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Facebook Aims to Boost Stories Usage with Birthdays

Marketing

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Once again, Facebook aims to boost the usage of its Stories with the allure of one of its strongest draws: birthday wishes.

As Facebook seeks to redesign its strategy around its most-utilized features like Groups and Events, they’re seizing an opportunity to use the power of another highly used component of the platform: Birthdays. Last week, the site rolled out Birthday Stories, a new feature designed to get people sharing their birthday wishes not on an individual’s wall, but in their stories.

“500 million people use Stories every day,” product manager Jehan Damji shared in an announcement for Facebook Newsroom, and “this community has shown us just how creative and thoughtful birthday wishes can be.” The new Birthday Stories feature aims to make that creativity accessible to more users while directing their thoughtfulness to an often-underutilized part of the platform—and, as a result, creating the potential to make the Stories space a more worthwhile one for brands and marketers who have previously overlooked it.

When a close friend has a birthday, The Verge reported, you’ll see a tile in your Stories tray inviting you to share best wishes for the day with a card. You’ll have the option of adding photos or video and stickers, or you can share a pre-designed card to convey your greetings. In either case, you (mercifully) won’t be prompted to do so for every friend on your list; the site will aim to identify the friends closest to you. As a recipient, you can customize which greetings you’d like to be visible in your story for the day. In doing this, the platform likely seeks to transform your birthday experience on the site from a long feed of messages—which you can sometimes feel obligated to respond to individually—to an experience that’s more, in the words of Damji, “visual, memorable, interactive, and fun.”

Admittedly, this new face of Facebook birthday greetings does seem fun: going through the images, cards, and videos from friends does have the effect of, in Engadget’s words, “level[ing] up birthday reminders.” However, given the seeming incongruity between Facebook’s reported Story usage numbers and the number of Stories many users are seeing on their pages, I wonder how wide the feature will spread. And if its targeting measures work, people will likely overlook fewer calls to celebrate a friend on the platform. Says Damji, “people have always come to Facebook to connect with friends and celebrate important moments, like birthdays.” As the company’s strategy shifts in a new direction, this tool could help them maintain a small but crucial foothold through celebration.

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