15 Years of Facebook

2019 marks 15 years of Facebook. The platform has set the bar for social media experiences and even inspired a feature film - but is it moving in the right direction? Facebook’s played a large role in my life, both personally and professionally, but I’m worried it’s straying too far from its roots.

I signed up for TheFacebook during my freshman year of college. The platform was just a few months old and only available to college students. I already had my MySpace and Xanga, but I decided to go ahead and sign up to connect with friends I just left behind from high school. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on Facebook until the ability to add photos came about a few years later. Suddenly documenting every moment from my weekend and travels became a priority, and I spent Sundays uploading photos and tagging my friends (much to their dislike). I was hooked.

Fast forward four years and I’m at my first job. A client says, “Hey, we need one of those Facebook pages - can you set that up?” Being the only person in the room under 25, I was immediately tasked with creating Facebook pages, posting content and responding to people who sent us messages. I found that I really enjoyed this new way of connecting with consumers, and I started spending more time on content strategies and understanding what our newly-acquired fans responded to best. I was instantly sent down a new career path, and today I spend a majority of my time planning content for my clients’ social channels that reach millions of users.

Facebook has inspired a lot of good, not just in my life, but all over the world. Today, the platform has 2.3 billion monthly users and still operates under its founding mission statement: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” But recently, this mission statement has been lost among news of privacy and data breaches, live-streamings of mass shootings and political campaign hackings.

It’s not good news for Facebook. US consumption data from Nielsen also found that Facebook's overall share of online consumption dropped from 16.5% in September 2017 to 14.3% in 2018. People are changing the way they view media, moving from longer news-feed based content to bite-sized content that can be found in a short story format.

Facebook has rolled with the punches, introducing new capabilities, new security measures and new features - but is this enough to keep users engaged? According to the Pew Research Center, four-in-ten adult Facebook users (42%) have taken a break from checking the platform for several weeks or more, and about a quarter (26%) have deleted the app from their phone at some point in the past year. For advertisers, these numbers can be terrifying. But I think there’s still hope.

As we approach the next 15 years, it’s going to be more important than ever to go back to Facebook’s roots and use this platform to flourish personal connections and create community, both as advertisers and as users. I go back to the features that I originally loved about Facebook: connecting with my friends and family who live out-of-town, engaging in a group with those who have similar hobbies, finding events near me, and even documenting my own personal milestones.

Facebook is already making swift changes when it comes to their platform’s focus and design - like redesigning their mobile app to focus more around Groups and an easier user experience.

So, as a brand, what can you do to combat the latest algorithm change?  In the early days of Facebook for business, it was all about ‘how many people can I reach?’ Now it’s shifted to how brands can share their message with the most qualified, engaged audience. This is an opportunity for publishers and brands to create groups focused around super users and specific interests and then use these groups as 1:1, more focused conversation channels. Not only can brands use these groups to share information, but more importantly they can listen and learn from what these users are saying. This could also allow more for more localized or niche messaging in addition to paid social efforts.

I think incorporating these personal relationships with marketing strategies will make for smarter, more impactful campaigns that result in meaningful brand messages, not just transactions. At the end of the day, users are logging on to engage with friends and family, so let’s act like humans when we log in, not advertising machines. I know I still had a lot of learning to do when I was 15, and I’m anxious to see what Facebook does next.