2018 was an important chapter in Facebook’s history, perhaps even its most important. Following the major Cambridge Analytica fiasco, public perception and use of the social network has plummeted. In response, Facebook has made the most significant updates in years, from revisiting its newsfeed algorithm to removing the Trending section.
But even today, Facebook is a titan that continues to dominate the social media industry, with the largest market share of both registered and active users on any platform. Businesses should understand how these changes can and will affect their own audience.
How many users does Facebook have in 2018?
Based on their most recent earnings report, Facebook has 2.27 billion monthly active users.
What changes has Facebook implemented this year?
Measures against false news
To combat accusations of false news, Facebook has deleted several controversial accounts and pages, made ad campaigns more transparent, and implemented a fact-checking system for articles, images, and videos. The platform’s newsfeed was updated to feature less politics, news articles, and third-party content, and focus on more personal connections, photos, and videos. While ads are still effective means of awareness and engagement, brands that use Facebook for organic marketing will have to explore additional methods of outreach, such as marketing through video content, Messenger bots, or Facebook Groups.
An AI merchant
On the second birthday of Facebook Marketplace, Facebook introduced AI functionality to streamline buyer-seller matching and automatically remove offensive or inappropriate content. Perhaps as a move to compete with the likes of eBay, Amazon, and OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace is the company’s first shopping-centric platform. We could see more third-party brands begin to migrate towards Facebook ’s casual and intimate setting.
Goodbye Trending, hello local
Facebook Trending got axed. The news section beside the feed wasn’t used as frequently by users as expected, so Facebook is replacing it with more local updates. Trending was criticised for a number of reasons: not only was it limited to five countries, but the clicks from the trending section accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers. Back in 2016, it was even criticized for displaying politically-biased results. News remains an important aspect of Facebook’s service, and they are now testing a “Breaking News” tag with over 80 publishers around the world.
Facebook Watch worldwide launch
Facebook Watch went global. The popular video service is seen as Facebook’s response to video discovery features offered by YouTube and Instagram. CNET went as far as to say it was Facebook’s best feature in an otherwise bad year. Still in its infancy, Facebook’s programming is limited to niche topics, but has already amassed loyal followings. Jada Pinkett Smith’s talk show, Red Table Talk, already has 4.3 million followers. Sorry For Your Loss, Facebook’s take on a bereavement drama starring Elizabeth Olson, has produced free episodes, but has yet to break even 200,000 viewers. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the platform is still in its experimental stages, but it could open up a major alternative to the video market, which has largely been dominated by YouTube.
If 2018 was Facebook’s year of damage control, 2019 will bring news of the company attempting to regain consumer trust and favor. Facebook will continue to lift features from its more popular Instagram app. Stories have already made the transition, but we may see more crossover content or a greater focus on visual media.
Facebook will also seek to further popularize its Oculus Rift and Portal devices. TV spots are currently in circulation for the holiday season, so it’s not unreasonable to expect more discounts, newer versions, and more content for both VR and video chat.
As for its traditional offerings, Facebook will continue to highlight more personal and social interactions, while reducing the role of advertisers and marketers. Consequently, organizations will need to think of more creative ways to leverage the personal and human elements of their brand on the platform and revisit their Facebook ad strategy.
Look out for our final installment in the 2018 Year In Review series, where we talk about Google (and YouTube) and where we believe the state of search, paid, social, and content is heading in 2019.