As Facebook reaches its 10th anniversary, it’s worth taking a look at recent developments with the social network to try gain insight into what might be in store for both individuals and brands on Facebook in the future.
While Facebook is still the most popular social network for U.S. Internet users, a recent Pew Research report revealed that its popularity is falling among younger demographics. Other social networks, like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have attracted younger users in droves and, as a result, Facebook is constantly trying to adapt. In 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram, which just recently added functionality to send private image photos – much like its competitor Snapchat. And, just two weeks ago, Facebook created “Trending,” a feature reminiscent of Twitter’s popular “Trending Topics.”
Facebook’s attempt to engage younger users directly corresponds to their primary goal: to attract more ad dollars. Thanks to some tweaks to the Facebook algorithm last December, brands will see even less organic reach with their posts – forcing brands to rely more on Facebook ads if they want more fans to see their posts.
A Facebook spokesperson responded to the change by saying: “We're getting to a place where, because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you're a business is to pay for it.” These roadblocks to organically growing an audience may even dissuade some brands from dedicating the time and energy to maintaining a Facebook presence.
For Facebook to stay relevant as it enters its tenth year the role it plays in users’ lives must evolve. This means creating new ways for people to take advantage of the connectivity provided by Facebook. Beyond just making changes to Facebook’s functionality, their latest mobile app, Paper, is the company’s biggest attempt at accomplishing this goal.
Paper provides an entirely new user experience and offers organized news content, such as sports, headlines and pop culture, alongside updates from friends that are typically displayed in the Facebook feed. Facebook launched the iOS version yesterday, and the app is definitely worth checking out in order to gain an understanding of how Facebook wants to change the way content is presented outside the desktop and original app structures.
Paper was developed by the company’s internal division, Facebook Creative Labs, which is responsible for new product development. And, I predict that later this year we will see the release of another new avenue for users to engage with their Facebook community. It could be an entirely new product or something to piggyback off of the success of competitor social networks, like Snapchat’s expiring content feature. This would not be an entirely unexpected move, given Facebook’s history of coopting functionality from social networks, just as they recently did with Twitter’s popular features of trending topics and hashtags.
If Facebook focuses on creating new experiences for users, such as the entirely new approach offered by Paper, the company has a chance to continue shaking up the social media world and remain as relevant on its 20th birthday as it is on its 10th.