4 Things We Can Learn from Facebook’s “Paper” App

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By Josie Alexander

Facebook is a giant in the field of social media. The mere mention of social media brings the image of their blue logo. Facebook lingo is common knowledge. Liking something now means clicking a button. Unfriending someone on Facebook is a slap in the face. Making your profile private from someone is even more of a slap in the face.

What’s next in the social media king’s story? Well, if we’re talking about Facebook’s new app, Paper, it means personalization and having a different interface.

First of all, what is Paper? Paper is Zuckerberg’s new standalone news app for mobile devices. Think RSS feed reader mixed with iGoogle. Remember iGoogle? It’s an app where you can read about news events and the latest in what’s happening around the world, without distraction. We’ve all got our different versions of these apps before. So what is so great about this one? And what can we learn from it?

#1) Keep Growing

First let’s start at the beginning. Facebook is a social media website and it is huge. Because of its size and potential, they’ve decided to explore and diversify a little. So they created a little group (within the Facebook company) called Creative Labs. In this group, small teams work to develop ideas and apps for the growing mobile market.

Well, Creative Labs has developed a standalone news reader mobile app called Paper. So what can we learn from this? Don’t stop growing. Keep building upon your product and reach out for new ideas and markets which are adjacent to yours. Because Facebook is such a big name, Paper gets an extra boost in publicity because of its attachment to the social media mogul.

#2) Cause A Little Controversy.

I’m a part of a very small community of people who don’t own any apple products. Because of that, I have a tendency of skipping over any news that has the word Apple or starts with a lowercase “i” followed by a capitalized letter. So the first time that I heard about Paper was due to the uproar over the name. There was a different company who had the name “Paper” before Facebook and they were at odds because of it.

Publicity is good, right? Whether it is good publicity or bad publicity…

#3) LOL and Cute

When looking at different newsfeeds, you’ll see categories like current events, sports, health and fitness, business, and investing. Paper has all of those categories and then some. What makes them different is their use of categories like “LOL” and “Cute”. Why would they do something like that? Well, let’s look at our normal habits.

If you go to Pinterest and you’ll find categories marked “LOL” or “LOL-Worthy”. Not to mention, other categories marked, “Cute” and “Adorable.” Also, most modern news articles can be dry (otherwise known as objective news writing), boring, and often depressing. That’s what makes websites like Upworthy so great. They have upbeat stories that we like to read and that can put us in a good mood.

Paper uses this info to keep us using their app. We go there for news and we stay there for other (more uplifting and funny) articles.

What can we learn from this? When looking for different markets and different categories for your various products, look at the trends on the internet (especially if you’re aiming for the teens-thirty generations). Open your eyes to new ideas, especially when those trends are staring us in the face. Sometimes it’s the little things that will keep your customers in your store.

If your company specializes in sporting goods, think of what other activities have to do with those that you specialize in. If you’re a bakery, think of what else goes with the products that you offer. Do you have a coffee bar? Do you cater to birthday parties? Do you offer decorating classes? Do you have a reading nook in your store?

#4) Side Projects That Aren’t Self-Serving

Facebook’s Paper App isn’t self-serving. The activity on the app doesn’t register under Facebook activity. There really isn’t any Facebook branding (other than blossoming from the actual company). There is no core product from Facebook in this app. This is awesome for users because they won’t be annoyed by notices wondering if you want this activity to be shared amongst your friends.

Not only that, but you can customize your app so that you can read what you want, when you want. Personalization is becoming a bigger part of internet options. This is something that all companies need to jump onto: the personalization bandwagon.

These two examples are ways that Paper is focusing directly on the experience of the user. While normally, Facebook is obnoxiously asking you if you want to “share this with your friends” now, you can just enjoy this product in peace. Which is what people normally want when they are reading the news.

Personalization and focus on the user, customer, or client is the big lesson that we should learn from Paper.


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