, discover new groups, or create your own from the prompts. There’ll also be links to events, shops and more, making it easier to get involved in each groups element.
That could make it much easier to stay on top of the latest group chats, which could be a great way for Facebook to boost user engagement, and get more users sharing more often in the app.
Which has become a problem of late. Reports have suggested that Facebook engagement has dropped significantly, particularly among younger audiences, as TikTok interaction has continued to rise, with internal data from Meta showing that usage among users aged 18-24 has basically flatlined completely in the app.
Groups, however, remains a key engagement surface, and if Facebook can find new ways to showcase groups, and prompt more users to engage with those discussions, that could be another way to maximize in-app activity, even if they don’t feel compelled to respond to what they see in their main feed.
In addition to this, Facebook’s also adding some new, smaller sub-group engagement options, with Community Chat Channels, audio rooms and topic feeds within group.
Community Chat Channels will enable group members to chat in real-time across both Facebook Groups and Messenger.
“So when you’re in your new BBQ lovers group and need real-time feedback while attempting your first brisket, an admin can create a chat for that.”
So it’s messaging groups for Group members, adding another way to spark different types of engagement with the Groups setting.
Community Audio Channels meanwhile is Facebook’s own answer for Clubhouse, where admins and members can join real-time audio conversations in the app.
Facebook initially launched its live audio rooms with verified public figures, creators and selected groups last year, but now, all groups will be able to host live audio rooms to facilitate topical engagement in the app.
Which is probably a little behind the times, given the declining interest in Clubhouse and other audio social options. But a big challenge for Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces has been discovery, and highlighting the most relevant rooms to each user in real time, which Facebook can improve on by only highlighting rooms to people who are already group members, ensuring more relevance for its live audio notifications.
Community Audio Channels will be available within Facebook Groups and on Messenger, providing alternate access points to tune in.
UPDATE: Facebook says that Community Audio Channels are different from Live Audio Rooms, with Community Audio Channels being an ‘always-on space’ that admins can create, in which admins and members can hop in and out of real-time conversations. Which, functionally, seems much the same, but Facebook has sought to clarify this point.
And finally, Facebook’s also adding Community Feed Channels, providing a way to highlight more specifically relevant group discussions and elements to community members.
“Admins can organize their communities around topics within the group for members to connect around more specific interests. For example, if you’re in a BBQ lovers group, there could be a feed channel where you can post and comment on the topic of smokers.”
So rather than getting every update from every group that you’ve joined, you’ll be able to select specific discussion topics that you’re interested in, with group admins then able to categorize posts and updates to feed into these more refined channels, and ideally improve engagement.
They’re some interesting additions, none of which are likely to transform how you engage with Facebook groups, but each providing a more customizable, easy-to-access stream of groups to stay informed and interact with.
And again, if Facebook can better highlight the most engaging, most relevant groups and group content, that could be a great way to maximize the potential of its groups tools, which now arguable generate more engagement potential than the main feed.
You may not like the political content in your News Feed, or the updates from relatives and long-lost school friends. But maybe, through this, Facebook can show you more discussions within groups that you do want to see, which could help to boost time spent in the app.
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