From inception Facebook undoubtably made transformative impacts in the digital era through offered services and strategic operations within its ecosystem. Specifically, making the world more open and connected by creating a blueprint for modern business models whilst altering the way individuals relate socially. Ultimately, mobilising political, economic and cultural change.
What is Facebook?
The initial purpose of Facebook was to help people stay connected with family, friends and worldly happenings. Although it begun as a way to keep in touch or reconnect, it rapidly became business focused with its ability to closely target users and deliver ads directly to those expected to benefit from products or services. Success can be attributed to its appealing ability involving both people and businesses to interact with sites across the web, by providing a single working login (Nations, 2019). Facebook can be accessed from most devices with internet connectivity. When registering, users create a free profile revealing chosen personal information. Users can post various forms of multimedia which is shared with others who have confirmed to be their ‘friend’ or by changing privacy settings allowing public access. Users can utilise a variety of embedded apps, join groups, buy or sell products or services on ‘Marketplace’, and receive notifications from people or business’ recent activities.
Founded by Mark Zuckerberg’s and fellow Harvard university students in 2004, the social networking service was developed in order to connect students with one another. However, one year after inception membership surpassed 5 million. From establishment, Facebook was built to accomplish a social mission – allowing individuals to be connected – a purpose still currently remaining. Recently Facebook has broadened its focus to enable connection of meaningful communities. The premise of this focuses on users finding common groups to engage with new perspectives and develop more awareness for different issues and ideologies.
The current digital age has comprised of a rising popularity of communications taking form on social networks; encompassing interpersonal interactions for individuals achieved virtually (Rybnicek, 2013). Facebook’s introduction of a novel communication medium provided a driving force for a modern culture change in the digital era. By ascertaining countless transformative impacts, a framework for business models and how people communicate and relate socially influenced the entity’s performance and overall industry sector (Bearne, 2015).
An ecological system has variables, relationships and dynamics. Looking at the Internet as an ecology, then in terms of variables, anyone can become an author and contribute content to the web. (Looi, 2011). Moreover, Internet ecology echoes a controlled system where interaction of entities utilises technological platforms to influence each other’s function.
‘FAANG’ coined by Jim Cramer (2013) is an acronym for market figureheads in the ecosystem comprising of: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. Collectively, these ‘Big Five’ tech company’s annual revenue exceeds over $800 billion; making them bigger than Saudi Arabia’s entire economy (Desjardins, 2019). The amalgamation of these entity’s form an ecosystem where individuals consume content, purchase items and discover information on the web. Few aspects through novel business modelling has facilitated a modern transformative effect, seen successfully by the ability to influence user’s behaviour and change the way people think about themselves. For example; Facebook’s resounding success convincing users personal branding is an end in itself, evolved entrepreneurship approaches.
Critical to note, FAANG companies exert unique business models, resulting in differing levels of profitability. Beyond Netflix and Facebook whereby majority of revenue flows via advertising; Google, Apple and Amazon revenue generations are farther diversified. FAANG entities create a purchasing funnel by users seamlessly moving between these monopolising platforms. An example of interconnection: Googles search engine and free shopping listing is an opportunity utilised. Additionally, partnering with Amazon for brands enables growth locally and internationally. Finally, working with Facebook to ensure consumers purchase directly from the platform to reduce brand switching. In essence each entity in the ecosystem connects with differing features of others, conscious of effectiveness of reach on each platform.
These tech giants have transformed preceding structures by fashioning a consumer facing framework that is crucial to modern day operational success. Inclusive of billions of users, these entities leverage user data to hold market share. However beneficial this may seem; these companies often find themselves in problematic situations for mishandling personal information.
4 Ways Facebook Changed The World.
1 Facebook has created millions of job opportunities – but not completely in its own office (Elgort, 2016). Facebook essentially spawned an entire sector, inclusive of indirect employment opportunities for individuals whose job it is to make the platform succeed for their own branding (Triantafillidou, 2018). Thousands of agencies exist now for social media; a tool like no other, whereby marketers have a novel understanding of consumers, ultimately from available data and analytics (Tinmoith, 2017). Through Facebook holding the highest number of users in the environment, brands know who their customers are, who they’re friends with and how they engage with businesses. Advertisers pay in abundance for this, resulting in Facebook’s ad revenue exceeding 98.5% of total earnings at $55 billion (Desjardins,2019). Moreover, Facebook’s strategic competitive strategy of cost leadership, involves minimising the cost of doing business whilst maximising efficiency with online access to international markets.
2 Elgot (2016) denotes political parties who utilise Facebook as a strategic tool ‘win’. This is evident in the UK 2015 election, where political parties exhibited the importance of social media for campaigning; employing consultants from the first global social media election – the victory of president Barack Obama in 2008 (Williams, 2009). Parties who mercilessly engaged in Facebook’s services championed by targeting floating voters to gain support. Like brands, political parties have the opportunity to target people; simply by paying for advertisements to deliver messages to users at the deemed right time (Elder, 2016) or gain following on profiles. Facebook as an entity in the internet ecosystem, historically changed the way political campaigns operate.
