Jake Silver, Director of Paid Social, Fetch
As director of the paid social marketing team for Fetch’s San Francisco office, you can imagine my excitement when I was extended an invitation to F8 2019 by one of our agency partners at Facebook. Here are some of my instant takeaways from the keynote.
A number of speakers took the stage Tuesday morning at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. Naturally, none were more anticipated than the head honcho. The wiz kid wonder. The man himself.
With several thousand developers, members of the press, and marketers such as myself sauntering into the main auditorium, it all seemed surreal. Is one of the ten richest people in the world really behind that screen? The man whose name seemed to be said in conversation nearly as much as the United States president over the past year?
When Mark Zuckerberg walked onto the stage, a not-quite-thunderous applause rolled out. Despite his company’s adventurous 2018 and 2019, that trademark innocent, bright-eyed persona was on full display. He took no time at all to make the message clear, with the following four words remaining on the big-screen for several moments as Mr. Zuckerberg spoke:
“The Future Is Private”
The implication was clearer: Facebook hears you.
Mr. Zuckerberg openly admitted that Facebook has grown a reputation that is not one of total trust. With this in mind, he spoke of Facebook’s “privacy-focused vision,” as did all of the other speakers in various ways.
With the 20,000-pound elephant addressed, Mr. Zuckerberg proceeded to excitedly share a number of launches rolling out over the remainder of 2019. For social media geeks like me, there is reason to be excited.
While Facebook groups have been around almost as long as Facebook itself, the renewed focus reveals Facebook’s aim to encourage person-to-person communication within niche communities. Think Reddit, but without the anonymity.
Over the years, Facebook has become less a place to share and debate, and more a place to intake news and to broadly blast opinions and life updates. The renewed focus on groups is wise and is seeing success: 400 million people are members of meaningful groups on Facebook, as determined by Facebook.
FB5: A New App
For the first time in five years, Facebook is getting a major overhaul. Dubbed “FB5,” the mobile app will look different (“the app isn’t even blue anymore!” said Mr. Zuckerberg, giggling excitedly like a child opening a present). The desktop site will also look simpler and more engaging.
The logo is also getting a small update.
While Facebook monetizes almost solely off ads, new revenue streams are beginning to emerge. In addition to hardware products such as those in the Oculus and Portal lines, shopping is quickly becoming a strong focus for the Silicon Valley behemoth.
Instagram is unveiling a “shopping channel” where users can view purchasable products. Users can browse and purchase without ever leaving the Instagram app.
Facebook also announced a selling program for creators, in which influencers can insert links within their posts that immediately deep link to an in-app screen to view the product and make a purchase. Facebook has not announced whether they will be taking a cut of sales, but it is reasonable to think they will build a profitability plan for this high-potential product feature.
Two years ago at F8, Facebook spent considerable time revealing plans to transform the world via augmented reality. While that transformation has not been as grand as projected, Mr. Zuckerberg gleefully showed an example of how augmented reality can be leveraged with the Facebook Portal—a picture of his daughters watching grandma through the Portal as she reads them the story of the three little pigs. Augmented reality showed her looking like the big bad wolf.
Facebook appears to be following the Tesla approach to product versions. That is, develop (or purchase) a luxury, state-of-the-art brand, and build models for high-end, mid-level, and entry-level users while retaining the brand image and brand equity.
The Oculus Rift S is the most powerful virtual reality headset offered by Facebook, which must be physically connected to a powerful computer in order to function.
The Oculus Go is the cheapest model, with lower quality graphics and only rotational tracking, not positional tracking.
The Oculus Quest, which Mr. Zuckerberg announced will be given to every F8 attendee, is the happy medium. Honestly, I believe the Quest has enormous market potential. The $399 starting price tag is reasonable for the technology, and the Quest functions cordlessly, completely independent of a separate computer. Like the Rift S, the Quest supports both rotational and positional tracking.
The biggest news regarding Messenger is the announcement of a desktop app, which looks very similar to Skype.
Mr. Zuckerberg also announced LightSpeed, an undertaking which will significantly enhance the speed of Messenger. LightSpeed was compared to the speeds of WhatsApp as well as the average of leading non-Facebook messaging apps, and appears to be a significant improvement.
Lastly, dating. At last year’s F8, much hubbub was made over the Tinder-like dating service announced by Facebook. Facebook Dating is scheduled to roll out to 14 more countries beginning today, and to the United States later in 2019.
Facebook also announced a feature called “Secret Crush,” in which a Facebook user can mark one of their Facebook friends as someone they are interested in. People will only be notified that someone is interested in them if both parties mutually elect the other as a crush.
While slightly gimmicky, I like this move from a user acquisition/user engagement stance. Single people with Facebook may feel more incentive to Facebook-friend people they meet, with the hope that there will be shared romantic interest. If there is not, their “secret” stays just that.
Facebook has a long way to go in regaining the public’s trust, but while fueling the business will remain the number one goal, it does look like Mr. Zuckerberg and company have taken the (extremely strong) hint. Privacy has become essential to every piece of Facebook’s business, and the technology overhaul for privacy has come a long way, despite it still being in adolescence.
We’ll keep a close watch on how things continue to unfold for the embattled company.