by David Taylor, Head of Social Business
Ten years ago tomorrow (3rd February), Mark Zuckerberg along with fellow Harvard University students, started a website which has grown into an $8 billion business.
From modest beginnings as an online version of high school yearbooks, Facebook has morphed into a highly sophisticated, highly monetised competitor to the internet itself.
With over 1.18 billion users globally – representing 46% of the world’s online population – and 24 million daily users in the UK alone, this social network has revolutionised the way that people, brands, groups, companies and charities interact with the outside world.
And this online world is very much a mobile one. 83% of Facebook users in the UK now access the site from their phone or tablet device.
In many ways, Facebook represents the natural evolution of the newspaper. People can tailor what information they see from their chosen friends, groups or brands while at the same time receiving targeted adverts – all within their personalised news feed.
But it is so much more than this. In an age where we no longer print off photographs, where we think nothing of ‘checking in’ to places we visit and where we plan our lives online, Facebook has become something like a cross between a photo album and a personal diary.
As a result, the notion of ‘social capital’ means that people’s Profiles and companies’ Pages have an inherent value. Timelines will provide a meaningful record of our daily lives, whether we are individuals or companies.
For the over 25s - and by that I include people who are well into their 70s or 80s – Facebook has been embraced in the same way as the radio, television, email and the internet. It is now very much a way of life.
At the same time, there has been a lot of comment about how the under 25s have been leaving the site in their droves. This is partly true for the very reason why Facebook is now turning a healthy profit – advertising.
Back in 2005 when membership was widened out to students at universities, many youngsters embraced the site as a thoroughly cool hangout which totally tapped into the zeitgeist.
Over time though, as social media has become more mainstream, naturally the sheen of novelty has worn off – especially when parents start ‘friending’ their offspring!
Coupled with the appearance of adverts post the float in 2012 and the increased commercialism associated with the brand, the so-called Millennials have turned to sites like Twitter and Tumblr or increasingly social messaging sites such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger.
However, while many of the under 25s will no longer be accessing Facebook every day – unlike the 30 and 40-somethings who now make up the majority of regular users – they are not deleting their accounts.
There is a simple reason - the social capital aspect I mentioned earlier. While social messaging services offer instant communication, they don’t offer the photo album/diary functionality that Facebook does.
And I would assert that many of the late teens/early 20s who have maybe fallen out of love with the site, will return once they reach a stage in their lives when they no longer get to see their community of friends on a face-to-face basis.
So where do I see Facebook in ten years time? I think that they will look to take over new tech start-ups, just as they did with Instagram and tried to with Snapchat. Their financial might and high capitalisation means that rather than take on their competition, they will simply take them over and integrate them.
I see much more advertising on the site – whether it be via promoted content, apps, games, competitions or check-ins. Their ability to combine ‘in-feed’ adverts with mobile versions of the site is one reason why they are starting to make significant profits.
Mobile is now key to the success of Facebook. Starting with phones and tablets, it is now already available in many car entertainment systems. With recent developments of voice recognition software such as Siri, expect to see more voice activated Facebook integration.
Finally there is video. Cisco Systems estimates that by 2015, 86% of all content viewed online will be video based. Facebook, more than anyone, understands this so expect to see more video functionality within the site including video editing, creation of folders and video messaging.
Whatever happens, I truly believe that Facebook will not go the same way as MySpace in the 90s and early Noughties. Why? It has the same critical mass that Google had when it became the pre-eminent search engine.
If you would like to understand more about how Facebook could be integrated into your business and marketing strategy, then contact us on 01892 520123. Or message us via Facebook on www.facebook.com/zoodikers