Amidst the threatened breakups of tech monopolies and burgeoning trade wars, the Venn diagram intersects on the subject of privacy. It's a couple of weeks since Mark Zuckerberg's opening joke at the Facebook F8 conference for developers fell flat on its face. "I know we don't have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly," he giggled.
WHY IS PRIVACY IMPORTANT FOR FACEBOOK?
Three out of every ten people in the world are active users of a Facebook-owned service - be it social networking on Facebook, Instagram or a messaging service like WhatsApp or Messenger. The company is making vast strides trying to steal a march on their competitors in the fields of AR and VR through products like Oculus and Portal. It has ever increasing revenue streams, from products like Facebook workplace. In short Facebook (the company, not the social media platform) are a behemoth and their growth isn't slowing down.
With a sample audience in the billions, Facebook has plenty of "learnings." One of those is that users are organically becoming more private.
“The most important thing on social media for my friends and I, is our social groups. They are a simple, efficient and private way for people to send and consume information and content. It’s much better than communicating on a public newsfeed, because it’s personal.” Ciaran, 23
The analogy the company itself uses is that Facebook (the platform) used to be the "town square", a place where people would broadcast anything and everything to everyone. But, now people prefer to operate in their "living rooms", a place where a small select group sees only what you want them to see.
In essence, the Facebook platform got too fat, not lean enough to be useful. Once comments go past twenty they are no longer conversations. Thankfully ‘Stories’ (a solution copied from Snapchat) help to revolutionise how people interacted and deemphasised the newsfeed.
WHAT’S NEXT? FUNCTIONALITY & COMMERCE
One of the main takeouts from the F8 conference is that Messenger is the new superpower - and Facebook are doubling down on this platform. With an eye on the other global social media superpower WeChat, Facebook has recognised "interoperability" as the key feature that will appeal to current and future users. That is, not having to jump from an app to app in order to share photos, state that you are attending an event, wish your cousin a happy birthday or buy a new pair of shoes.
“My friends tend to rarely use the Facebook platform as their main source of content consumption. Instagram seems to have assumed the role for browsing and content consumed in terms of platforms. A lot of us would have multiple Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp groups, all for varying different occasions, reasons and social groups.” Ciaran, 23
They're working towards a one stop shop on Messenger. (You might have already seen how you can now cross post stories in all four major FB platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.)
It makes sense as it enables more functionality, but it also enables commerce. Indeed the company has started a large recruitment drive for PayPal employees which has led commentators to speculate that the company's blockchain department is working on a digital currency that can be used on its platforms.
Functionality has greatly improved recently on their platforms with practical features like appointment bookings buttons, tagging Instagram posts with click to buy functions, donation stickers on Stories. From social networks, to purchasing networks.
The future may be private, but will definitely be monetised.
None of this is happening particularly quickly, but do prepare. Start to build Messenger as a proper extension of your Facebook page and start to think of a broad set of messenger tools to work alongside your community manager. A bot may not be warranted now, but when your messenger has e-commerce functionality a bot will be essential.
Rethink how you're offering experiences. Treat your fans as distinct groups not catch alls. It will be easier to convert them to IRL events if you know the different subsets of your audience.
Embrace data science.