Our first meetup in San Francisco is coming on Jan 23, 2020. Learn more.

How would you improve Facebook Birthdays?
+8 votes
in Product Improvement by (716 points) | 2.4k views

7 Answers

+6 votes

So that we’re on the same page, when you say Birthdays I think of it in two ways. The first is how a user adds and manages their birthday on their profile and the platform at large. The second is how a user can see their friends birthdays and interact with them by writing on their wall or sending them a message on their special day. I’ll assume we want to focus on the ladder part.

In terms of ‘improvement’, do we want to look at a specific platform? Do we want to increase the number of users? Or would you like me to define my own measure of improvement. Ok, sure.

When I think about what we might want to improve about the birthdays feature, I first think back to why the Birthday’s feature exists. I know Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and bring it closer together. Every human on earth has a birthday, and I see that as something that inherently connects us and makes us relatable to one another. The feature fits neatly with Facebook’s mission statement and since birthdays happen each year, for every user, I imagine Facebook originally launched this feature to grow engagement. The more users it can get to come back onto the platform, the more opportunity it has to drive advertising revenue maximizing Facebook’s value as an advertising platform. That being said, I’d like to improve engagement with the Birthday’s feature.

I think it’s best if we define engagement more specifically so we can measure the success of our improvements. If we think of the birthday feature as an engagement loop we can begin to identify what metrics we care about.
1. User makes their birthday visible to friend
2. User’s birthday arrives
3. Friend made aware of user’s birthday
4. Friend engages with the birthday user
5. The birthday user engages with the friend
6. Step 2 happens again

For step one, I think most users birthday audiences are set to friends by default so we shouldn’t focus our time there, and unless time stops we’re also ok with not focusing on step 2. I think the feature today already does a decent job of making users aware of users birthdays with notifications etc. I think where we can have the most impact is improving engagement for 4 because many users that are aware of a friends birthday may not engage.

A good engagement metric could be to look at the % of users that post on at least one friends wall each day.

When I think about who uses this feature I think about a user’s relationships to the birthday user. This may be a friend or acquaintance.
<u Friends
-These are family members, best friends or people that a user may interact with day to day in real life.
-User may know more about this persons non internet life
-Users that may be interacted with more on facebook than other users

-User doesn’t know much about this person outside of what they share on facebook
-User may have forgotten how they met
-User is not familiar with this person

I’d like to focus on the second group because I believe these are the users that 1) use the feature the least, and 2) represent a larger amount of users thus improving our chances to make an impact.

Some common pain points for acquaintances include:
a) having too many users to wish happy birthday to
b) not remembering who the users are
c) not knowing what to say to users
d) not wanting to come across as weird
e) not caring enough to wish happy birthday
f) not seeing any value from wishing the user happy birthday

I think if we prioritize these by most important to the user we get a list of pain points in this order: b, c, d, a.

I’d like to come up with some solutions for the top use cases above.
1. Show connection info: surface the date, location, and the connection type (ie college) the connection happened. This will allow users to get a quick refresh of how the connection happened and what it means.
2. Show mutual friends: surface a few names of mutual friends so the user can again get a quick refresh on what the connection means.

1. Show last communication: the last interaction you made with the user. This gives the user an opportunity to think back to what they might’ve talked about with this person in the past
2. Show mutual interests: this gives the user topics of interests to feed off of when creating wish
3. Prefill post: prefill the post with common saying like ‘Happy Birthday’
4. Smart prefills: Look across mutual interest categories to add context to the wish. Example, “{The Lakers lost last night} but I hope you have a great birthday!”

1. Show total birthday wishes count so far: show the number of other people who have already wished this person happy birthday. This will help to show that’s its a normal thing activity to partake in.

1. Recommended birthday list: show a subset of users in a recommended birthday area apart from the other users. This list would be comprised of people that you’ve engaged with in the past year but don’t fall in the ‘Friends’ category.
2. Wish all friends a happy birthday at once with one click.

