2004 – On February 4, bunch of Harvard students launch ‘the facebook’ to help the college community stay in touch. By the end of the year, the platform has 1 million registered users.
2014 – With 1.228 billion monthly active users across the globe, Facebook is the largest social media platform. It surpassed MySpace to attain the number one spot in 2008, and has maintained the feat ever since.
From a social experience to a commercial one
The idea of social media networks was significantly tied to networking amidst communities. However, in the past one decade, social marketing coupled with advertising, has changed that conception to make social media an important platform to reach consumers. With advertising that is affordable and offers better targeting, Facebook has come in as a great boost for small businesses. Over 25 million small business pages as of November 2013 has to mean something.
Google accessed your mails and search history and then showed you ads. Facebook saw what you liked, what your family and friends liked, accessed each and every website you had ‘Signed-in using Facebook’, and then showed you ads. Facebook knew how old you were, where you lived, where you worked – targeting the consumer and identifying him/her had become easy. Advertisers gave Facebook a budget, and were able to choose the best methodology to run your campaign. Posts were promoted and the personal experience was demoted.
From a private to a public entity
Initially a privately owned company, Facebook debuted its Initial public offering (IPO) under the symbol .FB on 18th May, 2012. The opening stock price was $38. Off to a rocky start, within 20 days it had fallen to $25.869. Almost two years since the announcement, the stock price rests at around 60.
An expanding portfolioIs Facebook just a social media platform? Think of Facebook Home (yes the smartphone launcher app that flopped) and the newly released news reading app – Paper. Despite being largely a social media platform, there is a large foray of new integrated services that are constantly being added.
A constantly changing space
The only thing that has been constant to Facebook has been change. Within 10 years, the Facebook Profile and the Newsfeed have been interesting subjects for analysing the same. When the timeline came in 2011, many of us cribbed. But along with the visual change, another change was that of the lingo. The term ‘wall’ had become a part and parcel of our conversations already, ‘timeline’ just didn’t fit in the scenario. Facebook introduced the ‘cover’ and several SM platforms including Google+ and Twitter followed. Amidst it all, a constant branding was taking place. Ever since the introduction of the Like button in 2009, the meaning of the word like has went on to have multiple dimensions. No one realised that soon likeness might become a money making phenomenon.
Integrating third-party services
With Facebook’s Graph API and Open Graph, we learnt to integrate third party services with Facebook as well. You were rating a book on Goodreads or upvoting an answer on Quora and sharing the activity on Facebook. The social experience became more integrated.
In times where entering login details had also become a hassle, ‘Login through Facebook’ became another major hit. According to a study by Janrain, Facebook led the social media sign-in with 45% of users logging in on portals through Facebook (as of Q3 2013).
In 10 years of brand building, competition is always a tough nut to crack. It isn’t that there was no competition. MySpace was big in the United States, while India was dominated by hi5 and Orkut. However, Facebook rose up from that competition and emerged as a winner. When it surpassed MySpace’s spot in 2008, not only did it attain the title of the biggest social media network, it also became the fastest growing one. Brand building had led to brand dominance.
Back to 2014, the Indian Internet user is witnessing a slew of emerging social media platforms. You have LinkedIn and Twitter that are trending in conversations and there are platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram that are growing in terms of popularity.
Facebook is often seen adopting a two step strategy in battling such competition – either you buy them or you add a similar feature (in a better fashion). Instagram was acquired. Foursquare and Twitter were aped. The Foursquare inspired check-in became a hit. In terms of Twitter, hashtags were brought on Facebook in 2013, with trending topics following recently.
The way ahead?
As for majority part of Internet, even with Facebook, Mobile is the future. Even at present, Mark Zuckerburg labels Facebook as a mobile company. Of the 1.228 billion total users, 940 million monthly active users use Facebook mobile products. We are leading into the domain of mobile applications with Paper, Messenger, Instagram and Home. It is involving people in everyday mobile usage such as apps and initiating actions. The company has also been reported to be testing the Graph search on mobile. And most importantly, mobile advertising happens to be a different category altogether.
Signing off with the message from the man whose product changed social lives, marketing and the Internet to some extent: