clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

You Can't Use Facebook's New iPhone App -- Unless You're Famous

Or, at least, Internet-famous: "Mentions" is meant to let celebrities post more stuff.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Stars aren’t just like us. They need a special app to post on Facebook.

That’s the thinking behind Mentions, a new iPhone app from the social network that you can download, but probably can’t use, today.

This is the app we told you Facebook was testing nearly a year ago as part of its push to encourage more “public content” — stuff made by people who aren’t your friends, or discussions about events like the World Cup — on the site. Celebrities who have tested the app have been posting twice as much as before, Facebook product managers say.

If you get to use Mentions — which would mean that you are a “verified public figure,” someone with one of those blue check marks next to your name, with a “public page,” one of those pages that people can read but not comment on — you’ll probably notice a couple things:

  • The emphasis is on posting new messages, photos and videos, instead of reading what your pals have put up.
  • There is a Mentions tab that’s supposed to make it easy for stars to see what people are saying about them. It looks strikingly like the “@” tab that Twitter has always had — and also uses the term “mentions.” It is another in a series of moves that are … inspired by Twitter’s playbook.

There are other companies and services designed to help famous people manage their presence on Facebook and other social networks. But Facebook says this app is created for famous people themselves, as opposed to their minders and helpers.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen at least one post created by a celebrity using Mentions: Tyrese Gibson’s video featuring Dr. Dre celebrating the $3 billion Beats/Apple deal — before the deal had formally closed. That clip got pulled down a few hours after it surfaced, but Facebook’s executives aren’t unhappy it showed up in the first place — they view it as validation of their work.

The new app won’t be that exclusive: Facebook execs say “tens of thousands” of its users will be able to use it at launch, and they say that number will grow as Facebook rolls it out internationally, and eventually to “public figures” who only have a conventional Facebook profile. That last group includes d-listers like me.*

The main question I’ve got about Mentions is why Facebook isn’t letting its other billion-plus users opt into the app — or, alternately, why it hasn’t imported some of the creation-friendly design features to its hoi polloi app.

Facebook has a stock non-answer about the fact that everyone uses Facebook differently, and that they think this is best for famous people. But I think the real answer may be one or both of these:

  • Lots of people are already posting lots of stuff on Facebook — up until recently, it was the world’s biggest photo-sharing service. But Facebook likes the fact that most of its users are consuming content instead of creating it. Facebook’s advertisers like that, too.
  • Stars are just like us — they like being told they’re getting special stuff. And if that encourages them to share stuff with the rest of us, Facebook is happy to oblige.

* Don’t worry! I know I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, and I won’t forget the little people who helped me make it all possible. Also: I’m never gonna be my hero.

This article originally appeared on