Facebook, or The Facebook as it was originally known, has become so engrained into our everyday lives that it hard to believe that it has only been around for ten years. In that time, it has grown from a campus website into a true global phenomenon, reaching 1.23 billion active users each month.
Facebook is the place that we share our life events and satisfy our subliminal curiosities about old friends, colleagues and lovers. Hosting over 4billion photos and recording the highs and lows of our daily lives, the Facebook corporate machine may well hold more information about us than our governments. Behind a screen, keyboard or smartphone we share our most intimate thoughts with a world where many of our ‘friends’ we might not have seen in person for decades, if at all. So, aside from self-promotional propaganda, photos of cats and a never-ending catalogue of surveys and birthday reminders, what has Facebook achieved, where is it going and what problems should it expect along the way?
Where are we now? Where are we being taken?
Facebook is integral to our lives. We rely on it to store our memories and gauge popular opinion on our latest clothing purchases, romances, culinary achievements and more. Although we know that the more we post, message, share and ‘like’, the more the Facebook knows about us and the more saleable that information becomes, but we cannot help ourselves.
Last year, although a downturn in younger users was identified, there was an 80% surge in users aged over 55. It is this new demographic which has turned on to Facebook at the time that the social media platform is at its most powerful. Facebook now has the ability to harness the data we provide to it and target marketing and advertising to us in a very clever way. Mobile advertising amassed $2.34bn in revenue last year (half of its income) and the expectation is that this is barely the tip of the iceberg. It has now recognised that mobile commerce is essential to continued success. Huge numbers continue to subscribe on a daily basis with 757 million logging in each day to review the news, however mundane it may be.
If Facebook can break through the great firewall of China, untold riches will undoubtedly follow. With China becoming each year a global contender with a curious workforce, it may only be a matter of time before governmental restriction is side-stepped or the restrictions are simply lifted.
There are other problems standing in the way. The recent death of a teenager in Ireland as the result of the ‘Neknomination’ drinking game craze put Facebook under the spotlight for it’s hosting of the page. The response was typical of other social media sites and search engines, “We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but controversial or offensive behaviour is not necessarily against our rules.”
Until government regulation is introduced and applied to websites and social media platforms the world over, we should continue to expect tension between fundamental freedoms and accountability. These concerns aren’t limited to Facebook, of course, but it remains for the time being the biggest and most accessed and will be expected to exhibit some leadership rather than reluctant acceptance.
Facebook listed at $100bn but within a couple of months had dropped to half that value, shaking confidence internally but also across the tech market. Constant innovation and use of mobile marketing has turned this around. The expansion into new fields and buying up of fledgling competitors, such as the $1bn purchase of Instagram in 2012, will mean that Facebook is forecast to continue as the big player for some time to come. It has already recouped its immediate losses, valued now at around $135bn and is expected to be the fastest company in history to reach $150bn at some point later this year.
For now, Facebook remains in a strong position. It does not have a global monopoly on social media sites, but it has a significant head start, in reach and financial security.
See the interview on the Arise News Hour to see what we discussed: