Why Facebook's New Politics Feature Answers a Key User Need

Marti Post, VP, Strategy

This is not a political post. However, it is an advocacy post. In this case I am advocating for users and what seems like a major user experience upgrade that Facebook is rolling out: its new Politics feature. Input your address into the “Town Hall” section and then with one click or touch, you can immediately Follow all the Facebook Pages for your local, state and national representatives. You can sign up for election day reminders, and, perhaps most importantly, you can take action on any piece of content shared from a representative’s Page in your Feed. So instead of just being able to Like, Comment, Share or Save that content, now you can quickly tap for the option to Call, Email, Message or Visit the Website for that representative, right from your Facebook Feed. (For a deeper tutorial on exactly how it works, you can read about it in Mashable’s detailed writeup.)

The feature makes so much sense given that Facebook has access to the address and phone data for local, state, and national representatives, and also has become a go-to source for political news since November’s Presidential election. In fact, Pew Internet estimated last fall that 35-44% of Americans get news from the social network on a daily basis. This natural alignment of Facebook with political action is compelling, but that’s not the reason I’m so excited about it.

I’m excited for three other reasons:

1 – Facebook Politics puts the next user actions directly where the content is. When Facebook added the “Save” feature two years ago, and upgraded from Likes to Reactions, they were allowing users to take more steps on each piece of content in the News Feed. With Politics, users can now act upon any post from their representative—directly from the Feed—by calling, emailing, direct messaging or visiting the representative’s website. No more opening a phone, email, or browser to take the next step. Of course, it’s also a sophisticated way for Facebook to keep users within the social network. But the idea of making the next logical step(s) of a user journey available alongside key pieces of content is one that all websites and publishers can leverage.

2 – Facebook Politics reminds voters when it’s time to engage. While this particular aspect of the feature is clothed in patriotic colors, it’s really no different than setting Reminders or RSVPing for Events—two very popular mobile user behaviors employed by busy people with long to-do lists. It’s hard to estimate how many hours creative teams have spent in recent years dreaming up how brands can take part in social conversation around themed holidays or key events. Better yet, to borrow this idea from Facebook and think of the issue-related days and times the brand has a right to discuss such things, and help people remember or get involved—even if the brand has no direct short-term benefit.

3 – Facebook Politics was created as an answer to a user need, based on user data. OK, I’m taking some liberties here since Facebook hasn’t said where they got the underlying data to inform the idea for Politics. Maybe the legends aren’t really true—you know, the lore surrounding Facebook’s product updates over the years: why they deleted the “Subject” line from Messenger (80% of the Subjects were simply “Hi”), or how they designed Facebook Marketplace (by studying user behavior in organic Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade groups). But it would stand to reason that the engineers at Facebook had some pretty strong data to support the integration of Politics after watching what users were doing with—and saying about—political content.

If we think about social networks as the most broadly used, most frequently updated and forward-looking CMS platforms, and study their function upgrades carefully, we learn important lessons about how to keep up with customer experience expectations within dynamic—and sometimes tumultuous—times.




Marti Post

Marti Post VP, Strategy