I spent a few very interesting days at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. The event, as always, was standing room only, attracting developers and entrepreneurs from around the globe. Here are a few observations surrounding the major themes and directions from Facebook that may have a direct impact on financial firms’ business and will undoubtedly influence advisors’ plans for social media.
There’s No Killing the Messenger
Facebook is serious about messaging. And I mean serious. They observe that the number of native text messages has capped out and stopped growing, but the rate of messaging via apps has exploded. Facebook spent a lot of time (even in the keynote session) talking about the importance of its Messenger app to Facebook’s future. It even indicated that it expects Messenger to overtake Facebook proper as its largest platform. In the developing world, for instance, Facebook is trying to make Messenger a unifying communication platform for any device, an alternative to increasingly expensive texting and IM.
The takeaway here is that we should expect there to be an increase in demand for support of communication between customers and advisors through messaging platforms.
Many new consumers in our market actually avoid email, preferring instead the immediacy and intimacy of texts and messages. In Don Tapscott’s book, Growing Up Digital, he interviews a number of successful young entrepreneurs and business owners who never use email and consider it old technology. We as an industry need to pay attention to that.
Three proof points made it evident to me that messaging was core to Facebook’s strategy:
1) Facebook has transitioned all chat and messaging functions within Facebook into Messenger. It’s now the de facto app for messaging for any Facebook user.
2) Facebook has rolled out 40 new apps for Messenger recently, along with a software development kit to make it easier for developers to build apps for it. Facebook even showed an example of using messaging to shop and purchase goods using only the ‘Like’ button. That indicates Facebook has big plans for Messenger beyond just sending messages and emoticons back and forth.
3) WhatsApp and Instagram. Facebook has spent billions to assemble a platform of messaging and social products that appeal to any crowd, and continue to offer these apps in parallel as opposed to converging them. Facebook has invested heavily in a common infrastructure to support all these messaging capabilities so that they scale seamlessly to trillions (yes, trillions) of messages and activities per day.
Facebook is increasingly providing hooks for third-party applications to take advantage of content or engagement features that are normally only native to Facebook. Of course, Facebook mutually benefits through increased content and insights into user behavior. Think Google’s strategy as an example of being embedded in everything and making use of that data commercially.
Another example of being everywhere is the focus on opening Facebook up as a platform for hosting media. Facebook increased the video upload capacity to 40 minutes, launched an embedded video player and created a one-click method for sharing media on other channels (email, websites, messaging, etc.) Once again, this has the potential to drive an enormous amount of traffic to Facebook, even if users are unaware that they’re using it.