Mark Zuckerberg wrote a long note on his Facebook Page titled “A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking.” This post couldn’t stay unnoticed by brands, marketers and even social media users who are interested in the future of social media. It actually contained several interesting points on how Facebook’s CEO sees social media evolving in the future.
And if the CEO of a social media platform with 2.32 billion monthly active users predicts a shift of focus in social media marketing then we simply cannot ignore it.
Here are the key points from his note and what we can learn from these.
Private messages will shape the future of communication
Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges that Facebook was built all these years in the foundation of creating a global community of people with similar connections and interests. Once they succeeded in bringing us all in one platform (or a network of platforms that belong to Facebook), they started noticing a growing trend. People are not always keen on sharing public messages with all their networks. Private communication is becoming more important and it takes place between a small number of people.
As he is mentioning:
“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever.”
Thus, their goal is to “build a platform that focuses on all of the ways people want to interact privately”
The current success of WhatsApp lies in the fact that people can interact with each other in a private and secure way. Even with group interactions, there is still a limit in the number of people that you can involve. As private messaging becomes more important, Facebook and Zuckerberg want to ensure that both Messenger and WhatsApp will remain the main ways of private communication. The goal is to keep the apps fast, simple, private, and secure, including end-to-end encryption.
They are even looking for ways to improve the private interactions among friends, groups, and businesses.
What do these mean for marketers? As we are thinking of the future of our social media marketing strategy, we need to consider the changing trend of private communication. The public face of social media will still exist but there are also group communities that go beyond a public social Page. Brands need to understand the best ways they can reach their target audience by going where they are in the most relevant and less intrusive way.
The importance and the challenges of encryption
Facebook has been on the spotlight lately for many privacy misuses. Mark Zuckerberg is finally acknowledging that it’s important to “find the right ways to protect both privacy and safety” and they are working towards applying end-to-end encryption for all private communications.
As he is adding:
“End-to-end encryption is an important tool in developing a privacy-focused social network. Encryption is decentralizing — it limits services like ours from seeing the content flowing through them and makes it much harder for anyone else to access your information. This is why encryption is an increasingly important part of our online lives, from banking to healthcare services.”
What’s interesting is that he is also admitting that end-to-end encryption can also lead to misuse and there is a big responsibility from their side to prevent such cases as much as possible. This is a big step towards improving their brand and the negative PR that they’ve received over the last couple of years with fake news and how stories are spread.
Should we rest assured that things will be better with privacy and safety? We cannot tell yet but it’s still reassuring to see this message.
Ephemeral Stories will still be important
Another growing trend in social media is the rise of ephemeral Stories. Snapchat introduced us to vertical and ephemeral content but Instagram Stories made sure that we keep using this new type of content.
Facebook jumped into the trend and introduced their own Facebook Stories and Zuckerberg is now admitting that people don’t always want to see their content saves on their social profiles forever. This could even be an interesting trend for their plans around private messaging.
According to Zuckerberg,
“One challenge in building social tools is the “permanence problem”. As we build up large collections of messages and photos over time, they can become a liability as well as an asset.
I believe there’s an opportunity to set a new standard for private communication platforms — where content automatically expires or is archived over time. Stories already expire after 24 hours unless you archive them, and that gives people the comfort to share more naturally. This philosophy could be extended to all private content.
For example, messages could be deleted after a month or a year by default. This would reduce the risk of your messages resurfacing and embarrassing you later. Of course, you’d have the ability to change the timeframe or turn off auto-deletion for your threads if you wanted. And we could also provide an option for you to set individual messages to expire after a few seconds or minutes if you wanted.”
What these mean from a marketer’s perspective is that we need to start experimenting more with ephemeral content and interactive experiences that don’t necessarily last long. We don’t need to be afraid that these experiences won’t help our brand awareness if they last e.g. for 24 hours. Instagram Stories already prove that we can find even enhanced engagement through Stories compared to content that stays on our news feeds.
Merging messaging apps?
Another interesting point that came out from Zuckerberg’s note was the idea of interoperability. The current challenge with Facebook’s network of platforms is that people may use Messenger, WhatsApp or even Instagram for messaging. This can become hard when trying to keep up with different messages at different platforms.
Thus, Facebook wants to
“give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer. We plan to start by making it possible for you to send messages to your contacts using any of our services, and then to extend that interoperability to SMS too”
There will be an opt-in option for this idea and the goal is to improve convenience, privacy and security.
This decision has been a growing rumour lately and there is even a conversation of merging data between the platforms or even to imagine a future with just one messaging platform coming from Facebook. Privacy and security will definitely be important for any such decision and we all need to be aware of the implications of such a merging and what this could mean for our data privacy and our current methods of communication.
This is not the end of Facebook as we know it per se. And these changes won’t happen overnight. According to Mark Zuckerberg in his recent interview on Wired, the news feeds will still exist. In fact, Facebook and Instagram might become even more important.
What is changing though is the idea of focusing on just one main platform in the Facebook network and continuing to focus on the public face of social media as people shift to private communication.
Facebook picked the right time to explore how private communication can be part of their core business and it’s certainly a shift that will affect all social media platforms.
We might not see a big change in the next months all of a sudden, but it’s important to keep an eye on these changing trends so that we future-proof our marketing strategies.