Facebook: 10 Years, 10 Views

Alex Spencer

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At this point, it's highly unlikely you haven't heard that this week marked the 10th anniversary of Facebook going live. With the company either doing brilliantly or dooming itself to failure, depending on who you listen to, we've been taking the opportunity to take a closer look at the social network - including a look back over the past 10 years of launches, lawsuits, ads and acquisitions, and David Murphy's own take on the latest reports of Facebook's imminent demise in his weekly column.

But to find out what's really going on with Facebook, you have to ask the people who use it day in, day out.

So we reached out to 10 experts – the brands, the agencies, and the users themselves – to get their unique takes on where Facebook is today, after 10 years, and where it might be headed in the next 10.

Andrea Amey
Head of digital content at UK broadcaster Channel 5

Andrea Ch5

“Facebook is an important part of our social strategy, alongside Twitter, YouTube and Google+, and we use each social platform differently, depending on the show and the audience. We post trailers, clips, memes, teasers, run polls to canvas opinions, post call-outs for contributors and also signpost times for shows and catch-up availability. But one thing we have found over the last couple of years is that our efforts are best focused on native Facebook functionality, and we've moved away from developing Facebook apps.

“We’ve always used Facebook to showcase upcoming programmes, and it’s an important platform for engaging with our audiences every day – The Wright Stuff, 5 News, Neighbours and Home and Away all have dedicated Facebook pages which speak to those specific audiences directly.

“But it is absolutely key to providing companion activity for our biggest shows, like Big Brother and The Gadget Show, where there is exclusive extra videos, news and chat outside of transmission. Content has a bit more longevity on Facebook, which works well for us with these shows.

“Looking forward, I am keen to see if Paper changes the consumption of news and updates from Facebook on a mobile. Also, Facebook and Twitter have both been introducing features that historically have been part of each other’s platform: hashtags are now used on Facebook, and you can embed video in Twitter. As a broadcaster our social activity peaks in the evenings and the social chatter is dominated by Twitter when a show is on-air. I shall be watching with interest if Facebook plans to – and whether it can manage to – take some of that back.”

Mark Challinor
Vice president of the INMA, Mark previously held the position of director of mobile platforms at Telegraph Media Group. He is currently working as a mobile consultant

Mark Challinor“Mark Zuckerberg announced late last year that Facebook will be linking with six tech and mobile companies to bring 'internet to the masses', with the launch of Internet.org. Facebook and its partners, which include MediaTek, Nokia and Qualcomm, are all trying to capture the 60 per cent or more of the world's population who are still offline so that they can have 'the same opportunities [that] the connected third of the world has today'. It all sounds very worthy – and I have my suspicions.

“It is believed that Facebook has gathered one of the biggest and deepest databases in our history. It has billions upon billions of messages and photos about the lives of over 1.2bn people. Recent births and marriages, moves to a new job, dinner reservations, holidays – Facebook has been storing all of this information for many years, and it's all getting smarter and more in-depth. It all begs the question of what the likes of Nokia of Qualcomm et al can glean from the Internet.org initative.

“For a taste of what's to come next, look at the various patents Facebook has filed recently, many of which relate to advertising techniques. One of its recent patents allows Facebook to personalise a web page outside of its ecosystem with content from its databases.

“First we have the analysis phase, then comes a prediction of customer behaviour, and then the ability to influence our purchasing habits. Add to this the fact that most Facebook users look for and read – and act on – content generated by their friends and, bingo, it's eCommerce heaven.

“So, where do tablets and smartphones fit in to this future world? With their 'always on nature', they will help add a new layer onto our current social relationships. Speed, immediate access and the ability to transact, respond and contribute will become even more faster and immersive as we start to fully appreciate relevance, context and true targeting. This can feel great, as our devices map our routes, identify places and items, provide useful information about almost anything we want, all in real time. But what's the catch?

