What Facebook’s view of their future means for you (Hint: More time spent on it)

Facebook just concluded F8, their annual technology conference where they announce new products, technology roadmap, and vision for the future.

Here is our interpretation of what some of the announcements means for you:

Facebook is evolving from a social network to a content network. You first joined Facebook because you wanted to stay connected with friends, families and acquaintances, to share moments. Social sharing was the original motivation for billions like you to join Facebook, but motivations change over time, impacted by changing user habits, competing services such as Messaging, and competing networks such as Snapchat and Vine. Social sharing, especially among longtime users, is decreasing, while third-party published content is rapidly rising. Sponsored content (aka advertising) is relentlessly rising, which means a need for non-advertising content to balance, or users will bolt.

What does Facebook’s revenue rely on? Your continued engagement within their platform, so they must find new ways of keeping you there. That means offering more content you want to read/watch/hear. Enter the Content Network.

New products such as Live video, VR/AR, and Instant Articles, are all designed to keep you inside Facebook. With Facebook Live, you can now broadcast a live video stream from your mobile, with viewers commenting in real-time. Facebook is also opening up its API to third-party developers, creating a funnel that links you back to, what else, Facebook. VR/AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality) are emerging technologies that Facebook believes will radically transform the way you experience their network in the future. (At Daylight we agree, which is why we created our Immersive Storytelling team.) Widespread prevalence of VR still requires a year or two due to hardware limitations (clunky headsets and motion sickness after prolonged use, for example) but these will be solved, there is no question. Once the technology matures, we believe Facebook will be one of the largest platforms for virtual shared experiences, from large arenas such as concerts and conferences to intimate one-on-one interactions. To make it easier for content creators, Facebook has also unveiled an open source 360 VR camera.

Messaging is the Next Big Thing.  Mark Zuckerberg, smart cookie that he is, saw the writing on the wall, and invested massively in Messaging (WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), seeing it as an emerging connected ecosystem that could complement and perhaps supplant Facebook one day. Don’t see this potential? Just look at what WeChat has built, and could potentially be capable of. On WeChat you can already shop, get customer service, consume brand content, and yes, communicate with contacts, among many other things.

The introduction of Bot Engine for Facebook Messaging is an attempt to take messaging to another level, to enhance your experience using such ecosystems. Developers can now create bots that let you interact conversationally with companies, to shop (“Show me the latest tote bag from Coach”), get customer service (“I ordered a tote bag last week but I haven’t received it”), and look up information (“Where is the nearest Coach store?”)  No doubt more uses will emerge over the coming months.

Pseudo-AI assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa have proven chat AI technology is rapidly maturing. Facebook wants you to get used to interacting with companies by talking to Facebook Messenger. People will type less, and talk to their devices more.

What of the Facebook future, and how can marketers take advantage of it?

  • Re-engineer marketing campaigns and customer service for chat messaging. Start planning IT infrastructure changes that allow systems to hook up to chat software and hardware. Design campaigns that feature a chatbot in innovative ways.
  • Missed the YouTube boat as a KOL? Now’s your chance. Brand ambassadors and KOLs must understand live video inside and out and explore the possibilities. Livestreaming events and moments is just the beginning. How about a live reality show for 15 minutes every day? Innovation and Creativity is key.
  • Learn to tell stories in VR, understand the radical changes in planning shoots, from script-writing to storyboarding to post-production, and hone your craft. The technology is still maturing, so you’re right at the start of the curve.