For Brands the Future Is Facebook

In his opening Keynote at F8 2019, Mark Zuckerberg made this statement:

“Today, we are going to talk about building a privacy-focused social platform. … For a lot of us, the first superpower that the Internet gave us was the ability to connect with the whole world at once. It allowed emerging creators and entrepreneurs to find global audiences … . But as our world has expanded, we face a new challenge. We all need to find our place in this much bigger world … . It’s easier to feel like you belong when you are part of smaller communities amongst your closest friends. So, it’s no surprise that the fastest ways that we are all communicating online are private messages in small groups and in stories. So, that’s why I believe that the future is private.”

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While this vision includes Facebook’s much-anticipated answers to users’ concerns in terms of privacy (which are beyond the scope of this article), it also raises new questions for brands and businesses relying on the Facebook ecosystem to generate awareness, drive sales, and provide support to their customers.

Interestingly, connecting the dots between all the announcements made at Facebook’s 2019 developers conference draws a bright picture of what the future looks like for brands, small e-commerce stores, and new businesses using the Facebook family of apps. Spoiler: This includes a whole new world of opportunities that may lead to some potential new challenges in the long term, and reflects a broader trend of vertical integration happening across all major platforms.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Facebook’s Future: Stories, Groups, Private Messaging, Commerce

Stories: As I write these lines, there are more than 1 billion stories shared every day across the Facebook family of apps, namely Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp (where a Story is called a “Status”), with 56 percent of people reporting that they use Stories on three or more platforms at least once a week.

It’s no wonder Facebook believes this format is here to stay and could have a long-term impact potentially as significant as — if not more than — the News Feed.

For brands, Stories provide a unique opportunity to inspire audiences to take gesture-based call to actions (swipe up) and trigger direct-response outcomes, thanks to a full-screen, distraction-free and immersive format, which is unparalleled on mobile.

Given that one in two people surveyed said they have visited a website to buy a product or service as a result of seeing it in Stories, the famous vertical, ephemeral format opens up virgin territories for online brands and e-commerce businesses.

Groups: With the upcoming release of FB5, Facebook is introducing the biggest evolution of its website and app in the past five years, with the ambition of making “communities as central as friends” by placing Groups at the center of the experience.

This will allow brands and businesses to join and engage with interest-based communities through content and events, thus interacting more intimately with the 400 million people who are currently members of meaningful Facebook Groups.

In an era when authenticity is more valuable than ever, this evolution provides a unique opportunity for organizations to transcend their traditional transactional role and stand out as experts, leading with purpose.

Private Messaging: During the Keynote on day one of F8 2019, Asha Sharma, who leads the Messenger product team, announced the upcoming interoperability of Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp, making it seamless for all users to communicate with family, friends — and ultimately businesses — across all three platforms.

With more than 100 billion messages sent across the Facebook family of apps every day, and more than 20 billion messages sent through Messenger between people and businesses every month, the growth potential for online brands and e-commerce businesses to expand the reach of their private customer interactions is huge.

With new appointment booking being made available through the API, along with lead generation templates coming to Facebook Ads, will come new ways to drive customer acquisition through Messenger. Meanwhile, the WhatsApp Business app aims to help small businesses better communicate with their customers and increase sales with exciting new features.

Commerce: There is no question that the Facebook ecosystem is transitioning from a place where sales originate to a platform where transactions actually happen.

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