“Going forward, privacy – and our perception of it – will be the main concern. There will be many tech ideas that will continue to evolve and transform our lives in future, and Facebook will be at the forefront. But the extent of their dominance will, in some way, rest on how transparent they are with their – for now – doting public.”

Ross Sleight
Chief strategy officer at full-service mobile marketing agency Somo

Ross Sleight Somo“Facebook’s third-party ad network will allow mobile marketers to scale very quickly. By targeting people within other apps using Facebook's data, the connected login becomes the unique identifier, and it allows for targeting of demographics, I’d say, 20 times better than the Google Connect network.

“This will put a lot of pressure on the existing mobile display networks and could force some out of business. Facebook is already 25 per cent of mobile display – add in Twitter, Pandora, Google, and there isn’t much left. The big guys will survive but it will never be what it used to be.

“The third-party potential is great for Facebook, and it will be another big revenue driver for them. They’ll be able to offer banners, interactive units, video, more interruptive ads, but get away with because it’s someone else’s content.

“But on their own platform, it has to be native. Native on social is going to be huge. All of the big players – Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – know that they can only go so far with organic. This is the way to monetise.”

Carol Dray
Marketing director at Rakuten-owned retailer Play.com

Carol Play“In the last 10 years, Facebook has turned from a university social network to a powerful platform for commerce, with the potential to connect retailers large and small with customers around the world and to build loyal customer communities.

“The brands who will benefit from Facebook the most over the next 10 years will have more detailed insight about their community. For Play.com, shoppers are 40 per cent more valuable to us once they hit the ‘like’ button, but with access to even more information, retailers will be able to understand how and why a consumer began interacting with them on Facebook - and therefore what will keep them engaged. Whether they made a purchase, read about your brand online or are just a fan of the products, knowledge of what attracted them to your community will give the retailer power to offer them the correct goods in the correct way every time.

“It’s not a numbers game, though – it’s all about engagement. Imagine being able to engage your Facebook community through specific ‘Facebook rewards’ gained by the interactions they make with your brand? By offering discounts and exclusive deals in return for engagement Facebook could develop lucrative loyalty schemes for retailers. Not only does it become an incredibly powerful marketing tool but it incentivises brand engagement massively.”

Nate Elliott 
Vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research

Nate-Elliott-PR“We hear over and over that Facebook is losing its edge among young users. Ignore the breathless industry hyperbole for a moment and focus on the actual data: comScore reports that 89 per cent of 18-24s used Facebook in November 2013. Its adoption rate among this audience could hardly be any higher.

“According to comScore, no other social site claims more than 52 per cent of this segment. So sure, Facebook must work hard to keep young users engaged. But the fact remains, Facebook claims far more young users than any other social network — indeed, probably more than any other media property on earth.

“I’ve been strongly critical of Facebook’s failure to help marketers succeed, and that criticism still stands. But at this moment it has relatively few problems with its userbase. Facebook is not going anywhere for a while.”

Jon Hook
Senior associate director and head of mobile at Mediacom Beyond Advertising, the specialist content marketing division of Mediacom

Jon Hook Conference Pic“Facebook has come a long way in a short space of time on mobile. They have gone to market with a simple approach of 'buy three ad products from us: Custom Audiences, FBX and Mobile App', and can now serve as a nearly one-stop shop to reach more people more often than any other publisher can on the web. So it's no surprise their Q4 results reported a 76 per cent increase in revenue on the previous year.

“All of Facebook’s recent announcements clearly show they have not departed from Zuckerburg 'open and connected' mantra. Take for example the Messenger app, which allows you to message non-Facebook users, or the new Custom Audience features, allowing brands to target users who have visited their website or app across multiple devices.

“So long as Facebook continue to open up their platform, their share of worldwide mobile advertising spend – currently 18.4 per cent – will surely be dramatically higher this time next year.

