Ever eager to reassure wary investors that the newly-minted public company has long-term growth potential, Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) introduced yet another new feature to its popular social network in the hopes that it may pin down a stable revenue stream and thereby recoup its recent stock market losses. The new feature, known as “Collections,” allows user to curate product images from brand pages and then share these images in a manner similar to Pinterest -- one of Facebook’s young but fast-expanding rivals in Silicon Valley’s social media marketplace.
Facebook first introduced the new "Collections" feature Monday morning in limited test-runs, but has already made “Collections” available to its users, all one billion of them. The idea for the new feature is to help brands promote photos and posts about their products among their fans, and then help extend the brand’s advertising reach beyond fans alone to their friends in a way that nevertheless remains seamlessly integrated with Facebook’s essentially social sharing functions.
Users can click on a “Want” button to add a given product to their Timeline under a new “Wishlist” section that is visible to friends of friends. A “Collect” button saves them a Collection called “Products,” which is visible only to friends. And just plain “Liking” someone, as Facebook are already accustomed to doing, will add an item to the “Products” page, but will also make it visible to friends of friends.
So far, Facebook has introduced the feature for seven brands: Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics, and Fab.com. Representatives were unavailable for comment, but the company told TechCrunch that it is still testing to see which of the three versions gains the most traction and consumer interest in the company pages.
“We’ve seen that businesses often use Pages to share information about their products through photo albums,” Facebook said in a statement. “Today, we are beginning a small test in which a few select businesses will be able to share information about their products through a feature called Collections. Collections can be discovered in News Feed, and people will be able to engage with these collections and share things they are interested in with their friends. People can click through and buy these items off of Facebook.”
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For the time being, retailers don’t have to pay Facebook for the new feature. But the social network hasn’t provided any details yet about how it plains to monetize the feature. And as the name “Collections” alone implies, the site is still searching for more direct and persuasive revenue streams than they have been able to pin down so far.
The impressive return on its new advertising system, Facebook Exchange, and finally hitting the one-billion mark for its user base were both impressive figures, but they have mostly fallen flat. The site’s increased advertising offerings raised privacy concerns yet again, but the larger question has always remained whether or not Facebook can find a more direct way to monetize its users than leveraging their attention to online marketers.
Similar to the new promoted posts feature made available to regular users, “Collections” is instead an attempt to augment the social media networks possibilities for e-commerce. And as a general branding strategy, the new feature also absorbs some of the potential Pinterest features that set the start-up apart from Facebook until its older and larger rival’s internal ecosystem—much in the same way that Facebook adopted a Twitter-like mentality when it began allowing popular users to have “subscribers” in addition to “friends.”
Facebook shares dropped Monday by nearly 2.5 percent, closing at $20.40 after opening even further below Sunday’s closing price of $20.89.