July 25, 2019Published by: Charlie Sharpe

Doubling down: Facebook reveals its latest numbers and plans for the future

Last night, Facebook released its latest community update and quarterly results, and in his now signature style, Mark Zuckerberg published a monster post detailing the key points and his plan for the network over the coming years and months. 

For a start, the numbers are impressive. 2.7 billion people around the world now use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or messenger each month, with 2.1 billion using at least one each day. 

But as he moved onto the company priorities, Zuckerberg returned to the four points he set out earlier in the year, which were “making progress on the major social issues, building qualitatively new experiences, building our business, and communicating what we stand for more transparently”

It’s evident, not only from the post but from the wide range of new features Facebook has announced in recent months, that the company is focusing heavily on the “social issues” in particular. Privacy, political elections and harmful content to name a few. 

Just yesterday, the platform announced updates to the news feed algorithm, and a new fact checking features for images, although it is important to note that there are some changes beyond their control. On Wednesday the FTC handed down a $5bn fine and ruled that Facebook will be required to set up an independent board on privacy

Zuckerberg’s update also demonstrated why messaging is going to be a major big focus. He revealed that the Messenger app is being rebuilt from scratch, introducing end-to-end encryption. New tools are in the works, such as product catalogs that entrepreneurs around the world can use, for free. WhatsApp is set for a range of new features to help small businesses operate on the app easily, and with minimal costs. 

It seems private messaging is set to be the centre for Facebook’s grand plan for social media. Doubling down on video, ephemeral content such as Stories, and collaborative experiences, Zuckerberg made it clear that he sees social media becoming a more personal and private affair - something we touched on in our presentation at Social Media Week back in November. 

Unsurprisingly, commerce is the third major component in Zuckerberg’s strategy. With a variety of services and products, ranging from the new Libra project, to Instagram Shopping and Facebook Marketplace, Facebook again seems set to shift how social media works. 

The announcement went as far as to suggest that users will have central shopping accounts that can be used for businesses on WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. The aim will be to make sending money as easy as sending a photo, which would be a huge shift in the way we buy and sell online. 

Will this “all-in” approach to privacy and retail work? It’s hard to tell, but it remains clear that Facebook is a fast-evolving, agile entity. As The Washington Post noted, the company is completely reversing its overall strategy; shifting from a platform focused on maximising engagement and clicks, to a private platform determined to halt the spread of harmful content. 

It’s an interesting outlook and with its influence and the amount of users still on the platform, it’s one that could dictate a shift in how social media works as a whole. We’ve seen it already with the rapidly rising popularity of WhatsApp and Messenger, over the more public Facebook and Instagram - and how brands move to capitalise on that shift will be key.

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