Friday, August 26, 2011

Anatomy of a Facebook Birthday

Since Facebook came out with the Wall, one of the best days in the average Facebook user’s year has been her birthday. Users that list their birthdays on their profile are delighted when their friends, seeing the convenient notice in the top right corner of their news feed, post best wishes on their walls. The phenomenon has become so popular that Facebook created a special news feed post reminding people of their friends’ birthdays and telling them how many mutual friends have written on the birthday girl’s wall. These days, Facebook often combines the notice of a friend’s birthday in the news feed with her most recent wall post.

As a Facebook aficionado (ok fine, addict), I enjoy analyzing the pattern of Facebook wall posts on my wall and my friends’. Birthday wall posts are generated a few ways:
Upcoming Events/Birthday Box Reminder
 
News Feed Reminder

Mutual Friend Wall Post Reminder
Belated (Seeing a Birthday Girl's Thank You Post and Commenting or Posting)
 
I celebrated a birthday last week, and decided to analyze the date and time I received wall posts, to determine how many posts were randomly generated (#1) and how many were generated because they saw friends’ wall posts or news feed reminders. 

The chart below shows the birthday wall posts I received organized by my various friend groups. There were only a few wall post groupings by mutual friends (shown in yellow). The analysis also demonstrated the more active times among my friends, which were especially interesting in relation to the friend groups. One grouping in particular highlighted in red, consisted of friends who were members of the same group (high school friends) but actually were not friends with each other. 

Most of the birthday wall posts I received appear to be randomly generated. I have noticed, however, that Facebook gives additional weight to birthday posts in the news feed, displaying the new special birthday notices in non-synchronous order even in "most recent" view. Therefore, the Birthday wall is a perfect demonstration of the power of edgerank, Facebook's ability to manipulate data for maximum engagement and the weight of the top right corner birthday event reminders. 

Happy Birthday everyone!

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