Facebook is hoping new Mentions app is a Twitter-killer

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When it comes to following celebs, Twitter is king.

Yes, Instagram is steadily gaining in popularity, especially among the younger demographics, but it’s hard to deny the power and influence that Twitter wields for those who want to know what’s going in the lives and minds of their favorite actors, musicians, or those who are merely famous for being famous right now. Despite the “Insta” in Instagram, it isn’t always instant.

That fact must piss Facebook off like crazy.

So today, they’re going to do something about it. Meet “Mentions,” Facebook’s new iPhone app that promises to connect celebs to each other and to their fans. Actually, scratch that. You can’t meet Mentions unless you’re one of the celebs Facebook designed it for. To get access to the app’s features, you need to have a verified Facebook account, or be the admin of a verified Facebook page.

The app’s features aren’t mind-blowing by any stretch. According to Facebook’s Allison Swope’s post about the launch, users will be able to:

  • See what fans are saying about you and join the conversation.
  • Share your story by posting updates, sharing photos or videos, or hosting a live Q&A.
  • Join popular conversations on Facebook and see the latest posts from people you follow.
  • Get streamlined notifications about your posts, including mentions from other influencers or the media.

In short, it’s everything that Twitter offers and a little bit more.

It’s an ambitious move, but Facebook thinks there’s plenty of reason to think it will succeed: “There are more than a billion interactions between public figures and their fans on Facebook every week,” Swope writes.

No question, that’s a lot of interactions. But if the quality of those interactions is weak–if fans aren’t sharing those interactions with friends, or if the public figures fail to get the kind of immediate feedback they crave–then the power of those interactions to drive deeper engagement is weak too.

Will it work? Maybe. It might also be too late. Facebook’s membership is still staggeringly large; Statista.com pegs it at 1.28 billion and still growing. Facebook claims that 800 million of those users are “connected” to public figures on the platform.

But that membership is also experiencing rapid demographic change, evidenced by the company’s 2014 demographic report which shows a strong decline in their youngest users. Twitter, on the other hand, may not have nearly the number of users as Facebook, but those who are on the platform skew very young by comparison.

Therein lies the challenge for Mentions. While younger people share the same rough interests as older users, there are two key differences according to the American Press Institute. Young people pay more attention to breaking news over weekly news and they are far more likely to follow entertainment and celebrities.

Where do these two interests conflate? Yup, Twitter.

This means that even if Facebook manages to capitalize on the combination of immediacy and celebrity that Mentions is clearly designed to achieve, the people who care most about these two things aren’t on Facebook in the numbers that they once were. Only time will tell if Mentions can lure them back.

More information:

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

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