News analysis: Facebook celebrates 10 year anniversary

4 February 2014

The tenth anniversary of Facebook is today, with the social media network sending out hundreds of millions of its global users a notice that a ‘Look Back’ video summary of their life, containing 15 of their most ‘liked’ pictures or updates is supposedly available for download. But some users in the UK, Canada, Romania and elsewhere have been reporting 404 errors for their personalised tenth anniversary service which is supposed to be a fun way of memorialising users' digital lives. A generic 10th anniversary video is, however, available on the Facebook homepage today.  

Facebook has previously released ‘year in review’ video compilations. This latest tenth anniversary marketing missive is no doubt intended as a fun way to mark its decade-old birthday celebrations today, but the unfortunate reports of 404 errors on social and traditional media today have perhaps 'blown out the candles on the cake' a little bit. Regardless, the momentuous day provides an opportunity to 'Look Back' upon its corproate life so far.  

The social network was famously created by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dormitory room ten years ago today and its birthday presents an opportunity to review its progress so far. It now has 1.23bn active users worldwide and, according to figures released last week, saw its revenues increase by 55% to $7.87bn in 2013 with profits growing sevenfold to an annualised total of £1.5bn.

News Analysis: Facebook’s First Decade and Future Prospects  
Facebook had its controversial and highly priced initial public offering (IPO) in 2012 and only recovered its $38 IPO price last summer. The growth it is enjoying now is largely stemming from what was formerly seen as a weakness - its lack of mobile apps and mobility - which has since been addressed, with the mobile channel now bringing in £2.34bn in revenue. 

Social media rival Twitter had its own IPO last Autumn and the debate surrounding both platforms amongst investors is now about how to retain users while still ‘monetising’ it without creating alienation. The fear is that younger users may continue to migrate to WhatsApp, Snapchat, which Facebook unsuccessfully bid for recently, and other such innovative messaging or social media platforms presenting a generational challenge to continued growth. Conversely, much of the online and mobile ad revenue generated by Facebook is most likely targeted at richer older users who are increasingly using the site. 

It will be interesting to see if Facebook becomes a cautionary tale like MySpace or other failed social networks that lost their users and revenues or goes on to experience continued growth in the next decade. A recent survey unveiled by Princeton University researchers’ compared it to a disease and warned that it will blow itself out, but that could be contradicted if it continues to launch new functions. Facebook could go from strength to strength over the next decade and only time will tell. If we are still talking about it come 2024 then the tech world will have its answer.  

Reaction & What Businesses Can Learn  
According to Richard Acreman, chief executive officer (CEO) of technology services company WM360, as we celebrate the social giant’s tenth birthday, there are aspects of Facebook’s product that businesses can look to replicate in the workplace.

“One of the key reasons behind Facebook’s popularity with consumers is the high level of investment - and critical analysis - in its user interface, creating an engaging, positive journey for the user from start to finish and allowing navigation between activities to be simple, intuitive and enjoyable. Unfortunately, ‘positive journey’ does not describe the user experience of many internal company systems which tend to be designed for usability and functionality but often fall flat on both counts. Simple tools like instant messenger (IM), to supplement emails, or a central news feed that allows employees to flag relevant developments to their whole team at the click of a button, can go a long way towards improving functionality and business user experience simultaneously.

Internal business systems should be designed to increase employee engagement and productivity, but the biggest challenge facing new systems tends to be adoption - the very problem Facebook has been so adept at solving,” continues Acreman in his plea to learn business lessons from Zuckerberg’s ‘tweenager’ site.

Up until now many internal system developers have continued down the same traditional build-out, test and rollout approach to new launches, but this doesn’t take account of the development lessons that can be learned from social media firms. Facebook and its ilk aren’t just marketing tools for financial services (FS) firms are others to link to; they can also be used as a template to improve service to internal or external end users - just look at the numerous social trading platform examples now available as an illustration of this trend.

The ‘consumerisation of IT’ trend really can be brought to bear on internal IT systems and contribute towards better solutions in the future. It is worth keeping an eye on ‘friend-face’ as the excellent Channel4 TV series ‘The IT Crowd’ calls it, to see where it goes in the future and what business and customer lessons can be learnt.  

 

 

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