Keyword Snooze: People Turn Down the Noise

Amit Fulay, Director of Product Management, News Feed

By Amit Fulay, Director of Product Management, News Feed 

This summer, Facebook has been testing a new feature called Keyword Snooze, which lets people take a 30-day break from content in their News Feed that contains a particular word or phrase. The product team knew that looking at usage patterns would provide an interesting glimpse at the topics the world wanted to hear less about, says product manager Shruthi Muraleedharan. But that data would also provide insights about how people were using the feature, which the team could use to refine the feature itself.

To that end, the team analyzed what keywords were snoozed for a two-week period between July 27 and August 9. The sample size was small, given how early the team is in the testing process, and some of the findings remain mysteries to the team. (Why, for example, did more people snooze the phrase “for sale” on July 27 and August 2 than on other days?)

However, two trends became apparent. On one hand, there were phrases that maintained a steady amount of snoozes throughout the period. For example, the single most snoozed term on every single day of the analysis was, surprisingly, “copy and paste,” which Muraleedharan believes is an attempt to avoid text posts that implore people to “copy and paste to share” in the hopes of making the message go viral.

The other type of snoozing trend involved keywords that saw a pronounced spike — spikes that seemed to be tied to a real-world event. User research by the development team predicted that people would be excited to use Keyword Snooze to keep spoilers off their feeds, and in at least one case, they may have been right: “Love Island,” a hugely popular British romance reality TV show that inspires a ton of online conversation, was one term that saw a spike in the analysis period. Snoozes for the show’s title rose on July 28 and peaked two days later, when the final episode of the season aired. The snoozes were back to pre-spike levels as of August 1, by which point fans had presumably caught up on the grand finale.

Some phrases seemed to reflect an uptick in a news cycle. A four-day spike of snoozes of “Husky Dog” that started on August 2 coincided with articles about Aspen, a Husky in Newfoundland that got sick after eating marijuana it found during a walk. (It turns out that dogs are highly sensitive to pot.) The keyword “dogs” had a similar surge during this period.

So far, Keyword Snooze has only been rolled out to a portion of users in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so the data set isn’t large enough to say anything definitive about people’s preferences. But even this early usage data can help the product development process. For example, having seen that some of the “spiky” usage of the feature, the Snooze team started running a small test with a shorter snooze duration of just 7 days. In the end, all information is valuable information in the team’s quest to help people avoid what they might need a break from.

Keyword Snooze is the latest of a series of tools designed to give people more control over their feeds. These include “See First” (to see new posts from a particular person or page at the top of your News Feed), “Hide Post” (to remove this post from your feed and to see fewer similar posts.), “Unfollow” (to stop seeing a person, page or group’s posts but remain friends) and the ability to snooze particular people, pages or groups for 30 days.

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