3 The power of Facebook was present in 2016 when the Middle East flipped during a sum of uprisings known as ‘Arab Spring’. Facebook served as a platform for rebel leaders to share and discuss news to further recruit users to their cause (Wiest, 2017). Similarly, in Egypt under half a million users shared news about ongoing protests from Facebook. In response to services by Facebook aiding the mobilisation of cultural change, officials provided extra regulatory protection to revolution pages to ensure leaders identification privacy to safeguard any unwarranted attacks. Further, the barrier between social networking activism and actual revolution has shown effects by creation of collective identity as a civil struggle for rights; making free-riding movements accessible like never before (Onuch, 2015). ‘Liking’ a protest though the function of ‘events’ – gives individuals in the modern world the feeling they are contributing to a cause (Onuch,2015).
4 Facebook has the ability to make news, break news and further decide what is news; changing the way content is consumed (Vaidhyanathan, 2019). Starting with the news feed – a stream of never ending content from users and brands on the platform – an unheard, novel feature debuting in 2006. Since inception social media sites inclusive of Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest have adopted this function. The Facebook News Feed isn’t without fault as its constantly changing algorithm fails to chronologically order posts; making it tough for organising ongoing news and events. However, this hasn’t immobilised users from using Facebook as a news source as 71% of 18-25 year old’s credit Facebook as their primary outlet, according to Pew Researching Centre. Zuckerberg’s plan to create a global phenomenon by a ‘personalised newspaper’ through the News Feed has seen transformative success by identifying what users want to consume and when.
Currently, Facebook is facing challenges brought forth by the Australian local government; considering pushing new regulations that will force online platforms to pay news publishers (Esposito, 2020). In response, Facebook threatened to entirely remove news sharing options for Australian users if regulations were approved. Reported by NBC News, new rules would force Facebook to pay commissions to news outlets, as an aggressive endeavour to transform the power hold of big tech companies over the media sector.
Both Facebook and Google intake more than half digital advertising expenses in the US and over 70% locally in Australia (Esposito,2020). This in essence led to publishers demanding a percentage of these profits, even with their content reaching larger audiences with the help of such platforms. Meanwhile, Apple is losing alliances with publishers on its owned Apple News+ platform. Notably, recent abandonment of the platforms criticised by the 30% commission Apple takes out of every subscription. With approach to Facebook as a championing member in the information ecosystem, may be result of no payments received or paid for news sharing. Thus, discussion about overall value of news from the social media side of the ecosystem is ramping up.
Regulators constantly try to address Facebook as if it’s an entity they have previously encountered. However, Facebook and its ecosystem presents new radical challenges as its novelty is unseen in history – with the exception to Google. Considering all propositions for governments to reign in Facebook; the UK suggested a “duty of care” standard for companies alike to ensure harmful content is filtered. Similarly, Canada declared a breach in law as Facebook appeared to fail user protection from information flowing to political firms. Lastly, the Sri Lankan government temporarily shut down Facebook after aiding in a terrorist attack in 2019. In core, each regulatory measure has been addressing negative consequences when presented, yet no regulators prepare to consider Facebook (inclusive of its additional global services) in its totality.
Problems Facebook either causes or amplifies – privacy violations, proliferation of hate speech – are not deemed ‘glitches’ or examples of the businesses failings (Vaidhyanathan, 2019). Simply, they are instances of Facebook working as designed. Facebook is a powerful platform and pervasive system which demands radical new thought to regulation as it globally reaches more than 2.3 billion people with over 110 languages (Vaidhyanathan, 2019). Ideologies that Facebook can police regulations itself is absurd, each country needs to assess how their own social, political and cultural health is affected by Facebook and its surrounding ecosystem.
A Final Note.
Facebook paved the way for an entire new ecosystem for media, sales, marketing and technology. Exemplified best by accomplishing collection of records with users’ proclivities, associations and activities. As a forefront leader, collected data positions advertisements in a revolutionary manner whilst being inexpensive in relation to any other entity. Specifically, data driving what users see, read and whom the system presents interaction with – proficient by algorithm functions – shaping individuals’ social lives. Facebook ultimately influences what is considered valuable, true and important.
Although entities in the ecosystem are independent in their operations, all agents interconnect with each other by providing end-to-end seamless platform transitions – influencing a variety of sectors. Modern life in the digital world would not be possible outside the ecosystem shaped by FAANG, each influentially transforming the internet through novel product and service features. Finally, regulators must deploy mitigating responses to negative consequences whilst recognising the overall value this ecosystem provides for individuals.
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