So… Last week Facebook changed its name to Meta or, rather Facebook the company did, a bit like Google becoming Alphabet as a company back in 2015 and this has raised so many comments from the industry albeit mostly negative or ridicule.
First of all; the logo – which I actually quite like and there will be so many design and branding agencies with comments on this one that I am not going compete with and discuss here other than to say that I feel like I have seen that same logo a thousand times before and whilst I might like it, I don’t find it particularly exciting.
Then there is the name itself: META which, for someone that was coding search engine software back in the Dot Com era of 1998 onwards it seems so retro and back in those days everything was called “meta-something” or other but maybe that was before Mark Zuckerberg’s time and he simply doesn’t get the irony. Or, maybe that was simply inspired by the fact that he was able to acquire the domain name meta.com. In summary it simply does not excite me and I don’t think that the average user (or investor) will be inspired either.
There is then the word itself and the fact that the word meta generally refers to text but, Facebook is largely about grabbing people’s attention via images i.e. a step up from up from Instragram (also owned by Facebook) and whilst many people read many things via Facebook (myself included), it has become synonymous with fake news and for anyone intending to read up on facts or stories then Facebook would probably be their last starting point had they made that decision in advance.
Granted, so many people press the Facebook app on their phone expecting a quick fix update on their world – friends, families and networks only to drift into something else i.e. a text based story that they had not planned on whether it be a political debate or commenting on a friends events of the night before, but this is not what the user actually wants or would expect if they had any degree of control of the delivery of what is in their feed in advance.
This is where the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen made even more news last week than the rebrand itself highlighting the reasons why Facebook has allowed its algorithms to evolve the way they have and as a by-product it is encouraging those with political viewpoints to become even more polarised whether it be extreme left or extreme right. That is worthy of a more detailed commentary itself but will probably take me down a political rabbit hole which I will avoid for now, but…
As a user and customer of the Facebook app I find myself ever more screaming at the system and particularly around one key feature that being the lack of a FRIENDS ONLY ICON. The whole reason I entered Facebook back in 2005 was to connect with friends and family from all around the world and everything else was a fringe benefit (or annoyance). However, whilst there is a complete lack of a friends only icon within the Facebook not only is there a “groups only” icon but Facebook insists on keeping me within the groups using tactics that range from making the groups icon flash and informing me that I can “get to groups faster” to continuous scrolling through group posts once I am already on a group-related post. This is not what I need or want but it is clearly what Facebook wants and the question is why?
This is then interesting as groups themselves are not directly profitable to Facebook, in fact they are a burden in terms of the manual monitoring that is necessary in many different languages and the source of the majority of its complaints and criticism. In fact in 10+ years of using Facebook groups I cannot recall a single incidence where I purchased something either via a Facebook group or as a direct influence of a recommendation in a Facebook group and if I did at the time it then I probably went off and Google’d the product or service that I had seen recommended in the group so, Facebook did not actually profit from the online purchase I might have made.
As an aside; much of Frances Haugen’s reports to MP’s in parliament last week only confirmed what many in the industry already knew but what was new information and deeply fascinating was the claim that staff and engineers cannot explain the output of some of the algorithms that they are using particularly around bias between men and women despite the fact that they themselves wrote the algorithms in the first place. The answer to that probably lies in the fact that they are using basic AI and whilst they may have written the original algorithms those algorithms are designed to teach and refine themselves as they go along and have then picked up trends and patterns based on gender that have yet to be understood by normal scientific methods.
So… this begs the question as to where Facebook is making all of its money and, boy does it make a lot of money (£6.5bn in the last quarter) but courtesy of Frances Haugen’s reveals last week it is actually quite simple to explain now and that is it is forcing you (the user) to waste time (quite literally) scrolling endlessly through group posts that you are probably not remotely interested in at all in order to see the posts from your friends and family and whilst you do that you see many more ads which are likely not even related to the groups that you have just scrolled by but are highly targeted based on prior actions and quite likely websites that you have visited outside of Facebook. The good news is that the ads do tend to be relevant are not the irritant that they could be, in fact they are often far less irritating than the group posts that you just scrolled by to seek out a friend post.
It is then interesting that whilst Facebook is making lots of money primarily from business advertisers that would not play the game unless it was cost effective, it is generally targeting an ageing audience and does not have the appeal of the younger generation. This is nothing new and it is well known that new users to Facebook have been stagnating for some time but whilst the regular press are describing the Meta rebrand as being a move by Facebook to evolve into the metaverse often without actually being able to describe what the metaverse actually is, a more cynical view might be that Facebook has accepted that Facebook itself will possibly be a defunct business model in another ten years time and maybe they wish to milk it now whilst they can and with those profits then acquire other businesses that are more likely to become part of the metaverse. Again, worthy of another debate at another time.
Back to groups and granted; I am probably an extreme case on two levels given the fact that I work in the industry, I am a member of far too many groups some of which I do not actively participate in but I subscribe to as I am vaguely interested in the topic but also see it as a way of monitoring the workings of Facebook, or I am there for similar reasons on behalf of a client. As a direct result I have to wade through far too much low value group content in order to see posts from friends & family etc. Hence the desperate need for a FRIENDS ONLY ICON but, at the same time as a constant user of the platform for various reasons I have developed the ability to slap myself around the face (metaphorically of course) and tell myself not to get sucked into scrolling any further.
BUT… whilst this is all deeply annoying as a user it is a fantastic opportunity for advertisers in that, if managed carefully (important) Facebook ads can be far more cost effective than Google Adwords with costs of both rising through lockdown due to increasing competition, particularly if you are retargeting traffic that has already visited your website via organic Google SEO and, you know the customer is already in the market for your product or service which can be far more targeted than broadcasting to random people based on simple demographics and locations etc.
SO… if you are a business advertiser and are not playing the Facebook ads game linked to a well structured SEO strategy then get in touch by calling: 01257 368114 , emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or click HERE to fill in our contact form.