I’d like to evaluate these solutions in terms of impact to cost ratio and pick the ones that will help us achieve our objective to increase engagement.

b1: Low hanging fruit: Low Cost, Low Impact. While easy to do, I think surfacing this much info may distract the user and isn’t the quickest way for the user to process the connection.
b2: Quick win: Low Cost, High Impact. I think showing other faces is easier to process for the user and similar in cost to implement as the other data points.

c1: Money Pit: Low Impact, High Cost. I think some interactions will be so old that showing them wouldn’t really help. I think how this is presented as well may be a challenge and time consuming addition.
c2: Quick Win: Low cost, high impact. This would go a long way for sparking the conversation.
c3: Quick Win: Low cost, high impact. These phrases would be generic and easy to prefil, but take the time and thinking out of the process., but the more there used the more value that is lost for each post.
c4: Must have: High Impact, High cost. This would provide the type of personalization for each connection that could motivate the birthday user to respond.

d1: Quick Win: High impact, low cost. This total would provide the social proof and make it ‘ok’ for users to post and not feel weird.

a1: Must Have: High impact, high cost. This would really help users to focus on what’s important but if the algorithm to create this list isn’t right, it may be excluding important users.
a2: Low hanging fruit: Low impact, low cost. Easy to post to multiple walls at once, but this would again reduce the value for each happy birthday post because users receiving the wishes will know it’s been automated to some extent.

Moving forward, I build solutions b2, c2, c4, d1, and a1.

See less
Some additional metrics I’d look at outside of the % of users that post on at least one friends wall each day are:
1. of the users who received a birthday wish, what % engaged (liked + commented + posted + tagged) with a user who gave them a birthday wish.
2. of the users who gave a birthday wish, what % visited facebook within the next 1D,1W
-> this could indicate that

To summarize, in order to improve engagement for the Birthdays feature, I’d make it easier and less weird for users to wish happy birthdays to acquaintances by reminding the user of why the connection is important, giving them contextual examples of what to say, and placing the focus on acquaintances that they’re most likely to engage with.
+2 votes

Follow these steps roughly.

1) Clarify functionality
2) Clarify scope
3) Discuss Metrics to pursue
4) Identify Persona
5) Map user journey
6) Define use cases & weakness
7) Solutions
8) Prioritize Solutions
9) Validate
10) Iterate
11) Launch
12) Measure & support post launch

1) Clarify functionality
Understand how Facebook Birthdays work.
~ User’s friends are notified about birthday.
~ User can post a message for user
~ Friends can also see upcoming birthdays

2) Clarify scope
~ Define improve: What is not working/concern?
~ Are we not getting enough people wishing other people?
~ Are user bored of plain vanilla commenting capability?
~ Do people want to post relevant birthday memes, etc.
~ Is engagement metric dropping?

Let’s say the fix for improvement is: ” we want more engagement”.

3) Discuss Metrics to pursue
~ What’s important: # of birthday posts, # of response(likes/comments) to birthday posts from birthday boy/girl, # of views of birthday posts
~ Segment of users that inform people about birthdays
~ Are birth-dates even correct? How to clean them up?
~ Is birthday functionality successful in some markets such as UK, etc. What is happening right in those markets?
~ Are there other alternatives that people prefer?
~ What other features can/should be built to make Birthdays better?

4) Identify Persona
James: Wishing birthdays to everyones
Age: 28
Access: Laptop, iPhone
Income: $55K

Jenny: Birthday girl
Age: 23
Access: Laptop, Smart phone
Income: $50K

5) Map user journey
~ User is notified in the form of a notification that their friend’s birthday is coming up.
~ User posts a message on the friend’s wall
~ Other people can comment on this post
~ The person receiving the message can comment on the post.

