5 MINUTE READ | November 10, 2017
How Facebook is Keeping Users In-App and Online
A few years ago, Facebook introduced the Facebook Phone. Remember it? Yeah, me neither. While the phone was a flop, it was a peek into the way Facebook is now approaching its family of apps: a single entry point into all web activity. In the last few years, Facebook has made acquisitions and released new functions which let users seamlessly stay within the Facebook UI, rather than bounce around to different apps and visuals.
In a study by eMarketer, US mobile users are spending an average of 5 hours online every day, with over 3 of those hours in-app. That number has grown every year, from under 2 hours in-app in 2012. But in the last three years, this in-app time has slowed, which is part of why Facebook is working to increase time spent in its family of apps.
The other reason? Data. Specifically, data that can be capitalized on by hungry advertisers.
While Facebook is undoubtedly one of the largest social networks, it isn’t the first to push users to stay within the platform for longer and check it more frequently. Many of the releases that have come out are near duplicates of releases from WeChat, an instant messaging and payment service platform that launched in 2011.
Since then, it’s become China’s most popular app, with approximately 95% use by the 700M internet users in China. Beyond traditional social media functions, the app can now be used to do things like internet shopping, ordering food, ordering a cab and even paying bills.
While WeChat continues to grow its popularity in China, Facebook is rushing to duplicate and go beyond WeChat’s existing services for its current user base.
Looking closely at Facebook’s platform updates within the past six months, we have seen a continual trend toward in-app functionality and an evolution toward a do-it-all app. Below are a few key rollouts that Facebook has released to help transform its app to go beyond social media.
May: Facebook continues to expand its social gaming capabilities by releasing Messenger Games. Users can chat and play instant games with their friends within the same apps; they no longer need to navigate away to stimulate themselves with games. It provides users with a greater variety of interaction that goes beyond traditional game chats.
July: Users can interact and communicate with their favorite brands in Messenger. This release no longer limits users to only chatting with friends, but rather users can now reach out to brands for customer services. It not only provides brands with an additional touchpoint, but it also expands the functionality of Messenger so users can continue to stay within the app.
August: Facebook rolled out Facebook Watch where users can watch their favorite shows on Facebook. Watch is personalized to individual users to help them discover new shows and organize around what their friends and communities are watching. Watch is mashing up the way we view and interact with online video by allowing users to interact with other Facebook users in real-time and enable the creation of community groups around people’s favorite shows.
September: Facebook released new features that enable users to share Instagram stories directly to Facebook. This feature provides an interesting intermixing of content and allows for easy cross-posting between the two apps. Users can now view their friends Instagram updates in Facebook without ever needing to leave the app.
October: Most recently, Facebook newest release makes it easy for users to order food directly within the app. Instead of painstakingly leaving Facebook and opening UberEATS or Favor, users can browse for a restaurant near them and see what comments friends have made when deciding to order. Facebook has combined food delivery while still maintaining that social interaction between you and your friends.
One thing that is important to note is that while Facebook has transformed its app to include greater functionality, it continues to integrate the idea of social interaction and community into each of its new releases.
So what does all of this mean for brands and advertisers? A dreamland of consumer data, right? Think of all the opportunities for marketers to leverage; advertisers will have a greater chance to reach their audiences with the shift to a single platform app. The volume of data points will unlock insights for better audience building, more accurate targeting, greater scale and enhanced retargeting capabilities.
With all the data potential for advertisers, there is also a heavy burden to further protect user’s privacy. The crux of Facebook is trust. Consumers are their product. So if the consumers don’t trust Facebook’s information they likely won’t engage as much. But Facebook needs the consumer in order to pass along the data – the holy grail for digital advertisers.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has noted his social platform is focusing on protecting the security and the integrity of the platform, and the safety of the community; case in point Facebook is already making shifts to be more transparent and elevate their standards for ad disclosure.
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Where do we go from here? Facebook has set up their roadmap, and it’s clear they are prioritizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Bots/Virtual Assistants. While AI seems scary (Skynet and Terminator) Facebook has made it clear they are a long way off from that kind of AI. However, with their investment in technology and key partnerships in the space, it will be interesting to see how their use of machine learning will impact the platform, user experience and ultimately how advertisers can market products.
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