What’s Next for Facebook?

All the hype about Facebook joining the stock market has caused a commotion in the financial and tech world. A lot of changes are abound and one can’t help but wonder what is next for Facebook? Will it change your Facebook experience? The simple answer is Yes. Even if you don’t accept it, things are going to change on the world’s most famous social media platform.

Maybe you’ll see more ads, or more mobile apps, or maybe you would feel that you will lose control of your privacy on Facebook. The bottom line is if you’re connected to Facebook in any way at all, then you’re going to be affected by these changes one way or another.

Recent Changes

Facebook was started in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg (and friends) and has since become the largest social media platform used by millions to connect with their family and friends. To get an idea of how big a market we are talking about, Facebook has a total of 901 million monthly active users, of which 488 million (54.16%) active users connect via mobile products. On average, more than 500 million people use Facebook every day. It is available in 70 languages and 80% of their users are outside of the U.S. and Canada.

(Image Source: informationengineer)

From its launch, Facebook has always been improving its technology and platform to attract developers and advertisers. Last year, they released Timeline, a new and improved version of Facebook profile, which shows important events and news from a user’s profile which essentially keeps track of what has happened in a person’s life since they joined Facebook. Recently, Facebook has launched Facebook Camera, a new mobile app for Facebook mobile users, which will improve mobile users’ experience, with a quicker path to upload photos to their Facebook account. This in itself is indicative of Facebook’s determination to improve its user experience and also to preserve user engagement on the site.

A Concentrated focus in Ads

If you haven’t noticed Facebook has improved its app to support new kind of ads, such as new Premium Ads on the right side of the profile, in the news feed itself, when you log out of Facebook and on your mobile news feed. Also, Facebook has updated their ad platform to embed six new ad types directly in the content. This new system will allow advertisers to make a page post or story (as Facebook calls it) which can be a status update, photo, video, link, question or event and then, promote it as an ad.

(Image Source: Scribd)

As Facebook increases the presence of ads on their pages, user experience will definitely be affected. It wasn’t enough to show recommendation ads utilizing our likes and interests (which can be turned off) or even sponsored stories on our news feed and Timeline. There is definitely pressure for Facebook to increase earnings and they’d probably do it through their mobile products (it is still ad-free as of this writing) but more on that later.

Backlash from Interruptive ads

Twitter had started showing sponsored ads in the profile stream some time ago, not much different from what Facebook is doing. The move didn’t sit well with Twitter users, so what will happen with Facebook? This answer still relies on user acceptance and Facebook’s ability to target their sponsored stories at the right audience. In addition, if Facebook can maintain the quality of its advertisers’ sponsored stories, then there is a chance that people will be receptive of and eventually enjoy seeing the ads in their profile and news feeds. Advertisers would also be pushed to be more creative when producing sponsored stories, especially to engage users who aren’t already fans of their brand. On the flip side, there is a possibility that users may respond negatively to these premium ads, particularly if news feeds start becoming more of a stream of sponsored ads rather than real activity feeds from their friends. The integration would play a huge role in determining its outcome.

Branching out

Some sources says that Facebook may start serving ads on third-party websites (like Google Ad Services do), as Erin Egan, Facebook’s head of Privacy Policy said in a web chat, "We’ve always said in the data use policy that we may serve ads off Facebook and we may use that same information to serve you an ad off Facebook," she said. What this means is that with the data that Facebook has about its users – and we are talking about a lot of data here: the interests, the likes, the apps they prefer, the games that they play – they can provide targeted ads based on this vault of information. Similarly they can use this data to deliver ads to you outside of Facebook.

The outcome would be something like this: if you release a status update about liking a particular brand of tablet on Facebook, whenever you surf on other websites you visit (websites that opted for Facebook third-party ads of course), you will see ads that are related to your preferred brand of laptops. And that’s not all, every bit of information you post on Facebook can be used to build a profile of your interests that can be utilized by advertisers via Facebook to serve you with ads that fit your interest profile. Hopefully if that happens, Facebook would think of something innovative to make these ads user-friendly without messing with user privacy.

Developing a mobile site

Over half of its users use Facebook via mobile products. It’s only logical for Facebook to further develop its mobile ad platform to increase potential revenue. The common practice would be to serve ads at the launching of an app at the bottom of the screen. However, there is also the different operating systems to conform to, and then the different screen sizes of smartphones and tablets to adhere to; it is going to be a challenge. Also a problem is the limited room developers have to play with. Do you serve full screen ads or park your ads to one side of the screen? There is a need for an innovative strategy to be put to good use before Facebook penetrates the mobile platform.

It’s also no coincidence that Facebook bought Instagram for a whopping $1 billion then acquired Face.com, a facial recognition technology two months later. Will Facebook come up with a new way for social interaction enabling faster face-tagging for an on-the-go photo-sharing experience? Facebook has changed the face of social media before, what’s to stop it from changing the status quo?

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