In the world of social media, Facebook is an established veteran compared to newcomers like Snapchat or Pinterest. There are plenty of blog posts and think pieces that have come out in the last year or so that claim Facebook is dead. They point to user saturation and declining interest among millennials, and predict that Facebook’s domination is coming to an end.
But Facebook is far from dead. It’s simply growing up. It’s evolving in new and interesting ways, and it would be a mistake to dismiss it as just a place for distant high school classmates and cute cat videos.
Facebook, which launched as a college social network in 2004, has transformed into a global heavyweight with 1.59 billion monthly active users in 2016. And the company isn’t content with just maintaining its place in the social media hierarchy. It’s been exploring new pathways that have the potential to keep increasing its reach, from Instant Articles to 360-degree video.
So what’s next for the future of Facebook, and what’s most relevant for brands to keep an eye on?
Facebook At Work
Facebook recently launched an enterprise social network, Facebook at Work, that could pose a threat to existing platforms, such as Slack, Microsoft Office and LinkedIn. Facebook at Work functions like a company intranet that’s completely separate from employees’ personal Facebook profiles; it facilitates chat and collaboration with functionality users are already very familiar with.
In the short term, Facebook at Work would seem to be more worrying to collaboration tools like Slack or email clients like Microsoft Office, but some are speculating that this is just the first step.
A Social Media Today article argues that Facebook already knows us better than we know ourselves, tracking our preferences and behaviors through our online presence. And it’s been dabbling in employment-related research, conducting two studies in the last month, perhaps positioning itself to branch out into job recruiting and career matching:
Of course, LinkedIn still leads on this front – they have more information on career histories and job progression than any other provider in history. But as noted, given Facebook has so much access to additional, deeper personal insights and interests, maybe the career histories themselves don’t matter. Maybe Facebook can beat LinkedIn regardless…
LinkedIn has 414 million members, but only 100 million of them are active users, less than 25%. Facebook’s daily active user count is over 1 billion. And growing. When you consider this and the functional role that LinkedIn plays, is it really an essential social network? Could Facebook, if it put focus on this area and pushed to develop new recruitment and career related tools, actually squeeze LinkedIn out of the market entirely?
Facebook Virtual Reality
Back in 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus, a virtual reality company, for $2 billion. At the time Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a statement, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected… One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”
Facebook is now dedicating time and resources to build out VR technology, forming engineering teams to create social VR applications. Virtual reality depends on 360-degree videos that let users experience a scene from all angles at once. Facebook added support for 360-degree videos last year.
At a Samsung event last month, which included the unveiling of a new 360-degree still and video camera called the Gear 360, Mark Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s commitment to virtual reality development. He said, though it’s early and there’s still a lot of work to be done, the company has just begun to explore possibilities.
“VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want,” said Zuckerberg. “Pretty soon, we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just right there in person.”
For brands, the opportunities presented by VR are enormous. When customers explore products, services or events in real time, brands can offer a much richer and engaging experience than has been possible in the past.