The progress of Facebook stems down to how much is Facebook actually worth? This is in fact a number that is very hard to quantify, thanks to the relative age of Facebook and the evolution of its product, what its worth today may be vastly different from tomorrow. 2 years ago in 2012 Facebook made no revenue from mobile advertising, yet in 2013 mobile advertising was launched and Facebook now accounts for 18.4% of global mobile advert spending. Facebook’s revenue from ads reportedly went up an unprecedented 76% from previous years, accounting for a large part of the reported $523 million profits. The question now is why is this happening, and will it be a problem for the user?
Facebook has gone mobile with Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerburg reporting a total of 757million users, ¾ of which access Facebook though a mobile device, thus changing the dynamic of Facebook and how the users are interacting. It is this change that is allowing Facebook to increase profits and exploit the user, though I belief the increased use of the news feed. The news feed shows a constant stream of statuses, posts, pictures and videos from friends and family (our ‘friends’). However, sponsored links and paid ads now slip into this feed seamlessly, integrating themselves with our interests meaning that the news feed no longer contains only posts from people I naturally will interact with. This however, is not the problem with Facebook, as annoying as these ads are, they do not vastly change the experience and often go unnoticed by any users; the problem with Facebook I feel is the nature by which these posts are sorted and the method through which Facebook is now sculpting our news feeds to maximize profits.
The problem with Facebook is in essence it is keeping things from you, i.e. we don’t see most of what our friends post or the pages we follow. When I post, it will only be seen by a small number of people, if they actively engage with it, like or comment, it will be spread to more of my friends. This means the news feed will slowly progress to only being full of things I like, or agree with. A report by Veratisum shows that the most likely things to fill a newsfeed are weddings and babies, posts that people feel obliged to like or comment. Now it is not the fact there is a filtering process that is the problem, on average there are around 4,750,000,000 posts shared on Facebook everyday, and if you were to log in once per day, you could be exposed to around 1500 posts. The problem is Facebook is using the filtering to make money.
In a recent 3 page document to marketers Facebook has taken a much more blunt stance on paying for reach, announcing that ‘We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site’. Organic reach is said to be declining due to the vast increases in the amount of content shared by users, and marketers are being told to pay, in order to ‘maximize delivery of their [your] message’. Now I don’t want to sound naturally bias against Facebook and I must also explain that it appears Facebook is trying to be fair, as it wants to value markets and users equally, meaning that marketers don’t get priority in a given news feed, if they don’t deserve to be there. Facebooks current solution is to make marketers more social viable, In the document marketers were told to re-think the purpose of their fan bases, where in previous years a large fan bases was a great way to distribute free content. Now a fan base is seen as a tool to increase effectiveness through ads with social content, a large fan bases in 2014 will make it cheaper to advertise your content, due to it having ‘social context’. Facebook is trying to keep the news feed user based.