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Facebook Tracker: Story Wars

Facebook (FB) stock has continued its growth trend well into March, hitting new highs just above $140 during Friday (March 17) morning trading. At the time of writing, one share of FB was worth $139.95, up 0.08 percent from Friday’s close, and had an estimated market cap of over $403 billion.

Since the beginning of 2017, FB has grown over 21 percent, with analysts’ median forecast suggesting 15.9 percent growth in the next 12 months. This would seem to indicate that investors are largely optimistic concerning Facebook’s ability to continue to grow its revenue and user base engagement, albeit less explosively than in years past.

To be certain, the past few weeks have seen Facebook continue to roll out new features and use cases to keep their numbers up across the board.

Along with new features from messenger chatbots, Facebook rolled out a dedicated 360 video application and built out new community tools that look to aid in suicide prevention. Additionally, the social media giant is testing a feature that allows users to continue watching videos from their feed at a later time as well as move to break into the travel sector by offering City Guides.

One major addition sees Facebook taking inspiration from Snapchat’s playbook. The company recently launched a “Days” feature on the Facebook Messenger app. In a nutshell, Days allows users to share personal, customizable video and photo diaries with a select group of contacts. The posts will disappear after 24 hours.

Facebook looks to one-up Snapchat by leveraging features already present in Messenger to fill out the feature. Users can add third-party media to their Day posts such as GIFs and personalize their content with drawings, text captions, stickers and filters.

These Messenger features should add enough to the experience to hold back copycat cries from Snapchat die-hards while giving its users enough to play around with to keep them interested.

Days is a clear play to draw more of its users into, well … daily sessions. The goal here is to maintain the double-digit growth Facebook has seen in that segment in the past year. While this was accomplished via a heavy video and news media push, Days could work to supplement daily user numbers moving forward.

Though there’s no advertising or business presence on Days as of now, Facebook is open to including advertisements in the future.

Riding the coattails of Messenger Days came the news that Facebook Stories, a similar 24-hour posting feature for the main Facebook mobile app, had become available to users in Chile, Greece and Vietnam.

Facebook Stories had only had a test presence in Ireland since January before this latest expansion. There is no word as of yet as to when the feature will be made available to U.S. and other users. But when it happens, it will mark the third such “story” endeavor Facebook has launched to combat Snapchat. The first, of course, was Instagram Stories, which has seen some success to date. Instagram Stories sees some 150 million daily users — about equal to Snapchat.

Facebook’s Q1 2017 results, set to be announced on April 26, will share a more comprehensive picture of if and how all of these additions, especially the Story and Days plays, have worked in Facebook’s favor. One thing is for sure — success or failure certainly won’t be for lack of trying.

It may seem like Facebook is taking a kitchen sink approach to growing use cases. But many of these moves are designed to bring users in from other sites and services. The “story wars” take on Snapchat at its very core; videos and news take on YouTube and other media outlets; City Guides takes a stab at the likes of TripAdvisor.

All of these work to centralize users’ daily internet activities onto one central social hub. And where user numbers grow, so do the opportunities for monetization.

Still, the community element isn’t being entirely left out for the sake of revenue growth. Facebook walks the line between feeding the needs of a major corporate entity and fulfilling the responsibilities of a global community organization. The company looks to value both, as evidenced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto from last month.

But it’s not just talk. The recent suicide prevention community tools, the push to boost Facebook’s role in disaster response and, most recently, a new “Town Hall” feature that enables users to find and connect with their local, state and federal representatives show that Facebook is also looking to boost civic engagement and community outreach along with user engagement numbers.

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