By Mark Cameron
In the U.S. Securities and Exchanges letter announcing the Facebook float, Mark Zuckerberg famously (at least in the circles I hang out in) wrote, “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission—to make the world more open and connected.” Billions of dollars, and over a billion account holders later, Facebook is now very much a company, and one that the whole world is watching very closely.
A focus on generating revenues is having an impact on Facebook the company. While Zuckerberg didn’t seem overly concerned with profit before the IPO, pressure from shareholders has shifted the company’s focus. Advertising on the platform has evolved very quickly and there are other revenue generating products being tested all the time.
It could be argued that Facebook may have floated a little too early. As a developer-led organization (the vast majority of Facebook HQ employees are developers), much of what Facebook does is driven by software updates. The Facebook advertising platform has evolved through this method. But the relentlessness of advertising-focused updates has made it difficult for many people, and brands, to keep up.
My view is that Facebook could have done a better job of educating brands about how to best use the social media platform to generate long-term value. The data that brands can now access thanks to Facebook is simply incredible. However, for many marketers, what that data is, how to access it, and why it is so valuable to marketing efforts is simply not clear.
Of course, educating the world’s marketers, many of whom are still coming to grips with all the digital channels at one time, takes time and money. The float of Facebook generated the cash needed to accelerate this process and the world is now beginning to catch up. Much of what I do day-to-day is focused on helping my clients make big leaps in this area.
The question that I just can’t seem to shake is, “why is Facebook not focusing on education more?” Many advertisers are using the platform the same way they might use Google advertising—without realizing that customers are in a very different mindset. While Facebook may be doing a lot to improve the technical aspects of the platform for both users and advertisers, it’s the way advertisers are using the platform that may be part of the reason Facebook appears to be losing account holders.
Facebook’s next big challenge to overcome may have nothing to do with software. It might just be helping the rest of world reframe their relationships with customers—and think like Zuckerberg.
Mark Cameron is CEO and lead strategist of social media conversion and commercialization agency Working Three. While his agency is based in Melbourne, Australia, he works for some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking brands. As a regular speaker and writer on social media and digital strategy, Mark stays focused on customers and outcomes, not the technology, leading to simple strategic conclusions.