“Looking forward, expect Zuckerburg to stick to his latest musings on 'decoupling' some its core feature like Events, opening up further personalized and targeted opportunities for brands. And I hope to see brands getting far smarter in the battle for people’s newsfeeds by tapping into the rich media capabilities now on offer via Facebook’s Preferred Mobile Developer programmes.”

Lucinda Kelly
Mobile games manager at gambling operator Paddy Power

Lucinda Paddy“In 2013, we had a very successful year using Facebook for acquisition campaigns. As we move into 2014 planning, we’ll look into developing a stronger direct relationship with Facebook not only through our acquisition team but as part of customer in-life and reactivation planning. We’re also looking to work closely with the Facebook mobile team when developing new products and enhancing existing ones.

“The tools that have now opened up to the gaming and gambling industry – previously our Industry was blocked from using such tools – are exciting and are a high consideration for us as we roll out our roadmap for the year.

Simon Robinson
Senior director marketing & alliances EMEA at crossplatform marketing firm Responsys

Simon Responsys“10 years on, brands and marketers are still making sense of Facebook, especially as the platform is constantly evolving to meet the expectations of consumers looking for a place to share and discover content. Other social networks, such as Twitter and YouTube, are clipping at its heels in terms of users, but with over 30 per cent of users on the site for at least an hour a day there is no ignoring its influence.

“As Facebook enters into maturity, the platform is starting to use its potential to harness communities rather than just target individuals. Where Twitter has long since had the hashtag at its heart to create instant communities and group conversations, it’s in this vein that Facebook should make changes over the coming months. Grouping messages and news feed updates will create the environment for brands to more easily integrate their Facebook strategy with other parts of their online marketing activities.”

John Elkaim
VP marketing at social infrastructure tech firm Gigya

John Elkaim Gigya“A decade on and Facebook is still very much the leader when it comes to social networks. Our own research shows that 51 per cent of people are choosing to connect to external websites and apps using their Facebook identities, even as rivals like Google+ and Twitter gain traction in social login.

“Yes, Facebook has had its slips. Analysts and researchers have spent the last few months predicting its decline and revealing its apparent lack of popularity among younger users. However, on the whole it remains the dominant social media platform, and is set to remain so for the foreseeable future.

“Facebook’s impressive Q4 results and year-on-year profit increases of over $1bn spell a bright future for a company that’s finally discovered how to effectively monetise itself. The company’s been getting to know us for more than a decade, but new tools have only just opened up the unprecedented depth of understanding into target audiences that marketers have been looking for.

“Now, 10 years on, Facebook has truly become valuable for marketers and the opportunities, for both the social network and the marketers looking to create more authentic relationships with consumers, are really just starting to unfold.”

Zoë Spencer
As someone who turned 13 just two weeks before Facebook opened its doors to anyone aged 13 and over, Zoë is very much a part of the Facebook generation that reports say are falling away from the social network. She joined Facebook in March 2008, and now has a staggering 750 friends in her social network. She's also my sister

400955_10151073014468865_1931082821_n“The drop-off is quite obvious with people in my age group. People aren't leaving Facebook, but they're definitely using it less.

“The way I personally use Facebook hasn't changed too dramatically – I just use it less often now, mainly for messaging or to look back at photos. Mostly now I use Twitter for socialising and Instagram for picture sharing instead. I rarely check Facebook compared to Twitter, because it's always people sharing videos and now these Nek nominations – just stupid stuff that doesn't interest me.

“I really like Instagram, but I had no idea it was owned by Facebook. You don't see much evidence of it, apart from being able to share Instagram posts onto your profile. And, unlike Facebook, it doesn't have ads! Some companies use it as like a blog, so that you have to choose to follow them; but you can see that your friends have liked a brand's pictures, so it interests you to go and look. I'd never do that on Facebook, unless they were giving free stuff away!

“As time goes on, I think Facebook will be used less and less, just to refer back to pictures and content that's already on there – so pretty similar to how I use it now. I have no idea what Facebook could do to make me use it more, without changing completely. It's just not fashionable anymore.”