Mark Zuckerberg had a lot to prove going into the F8 Facebook Developer Conference this year. It’s fair to say that Facebook has had a few reputational challenges – not just among marketers, but now with its own users, too. I, of course, am both.
As a content creator, it’s frustrating to see your hard work swallowed whole by Facebook’s fickle, money-hungry algorithm. As a human with a moral compass, it’s been gutting to watch Facebook rip off original, creative features time and again, ushering in an era of identikit social networks. As a young person, it’s terrifying that Facebook’s failure to tackle fake news has almost definitely contributed to the upcoming apocalypse. I’m exaggerating. I hope.
So, you can see why my recent epiphany has come as a surprise. It dawned on me while feverishly reading F8 round-ups like any self-respecting digital agency content strategist and it goes like this: Facebook is our only hope. (And when I say Facebook, I also mean Instagram et al – the whole shebang.) Big statement, I know, but hear me out…
It’s no secret that Facebook hasn’t been cool for at least five years, perhaps ever. And it’s easy to be cynical about mystic visions from its secretive innovation lab “Building 8”, when there are murders being streamed on Facebook Live.
But at F8, Facebook finally gave me some updates to feel excited about – ones I expect to use at Zone really soon. The Camera Effects Platform, in particular the super easy-to-use Frame Studio (viral profile frames, anyone?). The addition of handy plugins and a Discovery section for Messenger bots (finally!). Facebook is doing bigger, better things, quicker than any other social platform.
Facebook is also leading the way with formats that work for all budgets and brands, not just BuzzFeed and Burberry. It has slowly become the only platform I can recommend in good faith, given your average social content brief, even with throttled organic reach. Others are arguably much stronger when paired with the right strategy, but Facebook is the default for a reason. It democratised marketing and made it accessible to everyone. My mum just learnt how to do Facebook ads. My mum!
Elsewhere, Evan Spiegel is hellbent on doing things his own way – Instagram Stories be damned. Right now, it seems like Snapchat doesn’t care if it works for marketers or not. Unlike most of my colleagues, I’m keeping the faith. My theory is that Snapchat doesn’t really want to be clogged up with brands, nor vague acquaintances you regret following. It has deliberately made that hard and expensive, because it would turn off their loyal users. Snapchat wants to be TV for the next generation, except with ads you can put your face in.
As for Twitter? The struggle is still real. Although, perhaps, with unexpectedly positive results and a new partnership with Bloomberg to live-stream 24-hour news (among other publishers), its coming-of-age story is nearing a satisfying conclusion. It has already started to embrace its limitations – Twitter is the best place to follow what’s happening in the world, not a money-printing ad factory. That's a pretty great thing, you guys! Now it just needs to convince its investors too.
Truth is, in the near future, Facebook won’t be competing with Twitter and Snapchat. With his 10-year vision at F8, Zuckerberg is attempting to get a seat at the table with Apple, Google, Amazon and whatever Elon Musk’s next project is. But Facebook is uniquely placed to succeed in being the social network of the future. It has the money. It has the vision. It kind of has the tech. But crucially, it already has the users – and their friends, and friends of their friends.
There’s still a way to go. Inflated metrics? 0/10. Sitting idly by while world politics goes up in flames? Well, considering his rumoured presidential ambitions, I have a feeling the Zuck is on the case with that one… And I, for one, welcome our new social overlord.