6) Define use cases & weakness
~ A notification is seen about an upcoming birthday of a friend
~ A friend can post on other person’s wall
~ The birthday person can comment on the post from friends
~ No way to schedule ahead of time
~ Fundraising on birthdays for social causes

7) Solutions
~ Do a cleanup by asking people to provide their real birthdays
~ Delayed greeting card on specific day, scheduled to be sent on birthday
~ Automatic greeting card on specific day, rather than waiting till last day
~ Suggest photos of you with birthday person in the post, in case there are photos of both of you
~ Send VIRTUAL flower delivery, cakes, etc. on birthdays
~ Send REAL flower delivery, cakes, etc. on birthdays
~ Send Birthday songs, videos, caricature, etc.

8) Prioritize Solutions
Prioritization should be done based on: Cost to Build, Complexity, ROI, Time to Build
Say, our goal is to find fastest return within the minimum time spent. In other words, fix quickly.
1) Schedule greeting message for a future date: 2 man months, 2 months implementation, 5% improvement
2) VIRTUAL flowers, cakes, etc: 6 man months, 3 months implementation, 10% improvement expected
3) Send Birthday songs, videos, caricature, etc.: 12 man months, 3 months implementation, 5% improvement expected
4) Send REAL flowers, cakes, etc.: 24 man months, 6 months implementation, 5% improvement expected
5) Cleanup by asking people for provide accurate birthdays: 1 man month, 1 month implementation, 0-15% improvement. This is a bit harder to achieve.
6) Schedule automatic greeting card on future date. This project might be ineffective as it might not give the personalized experience that one would be looking for: 6 man months, 3 months implementation, -5 to +10% improvement expected.
Imagine getting automated greeting message from all your friends on the same day.

9) Design
Start by designing a solution for top 2 as it fits in your budget.
1) Schedule greeting message for a future date: 2 man months, 2 months implementation, 5% improvement
2) VIRTUAL flowers, cakes, etc: 6 man months, 3 months implementation, 10% improvement expected

10) Validate
~ Present the experience to your target audience and see what feedback they give.

11) Iterate
~ improve the design, before starting implementation

12) Launch
~ Launch to a small set of users in a certain country
~ Experiment
~ Get feedback, iterate if needed
~ Launch to smaller audience.

See less
+2 votes

My understanding of Facebook Birthdays is that it is a capability to remind users of their friends’ birthdays, and give them a way to wish them. The reason this capability is important for facebook is that it aligns with their mission of connecting people and building a community, and birthday wishes are a good way to strengthen connections and for some users, give them a chance to re-connect.

Having gotten an understanding of the feature, I’d want to understand what about FB birthdays needs to be improved – there could be multiple factors, but the one that I choose is increasing engagement with FB birthdays, by the way of users wishing other users. The reason I chose this as the primary goal is that this aligns with the uber goal of increasing user engagement, and have users rely on facebook as the must-have tool to stay connected with friends around the world. Moreover, increasing engagement is also tied to more ads shown, and thereby more revenue.

Let’s list out a few target user personas that use Facebook Birthdays:

1) Frequent users that rely on facebook to remind them to wish their friends
2) Occasional users that rely on facebook to remind them to wish their friends and family

For the sake of time, I’m going to choose #1.

Now let’s talk about some painpoints that these users face:

1) Notification overload: given that the users are frequent users and are highly engaged with the platform, there are times that birthday notifications to remind users are missed.
2) Long list of friends’ birthdays: these users typically have a large friend network and as it turns out, when birthdays come up, there is no way for the users to easily find out if one of their close friends or frequently connected friends have a birthday that day – it’s a flat list.
3) Tough to come up with something unique to write for everyone – these users don’t necessarily want to write the impersonal “Happy Birthday”; they want to write something that is personalized.
4) Time consuming to write something for everyone that has their birthdays. They have to individually go and write messages for all the folks that have birthdays on that day, and this takes time.
5) Reluctance to write on friends’ walls – these friends prefer sending private messages on Messenger as opposed to writing on their friends’ walls

I’m going to prioritize these painpoints by customer benefit (CB) and complexity (C) both on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the lowest:

#1: CB= 4, C=2
#2: CB=3,C= 3
#3: CB=4,C=2
#4: CB=4,C=1
#5: CB=3,C=1

With this prioritization and for the sake of time, I’m going to pick #1 , #3 and #4.

