In 2014 Facebook celebrates its tenth birthday so in this article we explore possible Facebook Plans. During its first decade of operation, Facebook has gained over one billion users globally, hosted a presidential town hall, and was the central topic of a film, in addition to connecting users to one another across the world. The global brand recognition which Facebook has received during this time is one of the most prominent, second only to Google and Apple. 2014 is likely to be yet another year for the social media mammoth to gain more users, data and increase the company’s revenues.
However, 2014 looks set to serve as a reminder of how far Facebook has come over its first decade of operation and how quickly the technological world evolves. During 2014 it is likely that Facebook will be posed questions about the platforms functionality within the very social media industry it had a large part in creating. That is not to say that it is likely that Facebook will disappear anytime soon. Quite the opposite. All indicators show that it is likely 2014 will be another year of steady growth for the social media platform, in terms of increased user metrics and revenue. The questions which Facebook are likely to face in 2014 are likely to be about the future identity of the platform. An identity which has been increasingly lost during the roll-out of new features and advertising options which have been responsible for the platforms increased revenues during the last few years.
Facebook Plans: The creation of better algorithms
Facebook’s strongest asset is also the platforms biggest weakness, it has everything. Facebook provides users with a search engine, an online dating profile, a photo album and a news source all on one site. In addition, for many of the platform’s longest users it is a constant school reunion, providing an endless stream of updates and photos from college acquaintances and high school friends.
However, the problem with all of this accumulated information is that due to the sheer volume it is hard to keep this information straight. Due to this a number of social media platforms are emerging, such as Twitter, Snapchat or WhatsApp, which are filling specific niches, such as photo sharing or status posting, these are areas in which Facebook used to have the monopoly. During 2013 Facebook made numerous changes to its News Feed algorithm, in an attempt to provide its users with a greater amount of “high quality” content. As part of this process, the platform has worked laboriously in order to attempt to identify which friend’s users wish to hear from. Now this process has been taken further as the platform attempts to work out which user’s interests and news items they want to see as well.
As part of this process, Facebook encourages users to interact with ads which they come across. This is part of an attempt by the platform to understand which advertising works and also what content people want to see to help Facebook Plans. The task of understanding the preferences of one billion users is by no means an easy task, however it is a task which Facebook plans to realise in 2014.
During early December 2013 Facebook Plans were announced to further grow and develop its artificial intelligence research team. This move is a clear sign that Facebook plans to continue perfecting the algorithms which are used to surface and share content on the social media platform.
Nate Elliot, who is a principle analysis at Forrester Research, spoke about Facebook’s accumulated data in an interview with Mashable. He said “Facebook is sitting on possibly the greatest cache of user data ever compiled. Certainly they know more about users’ affinities- their tastes and preferences- than anyone ever has. If they stopped dancing around (the data) and started using it, it would be incredibly powerful.” A large amount of utilising this data is centred on Facebook’s graph Search. The Facebook Graph Search is the platform’s Google like internal search engine which allows users to find more specific data than is made available by their specific network of friends. To demonstrate a Graph Search can be used to provide users with a list of local restaurants. In an ideal world Facebook would be able to provide users with a similar list whereby the recommendations are provided by a user’s friends. This would be far more powerful as friends are essentially the people who a user most trusts and is most likely to have shared interests with.
As a tool, Graph Search is still in its infancy. Facebook only announced the feature in January 2013 and it was only made available to all U.S. users during August. During 2014 it is highly likely that Facebook will bring its graph Search feature to mobile applications. This move will ultimately test the functionality of the feature as users make use of it on the go, similarly to how Google is currently used.
Facebook Plans: Provide users with more relevant ads
Attempts to perfect the Facebook Graph Search feature is but one trick up their sleeve for 2014. The other main goal of the platform is to improve their ads service.
Ultimately, the success or failure of this measure will determine the platform’s relationship with its users.
It has been consistently found that one of the largest frustrations users have with the platform is being exposed to ads which do not appeal to their personal interests or personality. Simply put, users will find these ads are intrusive in the user’s news feed and reflect negatively on Facebook.
There are currently over one million advertisers active on Facebook, however over 25 million small companies have active company pages. This means a huge amount of potential ads clients for Facebook and it looks like the platform will continue to pursue them meaning that the number of ads on the platform will increase. With the addition of Facebook’s auto-play videos in December 2013 it is likely that the platforms revenue from ads will greatly increase. This is because it is likely that the pressure from advertisers to get ads in front of a relevant target audience will also increase during 2014.
Facebook is rolling out the auto-play video ads much slower than previous ad features and to a much smaller number of users. Once the ads have been unveiled to all users, which will presumably occur at some point of 2014, it will be clear how effective the ad algorithms are. Users are easily able to scroll past a News Feed ad, however an auto-play video is much harder to ignore. If Facebook fails to cater these ads to the user’s preferences, the backlash will be extremely negative for Facebook. It will be interesting to see the Facebook Plans rolled out.