So much has changed in the technology landscape over the last decade. Smartphones have continued to advance, new categories of devices have popped up and new social media platforms have come along for the ride. Facebook wasn’t the first social media network, but it was perhaps the first one to have a huge cultural impact in the post smartphone era. Let’s take a brief look at the state of play for Facebook in 2020.
In 2010, Facebook reported 500 million active users, half of which spent at least 30 minutes a day on the platform. In 2020 Facebook reports 2.45 billion monthly active users across all of its platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Clearly this makes for a difficult compare as Facebook did not own Instagram or WhatsApp in 2010. More on that later. None the less, it is hard to deny that Facebook as a company continues to dominate the social media landscape, even if a large portion of users spend more time on Instagram and WhatsApp than facebook.com.
Over 80 million small businesses globally use a Facebook page. It provides an opportunity to provide a description of your companies products and services, contact information and more. Using Facebook’s significant ad network, it makes it simple to target advertisements to users with relevant interests. The size of Facebook across all of its platforms makes it a dream for marketing purposes. Facebook in this sense, is perhaps the biggest rival of search giant Google.
It may come as a surprise (it did to me when researching this article!) but Facebook remains the platform of choice for young adults. 65% of Facebook’s users are under the age of 35. In other words Millennials and Generation Z continue to use Facebook to interact with others in their age bracket. Many other platform such as TikTok and Snapchat have gained in popularity in recent years and yet Facebook maintains its dominance with younger audiences.
Mobile is King
96% of active Facebook users on average, access the site and its other components such as Instagram via mobile. Only 4% of active users tend to access the site on desktop. As a result of this shift to mobile in the last decade, Facebook consistently ranks as one of the most downloaded apps across Google Play and the App Store. Clearly this highlights the important for anybody wishing to do business through Facebook to create content designed specifically for mobile platforms.
Facebook has come under fire in recent years for failures to protect user data. The Cambridge Analytica scandal in March of 2018 continues to hurt the companies image even to this day. In spite of this, Facebook has and continues to take steps to address this. They have made it simpler and easier for users to understand how and when their data is being used, who they share it with and what companies have access to it. Users can easily pull third party apps abilities to access their data.
As recently as last week Mark Zuckerberg committed to double down on end to end encryption across Messenger and WhatsApp for user messages. I suspect Facebook will continue to face challenges to shake off its poor reputation on privacy but it is good to see that finally they are listening and learning.
Facebook made smart acquisitions in the 2010s such as Instagram and WhatsApp. These products helped it weather the storm of the privacy scandal in the last couple of years. Recently users have noticed that Instagram and WhatsApp display launch screens stating ‘WhatsApp/Instagram by Facebook’. This was enforced by regulators to make it clearer to users that these are Facebook owned products. Users have reported mixed feelings on the matter and perhaps that is the point. Regulators want to enable people to make their own choices in regards to wether or not to use a platform. This is particularly in light of the privacy concerns post 2018.
WhatsApp is the messaging app of choice for cross platform with its biggest competitor by far being Apple’s built in iMessage app on iOS. Most iOS users will likely use WhatsApp in addition to iMessage for the sake of their ‘green bubble friends’ on Android.
Instagram is a huge social network in its own right. People love visual content that is quick and easy to consume. Most people don’t care about the status update telling us what you ate for dinner but they might be interested in seeing a quick snippet of mundane bits of your day on Instagram stories. Instagram has continued to evolve since its acquisition by Facebook. It is likely to overtake ‘Facebook’ as a stand alone product in 2020 to become the dominant core product in the Facebook portfolio.
Another notable acquisition by Facebook is Oculus. Known for their rift virtual reality headsets, under Facebook Oculus has expanded their product range to cater to a wider audience. Products like the Oculus Quest enable VR experiences to every day folks without the need for big expensive PC’s with huge GPU’s. With its resources, Facebook has enabled Oculus to innovate and spend more time (and money) on research and development of new products. Oculus was a surprising acquisition for a social media giant but it has proved to be a great match, if only for Oculus as of now.
If Facebook is to continue its dominance into the end of this new decade, it’ll need to do a few key things.
- Double down on privacy and make it easier and simpler for users to keep on top of how much they share.
- Maintain trust by being transparent when things do go wrong and address them openly and without being defensive.
- Keep spam and inappropriate ads off its various platforms and lock down its policy on political advertising.
- Make the core Facebook app cleaner, more streamlined and innovate with better and more enjoyable ways for people to share the kinds of stuff that we actually care about.
- Keep investing in Instagram and WhatsApp who thus far have largely escaped the negative press that the core Facebook product has received in recent years.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but if one thing is certain, users are only loyal to a platform for as long as that platform keeps innovating and moving forward. Vine….MySpace…Bebo…all relics of a bygone era because they failed or were too slow to push their respective platforms forward in meaningful ways. Facebook, take note.
(Oh and full disclosure, I quit Facebook 8 months ago and have never looked back 😎)