Now moving onto solutions for these above pain points:

#1: Different colored, more prominent birthday notifications
Pros: Provides a way for users to get distinct, separate notifications for birthdays
Cons: A new notification type could have short-lived effects

#2: Personalized message placeholders for birthdays, instead of just “happy birthday”. This could be derived from previous conversations between 2 users or could be from a big list of more personalized birthday messages based on context about the users.
Pros: a more personalized message has a higher likelihood of having the user engage and wish the other users on their birthdays.
Cons: might come across as creepy.

#3: One-click auto-populated wishes for everyone that has their birthday that day
Pros: Users don’t have to enter birthday wishes for every user – a couple of clicks could result in all users with the birthday getting the message.
Cons: An automated, non-personalized message wouldn’t necessary be building better engagement and connection between users.

#4: Suggest photos with the user and the friend with the birthday with an animation or an image frame, making it a personalized birthday greeting
Pros: Pros: a more personalized message has a higher likelihood of having the user engage and wish the other users on their birthdays.
Cons: might come across as creepy.

If I were to rank these solutions in terms of cost, benefit and risk, I’d have to go with #4, with the reason being that Facebook can create a “personalized” gift from the user’s side, which will increase the likelihood of engagement and better connections, which will again lead to more conversations and time spent on the platform, thereby adding to the ads revenue.

In summary: in order to increase engagement with Facebook birthdays, we picked out a user persona of frequent FB users, and discussed some painpoints and the solution that we chose was to have Facebook prepare individual, customized, shareable photos/videos/gifs between the two users to lead to a higher chance of the users connecting and communicating.

See less
Great answer Anon. Keep up the great work. Perhaps I would have elaborated more on the evaluation of the solutions and their pros and cons. You can pick a couple criteria and evaluate them based on those criteria.
0 votes

Facebook birthdays serve as 1) useful reminders for people to remember important event of their connections, and thus strengthening the relationship , 2) Facebook to establish a personal touch with its users, …See more

Hi Anurag,
Thank you for the answer. I think you skipped one step (listing out the use cases and pain points). I suggest you first list out the use cases / pain points and only after that, provide your solutions. Your solutions should solve for the use cases / pain points you’ve listed.
Hope it helps.
Thanks for the feedback, Bijan! I kind of combined the personas with their pain points, should I avoid that?
I would separate them. After listing out the persona’ s with a brief description, pick one and really expand on the particular user group’s use cases and pain points.
0 votes

Understand Facebook BirthdaysFacebook birthday is the rightmost column on FB website. Fb birthday allows me as a user to see which of my friends have their birthday today.As a user, I also see friends whose bi…See more

0 votes

1. Clarify the product: what is Facebook Birthdays?A Facebook feature that reminds users of their friends’ birthday:Every day presents users with a reminder of the day's birthday and prompts them to send…See more

by (21 points)
–1 vote

To improve Facebook birthdays (which to confirm does that mean a person’s day of birth or day they joined Facebook?), I believe that it could be made more exciting, unpredictable, and meaningful for the …See more

Hi Josh
Thank you for the response. Please have a look at this article on how to answer a product improvement question in a job interview

The job interviewer expects you to follow all the steps listed in the article when you’re answering a product improvement question.
Thanks for reviewing Bijan. Let me try this again:

Facebook is the dominant social network that has about 1/3 of the world’s population as active users. Facebook birthdays is a feature that notifies a user when it’s their friend’s birthday.

While Facebook does have a high user base, many of the users do not deeply engage with the product beyond just browsing the news feed. Birthdays could be a way to drive up user engagement.

Considering that Facebook has nearly as many types as there are people, there are many opportunities to focus on, I would focus on younger user types since they have a potentially higher CLTV. For example, there are non-adult users under 18 which generally consider Facebook to be for old people and tend to use Snapchat, Instagram and others over Facebook. Let’s call them casual young users. Then there’s college-age users which would could use Facebook to keep track of the many new people they meet throughout college and may engage more with Facebook, like using the groups feature. Finally, the post-college user under 30 will tend to engage with Facebook less over time from their college days since their social network stabilized and they tend to engage less with acquaintances from college. There are deeper ways to segment the younger market, but for this exercise, I’ll focus on the casual young users, unless requested otherwise.

