Following a new statement from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, I think the social network is about to turn a corner.
When it comes to corporate reputations, few brands have had a rockier 12 months than Facebook and its founder Zuckerberg.
Hauled through hearings in front of lawmakers and regulators, it’s been clear that major change is afoot.
The question now is: will Facebook play to its own tune, or will the powers that be take hold of the reins?
It’s fair to say the social media behemoth has now reached unparalleled levels of influence on society, from the worlds of politics and consumer activism, to news media and brand communications.
With 2.3 billion active users, we’re talking about one third of the global population scrolling, liking, and, it seems, getting increasingly nervous and resentful about how its information is being harvested, stored and used.
But change is happening. Late last night, Zuckerberg announced what could turn out to be sweeping changes to the Facebook stable of apps, including Facebook itself, but also WhatsApp and Instagram.
A picture of a ‘privacy-focused vision for the future of social media’ has been painted, and the impact on brand PR could be as transformative as it will be for Facebook.Drew Benvie, founder and CEO of Battenhall
A picture of a ‘privacy-focused vision for the future of social media’ has been painted, and the impact on brand PR could be as transformative as it will be for Facebook.
The issue of trust is a straightforward one. Is Facebook listening to you? Is it reading your messages? What is it doing with your data? Who can access it and how is it then being used?
This has been the thrust of recent parliamentary hearings, and Facebook’s response is a simple one: your safety is now the most important thing and it will shape the social network’s future.
The issue of privacy, however, is where I’m particularly excited.
We have seen a recent and fundamental shift in how people use social media, and privacy is the guiding force.
It has resulted in a huge upward surge in the use of Stories as a more private social space.
People love to post safe in the knowledge that only their friends can see it, and that the content will disappear after a day.
It’s clear that ‘private social’ has a huge future, but what exactly is Facebook planning to do about it?
In Zuckerberg’s announcement, he hints at an altogether new place, where self-deleting, private sharing social media is front and centre.
What this means is that we might see a new social network bought by Facebook, like it did with Instagram and WhatsApp.
We might also see the Stories feature spun out from Instagram, something that Instagram has a track record of doing.
More likely though, I think, would be a new layout for Instagram and Facebook, putting Stories front and centre, and the news feed somewhere in among it.
What this means for brands is more change in a huge media platform, more innovation, and the need for new kinds of content.
Networks will matter more, too, as content that is more private will be less visible to general searches.
The PR pro will need to go deeper than before with social media and its influencers.
Drew Benvie is founder and CEO of Battenhall