Facebook

Scandal ! ( click/share), Shock ! (click/share), Outrage !!( click/share), Anger !**! (click/Share)

This is how Facebook grew its audience very fast and sold lots of ads over the past few years. It became, as the jargon has it, ” a publishing platform” and exercised the minimum possible control on what got posted lest it cool down all that profitable posting. I expect that Zuckerberg will still try to pull off this strategy in regions of the world where regulators & policymakers are not sharpening their pencils ( i.e. most of the world outside of USA and Europe). It is easy money.

Zuckerberg wanted all the revenue but little of the responsibility that came with being a publisher. Facebook now employs armies of people to check what goes up on its platform because, as we now know, he got into a lot of trouble for being so lax. But it won’t work: Facebook is now so huge this effort resembles the fabled king Cnut who went down to the beach and instructed the tide not to come it.

Facebook will continue to get into trouble

Facebook will continue to get into trouble, no matter how much tech’ and how many people are monitoring content. Zuckerberg will be dragged blinking into the spotlight and will look bad under scrutiny. High minded platitudes about “connectivity”, “community” and “free speech”, that play well in California, will look increasing empty.

Go WeChat

Facebook will shift focus from social networking amongst large groups of people to private messaging between individuals and small groups ( like Messenger, which it owns, and WeChat in China) for two big reasons

  1. Avoiding responsibility. Facebook cannot be held responsible for what is posted, (especially if it is encrypted and they cannot see it), just as BT cannot be held responsible for people making abusive phone calls to each other or scamming.
  2. Generational change. My children rarely use Facebook and prefer messaging between small groups and individuals. It is the way things are going

How will Facebook make money ? 

Private messaging is largely incompatible with being interrupted by ads. So, expect Facebook to evolve into a kind of all purpose utility – making money from e-commerce and financial services. Facebook will innovate and buy up companies in these areas.

Zuckerberg does not have to imagine what this will look like, as WeChat got there a few years ago – this vid, which is worth a view, explains how. Posted in 2016 it is probably already out of date

 

 

 

This film is worth a watch to show how WeChat-which started as a messaging app- is evolving into a one stop killer app for search,social and shopping. (And you thought Google and Facebook were too powerful.). It’s success is due not to Chinese govt support but innovation to make the user experience a) very easy b)integrated c) time saving.

You can be sure that Facebook and other are eyeing WeChat with envy and trying to emulate it

I expect the anti-trust authorities in Europe and USA to have a say on this trend

is the business model of media owners down the years- and that battle has now moved to your smartphone.

Winning apps find ways to “scratch your itches”many times a day. Facebook  is the most energetic in enticing you back to their platform with a continuous flow of digital addiction-it started with “poking” for me and most recently I have found it irresistible not to look back on “memories from a years ago” ( most recent innovation) as well as “my year on Facebook”(which was as i recall launched last Christmas). With Facebook you feel that they constantly at your elbow nudging you check out your page and anxious should you drift away and fall out of the Facebook habit. They are right to be paranoid.

Snapchat has been making moves too – originally, it was a visual messaging app with an auto-delete after viewing.( that was its launch USP).  Then they curated “content snacks” from a whole range of media brands in a section called “discover” (see below)

IMG_6243

 

But that did not take off and so they have launched a “live” channel which consists of an edited selection of videos submitted by snap-chatters in a particular locality-

“London life” gives you a window into what fellow users up to based on the video clips they submit. It is weirdly fascinating content – rough and ready , generated by ” people like you” and and a “things to do” prompt. For people who submit it is also like a competition – will my clip make it to the final cut ? somehow you can’t resist checking it out – but to work the video mash up  will need to change everyday or even several times a day IMG_6245IMG_6246In the social media app market snapchat is a challenger that has to be inventive just to stay in the game up against a well funded heavy hitter in Facebook

What happens if you don’t keep evolving your app to make it irresistible ?

The recent fate of the CEO of Twitter is a reminder that it is easy to fall off the pace. Across the web you will find the husks of former shakers and movers – like friendster or friends re-united or myspace. It will be interesting to track the innovations of both FB and Snapchat in 2016 because they teach us a lot about how to win and retain attention in “the smartphone economy”- which is shaping up to be as ruthless and competitive as the newspaper market

Now that Facebook and Twitter are public companies they are of course hungry for a bigger slice of the advertising pie. But-and it is a big but- they did not fundamentally start out as commercial spaces so they are have to innovate and come up with new advertising formats like “native ads” and “Likes” to get revenue to satisfy their shareholders. Thats ok- if they create formats with real value then they deserve a bigger slice.

Unfortunately these things can be “gamed”

The web – lovely and fascinating though it is – also a place for hucksters and scammers or , if you look at the so-called dark web , much worse. It is a world of link farms and low paid workers sitting behind screens and generating bullshit interest in brands (and other entities looking for business or audience) in return for a few pence.

I don’t blame Facebook. They don’t control the behaviour of others. Nobody can control the scammers.

But this short film explains some of the perils of this and in particular lifts the lid on how likes can be hyped to the point of being meaningless

BTW- it is worth adding that this is an age old problem of new advertising formats which can take a while before they become credible/respectable. In the early days of the poster industry there was a lot of “misreporting”

( to put it at its least libellous). I remember meeting “poster guys” in the Dog and Duck in soho and feeling that there was something a bit dodgy going on.  This was the 1980s I stress – all very above board now.