To drive deeper engagement for casual young users, I want to make giving birthday wishes more fun and unpredictable. Currently, when you want to wish someone happy birthday, you’re starting out with a blank slate and typically end up saying the same thing to everyone. It’s not a rewarding experience. A casual young user has grown up in with personalized tech, but this experience feels very impersonal.

Since it’s someone’s birthday in one’s network several times a week, this could lead to habitual engagement. My hypothesis is that users that are engaged by wishing others happy birthdays are more inclined to generally engage and share content.

To reward them after taking the desired action, we could implement a new Facebook birthday lottery where on one’s birthday you have an x% chance of winning a gift from Facebook, but for every birthday wish you give others, you get good karma points for additional chances to win a gift on your birthday. I believe that this can convert a casual user into a more active user, but it incentives meaningless birthday wishes.

An idea for the young casual user who finds it boring to say the same thing over and over is to make giving a birthday wish an exclusive way to use a cool new facebook feature, like a random meme generator that creates funny combinations of gifs with your birthday wish message. Similarly, perhaps a mad libs style game which asks the user for several words that describe the birthday person and the the feature image searches to stitch together a composition with a custom birthday message. I believe that these solutions would motivate young users especially if the random content is culturally relevant and amusing.

An idea to make it more meaningful and rewarding for young users is to create a birthday present group quest. Since a young person has little wealth, they could collectively contribute small amounts towards a gift and only if the total amount is contributed would the present be given. Perhaps you could even tell Facebook what you want for your birthday and let your friends contribute. Fulfillment could be through a partner, such as Amazon. This incentives user retention, but does not drive user engagement as much beyond crowd funding.

Evaluating these ideas, the easiest to implement is the meme generator. While easiest, it risks becoming a one-trick pony overtime and losing user interest. The group quest is more difficult to implement, but could generate revenue for Facebook and increase user retention, but it doesn’t really increase user engagement, which is out goal. According to my hypothesis, the Facebook lottery would drive up user engagement the most among these ideas, but it would require a new infrastructure and planning to put in place.

In summary, I would implement the meme generator first and focus on an increase in user engagement in North America first (since the initial pool of cultural references would be north america focused). If my hypothesis is shown to have statistically signifiant results, then I would focus on developing a Facebook birthday lottery.
Better but there is still room for improvement. Here are my feedback:
– I wouldn’t spend time describing Facebook. The interviewer already knows this and expects you to know as well.
– You’ll need to list out the use cases / pain points before going to solutions. A few examples of pain points are (people don’t pay attention to birthday reminders because they get too many, some users don’t check their facebooks everyday and might feel guilty about saying happy birthday to someone a few days after their birthday, users would like to see how many people said happy birthday to them and enjoy reading the notes, etc)
– You can improve the structure of the answers. I think it’s easier to follow if you first list out the pain points / use cases in bullet points and then list the solutions / features in bullet points. Take a look at some of the other answers on the site. They can provide a good guidance.
– I like the solutions you’ve listed. They are creative. Nice work.
Thanks for your detailed feedback! I’ll give another exercise a try while staying more true to the exact structure.
Your name to display (optional):
Privacy: Your email address will only be used for sending these notifications.
To avoid this verification in future, please log in or register.
Your name to display (optional):
Privacy: Your email address will only be used for sending these notifications.
To avoid this verification in future, please log in or register.

Related questions

0 votes
1 answer
asked Aug 12, 2018 in Product Improvement by marieebab92 (40 points) | 1.1k views
0 votes
2 answers
asked Sep 17, 2018 in Product Improvement by Mj2018 (44 points) | 1.6k views
+1 vote
1 answer
+1 vote
2 answers
asked Nov 7, 2017 in Product Improvement by bijan (716 points) | 1.4k views