Visiting Facebook

by Geerlinde Pevenage - March 09, 2015

Will Facebook still exist in 2 years? Should we continue to invest in it or should we ‘stop building on rented land’? Are youngsters still interested or are they moving to Snapchat and the likes? What is Facebook evolving towards and how can advertisers future proof their actions on Facebook?

We get these questions a lot. So we decided to go to the Facebook Headquarters in Dublin to find out what they’re working on and to discuss with them some concerns and some potential opportunities. The answers we received weren’t always what we wanted to hear, but at least they were clear and provided us with insights and ideas that will optimize our clients’ social media presence.

Here are some of the highlights of our talks with Marco, Natascha, Bart and Dries from the Facebook BeNeLux team.

The present: the end of organic reach

As you have noticed, organic reach for fan pages has been dropping dramatically. Even though some say that Facebook is only doing this to make more money through paid advertising, there is more to it than that. It involves how Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm works. Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, this algorithm displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person, to make your individual Facebook experience as interesting as possible. This means brand pages are finding it impossible to ‘compete’ against a friend’s adorable new dog for space in a person’s Newsfeed.

To summarize, here are the trends for Facebook fan pages:

  • A shift from organic (non-paid) to paid reach;
  • A shift in objectives from engagement to reach and conversion;
  • A shift from high volume / low quality content to medium volume / high quality content.

As Facebook says: “The standard is a paid presence, everything organic is the cherry on the cake, a reward for outstanding content, as can be seen with the Telenet fan page.”

A future blog post will explain how to beat the algorithm via clever content.

The road ahead: from advertising to add-vertising

In the next couple of years, Facebook will be focusing heavily on people-based marketing. This interesting exercise will look for deeper insights into user behavior and relevant solutions that take into account current and future user needs. However, the needs and worries of advertisers won’t be forgotten.

Other interesting changes include:

  • Sharing research publically, for example on the Facebook IQ fan page. This is in addition to the research that is used to develop the platform.
  • Direct response offerings that build on existing Facebook Custom Audience possibilities. This will allow for more relevant targeting.
  • The roll-out of advertising on the second most mature network within the Facebook family, Instagram, as from Q4 2015.
  • Personalized (i.e. not cookie-based) measurement and adserving platforms. Acquisitions, like the cross-platform adserver Atlas, and other measurement solutions will allow marketers to really understand cross-platform online user behavior and adapt marketing messages accordingly.

Additionally, Facebook is also looking into ways to connect with the next generation of Facebook users. Two key development areas are video and messaging.

A recent study by eMarketer states video is the way to go for social media in 2015. As youngsters now prefer video to text or photos as content format, Facebook wants to become the video champion in the battle for eyeballs against YouTube. Hence its focus on the optimization of video advertising solutions such as Hyperlapse for Instagram and the roll-out of new video ad formats, such as ‘cinemagraphs’.

Messaging is the new Social’ is a phase often heard nowadays about the second key development area. There’s an increasing trend for Millennials to ‘go private’ again. Some have even stopped communicating via public platforms and have turned to one-on-one or private platforms/apps as SnapChat, Slingshot, Secret, Whisper, Tinder and the likes. With that in mind, Facebook continues to invest in the development of its key messaging apps Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp Messenger.

The distant future: virtual reality

Last year was a giant year for wearables, in particular wrist-tech. Android Wear. Samsung devices. Fitness Bands. Smartwatches and jewelry. All announced on an almost weekly basis. With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus last March, Facebook has made a remarkably bold bet that people will want to be fully immersed in technology in the future.

Facebook believes that vision will be the next big platform, the most social platform ever. Just imaging sharing entire experiences and adventures with your friends online. For example, sitting courtside at a sporting event, studying with a group of students or consulting face-to-face with a doctor. What other potential uses can you think of for virtual reality?

The present, the road ahead and the distant future for brands

Let’s start where we began. Did we get answers to our questions in Dublin? Yes. Did we like all of the answers we received? Some yes, some no. Are we now full of ideas for future content and social media success stories? Most definitely.

As I’m sure you understand, it’s impossible to summarize an insightful 2-day trip into a single blog post. If you’re interested in learning more or would like elaboration of our findings, via a chat, email or workshop, just let us know. You can even test the Oculus to get a glimpse of what the future of communication might look like. We look forward to sharing this with you.

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Geerlinde Pevenage

Content Marketing & Social Media Director