How Facebook was able to innovate social communication
Communities have always been the driving force for our growth. Being the lone wolf is quite helpful, but there’s a reason why “collaboration” always takes priority over individual talent. As a team, group, or community, we are able to achieve more because of law of numbers. Ultimately, this is what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s team understood over a decade ago. When I first stumbled across Facebook.com in 2007 (Facebook wasn’t so popular in Canada in its early years), I think the first thing I told myself was “What’s wrong with MySpace?” As the years went on, I think it was clear why Facebook became a giant in the technology industry, and ultimately put “social media” as a contender in the technology industry among other fields.
Today, Facebook Inc. no longer operates only on Facebook.com. The company owns several other products, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, Oculus, and Calibra (although not officially released yet). They’re definitely expanding into several areas, such as payments and e-commerce. However, let’s try to understand what makes this company so influential in the space of communication.
According to Facebook’s latest statistics, 1.66B of Facebook’s users are daily active users (DAU), up 9% Year-over-Year. In terms of monthly active users (MAU), that number skyrockets to 2.50B, up 8% Year-over-Year. In terms of of DAU between Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, the number is 2.26B, up 11% Year-over-Year . On top of the latter, MAU for all latter applications accounts for 2.89B, up 9% Year-over-Year. (Facebook Q4 2019 Earnings)
Clearly from the above statistics, this company yields a big chunk of the market share. In theory, there isn’t much other companies can do to defeat a social media giant in its own game. The most you can really do is innovate a specific aspect of communication, and hope for the best. Indeed, Snapchat did exactly the latter. Up until Snapchat’s arrival in 2011, communication was mostly done through texts and images. However, Snapchat promoted a form of communication that prioritized video clips instead of images. Well, Instagram released the “Stories” feature in the summer of 2016. A new growth cycle for the Facebook-owned application occurred, among other factors involved of course.
In a world where powerful smartphones are in our pockets, and Internet is available in many social environments, it is inevitable that communication is done through software.
But how exactly was Facebook able to innovate the way we interact with each other on the Internet? There are a few factors I believe that Facebook has mastered over the years.
I strongly believe any company attempting to break into the social communication industry has to be able to convince many users why their software is better than any other alternative. I think this alone could be diverged into several blog posts, but let’s focus on the macro level for now.
This includes the ability to attract diversity into the platform. This includes, but not limited to, the different culture, ethnicity, age, gender, wealth class, and etc.
That’s right. Just like how Apple is venturing into the movies & entertainment business in the past year, the concept remains the same in social communication. In 2020, long gone the times where people would log into different software applications and websites, and perform specific tasks. It’s about creating an ecosystem, in which the customer (user) is more likely to remain on the platform.
For example, Instagram released their newly e-commerce tools for entrepreneurs in 2019. Selling on Instagram was already a thing long before the introduction of official tools to assist e-commerce business, and Facebook recognized the importance of creating this “ecosystem”. (Balkhi, 2019)
Innovation & Technology
In this upcoming decade, long gone the times where you could milk out cash from customers for years until you finally innovate. Technology is moving fast. Companies are required to innovate and integrate new technologies to their products and services. Think of how Facebook tackled Snapchat’s innovation in 2016.
Another move Facebook did recently was introduce “Facebook Dating” to their platform. Although dating on Facebook.com was practiced long before this latest release, it’s the same concept with the e-commerce introduction on Instagram — the company is officially providing tools and features to allow users to “Find love through what you like” (Facebook, 2020)
I think this may be the “newest” factor of all others. In 2018 when the company was exposed for exposing sensible data for many users of their platform, communities around the world called for leaders around the world to demonstrate “leadership” regarding their privacy.
I think this is what Facebook has been working on this past year. It’s inevitable for regulations and policies to be implemented on social media giants. They have the ability to extract sensible data on every single user on the platform, and companies would pay “billions” for this data. Your data is your commodity, and companies like Facebook know this. However, where do we draw the line on this?
The ability to be accountable and responsible for your invention, is not an easy task. It requires you to re-visit some of your creations, and tweak them to fit social needs and demands.
I hope this post has clarified how Facebook was able to develop software that took popularity and is now “part” of our lives. Furthermore, their adventure into the virtual reality world has impressed the world. Their Oculus product is ahead of any other competitor. Would they be the first to crack the “new form” of communication, which lies within the virtual world?