Hi, I'm Deb, and I'm a social media user.
As a business professional, I frequent such places as LinkedIn, Twitter, SlideShare and even at times Google plus. I'm on Facebook, too, but have always reserved it solely for sharing with family and friends. Now Facebook is making some strong moves in the business-to-consumer space, and it's time for me to rethink.
The Mindshare Wars
Make no mistake: we are under social siege in an escalating brand war for consumer minds. At times this battle for mindshare can look like an apocalyptic struggle, as in the ‘60s political satire movie "Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," in which the only winner is war itself.
But it is millennials who have really crystalized the rules for today's social media battleground. Born directly into a new era of technology, the millennial generation's digital tendencies mean that "marketers and brands need to step up in order to keep up and engage with them."
So the mindshare wars are more like a digital game of strategy as intricate as the popular HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones," where the realm's noble families vie for control. In Brand Relationships Made to Last, I discussed customers using consumption to create and express their identities and how favorite places like social sites are playing an increasingly strategic role in forming brand attachment. Now Facebook is vying to be THE profitable digital destination of choice for consumers and for brands focused on creating a voice to "inspire customers to take action."
While Mark Zuckerberg is no Dr. Strangelove or even Jon Snow, Facebook may well be winning the mindshare wars.
Videos and Mobile Lead the Way
Recognizing what is at stake for consumer mindshare -- especially for millennials -- top brands have focused on content in their marketing and advertising campaigns, and their priority tactic is Facebook. A recent SocialMediaToday article reveals that brands like Coca Cola, McDonalds and Red Bull have all invested heavily in their Facebook pages -- with 94 million fans for Coke, 57 million for McDonalds and 46 million for Red Bull. "A look at their pages shows constant updates, interesting content, and a variety of CTAs [Calls to Action]."
Engagement is strong and on the rise on Facebook, with above analyst expectations of 1.44 billion monthly active users, mobile monthly users up 24 percent year over year, and the critical engagement ratio of daily active users to monthly active users growing to 65 percent. Video views are growing exponentially. Some 4 billion videos are watched on the platform every day, up from 3 billion as recently as January.
As brands work to build their social presence, Facebook in turn is making changes so that brands that publish content to Facebook are increasingly finding they have to pay the social network if they actually want users to see it. Facebook has adjusted its algorithms to decrease the organic or free exposure of brands' posts in users' News Feeds to drive companies to pay for exposure instead. "The strategy appears to be working."
As organic reach declines, paid impressions are rising. Video ads on Facebook are growing ridiculously fast too, with numbers that could worry rival video platforms and TV executives alike. eMarketer projects that Facebook will take 27 percent, the largest share of the US digital display advertising market by 2017, with gains driven by mobile advertising.
A billion-plus use Facebook, but that's not the whole story. Zuckerberg talks a lot about the Facebook family, including 700 million using Groups, 700 million using WhatsApp and 300 million using Instagram every month. The critical millennial demographic is well represented. eMarketer stats show upwards of 59 million millennials on Facebook. The Media Insight Project reveals that
57 percent of US millennials check Facebook at least once a day to get news and information, with 30 percent logging on several times a day and 14 percent doing so nearly constantly. No other social site came close in respondents for this frequency."
Recent Facebook announcements are all about actionable engagement of the Facebook family. There is an embeddable video player à la YouTube and an update to a mobile advertising product called LiveRail that will help publishers monetize native ads that integrate directly into the stream of content. This is a clear strike against Google's DoubleClick platform, the current dominant force in online advertising.
As Facebook vies for the business-to-consumer space, they are also acquiring new businesses such as the Oculus virtual reality headset business purchased for $2 billion last year. Facebook believes the Oculus technology represents the future of interaction.
Spherical videos -- videos that let you move around in a 360-degree view -- will be supported in the News Feed, and of course coming to the Oculus Rift VR headset. Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer explains that the real power of marrying this technology with a sense of presence and the most-used social connection platform is our ability to bring everyone together,
While Google is mucking about trying to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible, Facebook aims to organize the world's people and make them virtually addressable."
In fact, Facebook characterizes 2015 as a "year of investment." They are investing in platforms and apps and building new products that won't necessarily be near-term moneymakers.
Perhaps one of the biggest Facebook moves is an app-building capability that integrates directly into Messenger. Messenger Platform is the new platform that developers can use to build apps that connect with the more than 600 million people who use Messenger every day. Facebook is also introducing Analytics for Apps to provide new tools to help developers understand how people are using their apps.
Facebook says you'll be able to do a lot more than just send messages within the apps -- you can embed media, GIFs, video clips and even track your packages without having to exit the app. David Marcus, notably the former president of PayPal who joined Facebook last summer, introduced some very cool commerce apps at Facebook's F8 2015 conference.
His premise is that e-commerce lost some of the personal experience of buying things in a shop. When you buy something online, you get an email. When it ships you get an email, and so on. Marcus explains that Facebook wants to make it a little more personal:
Now, you can get instant shipping notifications and enhanced receipts in Messenger. Basically, Messenger can show you info every step of the transaction. It's all in one thread, not a bunch of disconnected emails."
Might as Well Face It
Facebook is also paying attention to business requisites like security using a capability called Parse, so app developers don't have to do that themselves for every app they create. And Facebook is looking beyond its core of human interaction to how we interact with the Internet of Things using Parse developer tools that enable sensors. So, for example, a garage door that sends a signal to your phone when it's open or closed.
While all this may still sound a bit lightweight for serious business applications, I think it may well hold the promise of exciting improvements in engagement, commerce, supply chain and communications that could impact even beyond the business to consumer space.
So fair warning to my sister, my high school besties, and all my dog-video-loving friends, it's time I rethink how I use Facebook.
Title image via Wikipedia