Things are changing over at Facebook. While industry insiders are telling us that users are steadily deserting the channel in favour of less ad-saturated, more private channels, Zuckerberg & Co. are innovating harder and faster than ever when it comes to content distribution, search capabilities, video offering and tech acquisition. What’s more, we’re still seeing Facebook coming out on top in terms of traffic-driving and engagement across multiple clients and sectors.
Let’s not forget, Facebook also owns image-based social network Instagram and ‘dark social’ messaging platform WhatsApp. Now, that’s a heck of a lot of data – and it’s the sheer amount and complexity of the data about us that Facebook possesses which has enabled them to get where they are today.
Thanks to the data about ourselves that we’ve freely poured into Facebook over the last 12 years, it’s become so much more than a social network. It’s become a marketing powerhouse. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of search, content, online advertising and social media, you’ll find that Facebook sits in every single arena. Here we discuss the latest innovations in each of these key areas, and what they mean for marketers.
Facebook has undergone a fundamental shift in the last few years from a social network to connect with friends to a content network to share information that’s meaningful, relevant and exciting.Social Media Week July, 2016
Since deposing the likes of Myspace and Friends Reunited in an alarmingly short space of time, Facebook has weathered the rise of a succession of competing social networks including Twitter, Snapchat, and Google+ by continually listening, observing, and adapting to meet users’ demands.
However, as much as they profess to make changes under in the name of user experience, the cynics amongst us can’t help but suspect that the shift towards a more content-packed Facebook is first and foremost motivated by money.
As platform usage grew, brands and publishers were told to produce quality, engaging content in order to secure reach – then with Instant Articles and Live Video, Facebook provided them the means to do this natively.
Somewhat contradictorily, all Facebook’s subsequent algorithm updates then made posts from friends and family more prominent than before – so in order for brands to get their quality, engaging content seen, they’d have to pay for it. And they have been: Facebook announced a whopping 63% growth in year-on year ad revenue at the end of Q2 2016.
At the end of the day though, it’s the users who click on the ads that bring money in. They’re the ones Facebook should really care about. Do users really want to consume content or does Facebook want them to because that’s where the money is?
In summary, the evolution away from people and towards content could be dangerous for Facebook – it risks the fate of those once-loved platforms like Myspace if it can’t balance satisfying users with achieving its own profitable vision.
Whereas Google is dominant in one single area - search - Facebook is moving successfully in many different directions without compromising its core product.The Huffington Post June 2016
While the idea behind Facebook’s Graph Search is similar to what Google can offer, Google has been working on it longer and likely isn’t feeling too threatened by Facebook’s work in the search sphere quite yet.
However, if we’re future-gazing and assuming that search is something Facebook intends to keep pursuing, you can bet we’re going to see some pretty powerful (read: a bit creepy) content targeting when this product reaches maturity – which will only help boost ad revenue further.
Facebook’s true strength, as we’ve already said, is its data. While the data it holds is incredibly complex, its ad products are stunningly simple and easy to use, even for small businesses. It feels like we’re only witnessing the tip of the iceberg in terms of digital media moving to this platform – presuming its audience remains.
Although there are plenty of differences between Instagram's Stories and Snapchat, some are calling the update a declaration of war, while others are just calling out Facebook for being the rich older brother that steals other peoples' ideas.Mashable August 2016
Are we witnessing the most stunning thing to hit the social scene ever? In 2013, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in cash… and Snapchat turned them down. Fast-forward three years, and Facebook builds Snapchat’s functionality straight into one of its own products. Is it just us, or does it feel like we’re watching a social media soap opera unfold right now? We’re half expecting Myspace to not actually be dead, burst through the door, and claim it was the father all along…
It’s understandable that Facebook are determined to hold on to Instagram users when fast-growing platforms like Snapchat offer more varied, private ways for users to engage and entertain their network, but outraged reactions from users proved that coming up with a copycat product does not go unnoticed.
Facebook should just name its next product "Snapchat"— ◕ᴥ◕ Pasquale D'Silva (@pasql) August 2, 2016
Facebook has always been reluctant to show pre-roll spots - ads directly before videos - because CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he thinks that ruins the viewing experience. Clearly he is more amenable to mid-roll…Ad Age August, 2016
Mid-Roll Video Advertising
Facebook’s testing the waters in numerous ways right now to see what works and what doesn’t. They know they’re soon going to reach saturation point and run out of physical space within the News Feed that they can place text, video and image ads without damaging the user experience. Placing ads within videos to keep their ad revenue stream growing as rapidly as it has been seems like the obvious decision.
While this insertion of mid-roll ads will probably be met with a fair bit of grumbling from users, it’s unlikely to be a deal breaker when it comes to the decision of whether or not to watch. If viewers care that much about a piece of content, more often than not they’ll put up with ads – otherwise there’s no place for commercial TV and radio stations.
The fact that mid-roll ads won’t show up until at least five minutes into a broadcast is interesting, because most live broadcasts don’t tend to last that long. However, they’ve already live streamed an entire Premiership football match so we can only assume that regular, longer broadcasts from brands and publishers is something that’s in the pipeline.