How would you improve FB birthdays?
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in Product Improvement by (40 points) | 851 views

1 Answer

+2 votes

1. Describe the product

Facebook birthdays is the section of Facebook that lists all recent or upcoming birthdays. There is a daily notification of the birthdays for that day. Other functionalities it has added lately include automated reminders in Facebook messenger for close friends, call outs for close friends who have upcoming birthdays, connects to Google calendar, and allows you to post a blast thank you note on your wall. 

2. Clarify scope

Are there features I'm missing that I should be aware of with Facebook birthdays? Is there a certain objective I should keep in mind when improving the product?

3. Important metrics

I think birthdays helps Facebook improve engagement with its users, and allows for Facebook to achieve their goal of connecting people. For instance, I often use birthdays as a way to re-spark conversations with people I haven't talked to in a while. Some metrics that could help summarize performance include:

1. % of users posting on walls for birthdays on a given day (assuming birthdays are evenly distributed across the days of the year)

2. % of users messaging friends for birthdays on a given day (assuming birthdays are evenly distributed across the days of the year)

3. % of users using Google calendar link to Facebook birthdays

4. % of users clicking on birthdays section of Facebook through the notifications list versus bookmark

5. % of users in the birthdays section then actioning on birthdays section of Facebook

6. % of birthday wishes that lead to a conversation

4. Breakdown user groups

There are different types of usage of birthdays based on level of engagement. Let's call them conservative, average, and open users.

- Opens: posts birthday wishes all the time including acquaintances' walls, and will post pictures on their own wall honoring their close friends

- Averages: messages close friends happy birthday and will post on walls for some friends

- Conservative: does not message people on Facebook for birthdays and will call or video chat users instead, wanting sincere connections only 

5. Brainstorm pain points

Each type has their own specific pain points and likely reasons for not using it or want it to be improved.

- Opens: wishes there was more automation to their posts, easier ways to make a post a bit more special

- Averages: wishes there were easier ways to broadcast a birthday of a close friend without being too open about it, finds there are too many notifications for people they don't care about and not the ones they do

- Conservatives: finds Facebook too impersonal as a way to wish someone happy birthday, ruining the purpose of birthday celebrations

6. Brainstorm and prioritize solutions

- Opens: create automated collages by pulling Facebook and Instagram photos but also allowing for adding other photos, automatically remind people of a memory from the last year (e.g. an event, a photo, etc.) to help these people make posts to all their many friends a bit more personal, create a set of birthday card graphics to pick from for someone

- Averages: connect Facebook to Instagram to allow people to easily post an Instagram post of a birthday, automatically turn off birthday notifications for people they don't wish happy birthday to or talk to at all, allow them easily add birthday to Google calendar only for the people they care about (making the default links to G-Cal none)

- Conservatives: add a dm option for birthday wishes, use messenger notifications for birthdays of people they frequently talk to, add an automated "would you like to schedule a call or vchat" for this person message, create a funny picture frame with birthday stickers automatically to send a personal picture or video to a friend

7. Measuring success

There are a lot of options for additional features. To prioritize, I will consider features based on the ease of development, likely impact, and ability to benefit all user types. To begin, I will target conservative users and increase percentage of people messaging users with birthdays, as conservatives are more likely to do that first than publish on a wall. I think targeting conservatives helps us naturally also make connections on Facebook more meaningful, which is one of Facebook's strategic goals. 

I think the messenger notification + the picture frame for birthdays of close friends is an easy to implement as we already have these features and would just need to link to birthdays. The likely impact is high for the conservative group, and it will also help average and open users. With this notification using messenger method, people should never forget a close friend's birthday again!

We should launch a test for this new feature, pulling a random sample of people with birthdays in a particular time period and holding the rest of the user base in a similar geography as control. Our random sample should have a good mix of the different types of current birthday users mentioned (stratified sampling). I mentioned the main target metric of increasing % of users using messenger to wish happy birthday by user type. I think it should also improve % of conversations started due to birthday wishing (since messenger is an easy platform to continue conversation). In this case, the users for the test group are all the friends of the people we randomly selected. Some risks include decreasing the birthday wishes on wall posts or cannibalizing some of the collage posts that open users create for their close friends. 

To size the test, we can use an analysis of statistical power, and to test the significance of metric changes, we can use hypothesis testing given the central limit theorem. The central limit theorem states that randomly selected groups from the same population will have group means that follow a normal distribution with a standard deviation (or standard error) equal to the population standard deviation / square root of n, the size of our test group.


We've looked at ways to improve Facebook birthdays by evaluating user groups (open, averages, and conservatives) and brainstormed a feature that would send messenger notifications with a readily available photo frame for people to send pictures or selfies to the birthday person. We would test the feature before fully launching, tracking on key engagement metrics and looking out for cannibalization risks.

Please provide feedback! Thanks.

by (17 points)

Good answer really liked the suggestion of creating automatic collages. I would suggest to pick one persona and go in details with regards to their pain point and provide solutions. Then prioritize the solution based on impact to users/fb and dev complexity. Here's a good reference

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