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Facebook Founder Announces 2018 New Year's Resolutions: Breaking Down Zuckerberg’s Post about the Future of Facebook.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook posted a missive on his Facebook wall regarding changes to the way Facebook will operate moving forward. (See here or below.) Undoubtedly, much of what he is proposing is a result of a perceived loss of trust stemming from the “fake news” phenomenon of the 2016 election season. While Facebook took the credit for getting President Obama elected, it is seemingly feeling the burden of also helping elect our current President (but oh, did they take that sweet, sweet Russian-trollbot ad money.) So, what does this mean for the future of the world’s largest social media platform? After Zuckerbergs note several times we've come to a few conclusions.

Facebook Changes For Advertisers:

Advertisers need to focus on creating content that resonates with your followers. You need more than a "like"- you need them to interact and engage with your comment. They need to become your spokespeople if you have any hope of your organic content generating reach. Those of us in the business of social media have been advocating for a long time the importance of the “micro-influencer” over the hyped YouTube sensation. True Engagement- not merely a “passive” viewing of your content - will be critical to getting your ads seen by the people you want to see it. (We have a great case study demonstrating this of this coming out shortly.)

MZ: “For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.”

Facebook Changes For Media Companies and Content Creators:

If you create content or are a media platform - you are kind of screwed - unless you’re already a big partner or have the potential to become one. One of the (unintended?) consequences of this paradigm shift will be that the little guy will have a harder time getting their message out via the Facebook platform. In the name of eliminating “fake news”, Facebook will likely create some sort of priority system for its ‘verified partners” and use this vetting process to prioritize well-heeled media companies that pass their sniff test.

Suppose you’re an underground brand or grass roots politician that is looking to use FB to make a splash and get your name out there. Your content now has to jump through a lot more arbitrary (and undefined) hoops in order to reach the audience you want.

And if you're someone who makes money on YouTube views and have been using FB as a platform to gain followers, you too, are also out of luck.

MZ: “As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people…”
…passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good (of an experience).

Facebook Changes for Every-day Users:

I think this really depends on how you use Facebook. If you’re a person who lives on Facebook and relies on it to aggregate information for you from the outside world (IE: a stereotypical Millennial), this can be a dangerous thing.

By only connecting you to friends and family, your limited sphere of influence could unleash of a variety of unhealthy cognitive biases (particularly confirmation and in in-group bias), which are already seen by many as a serious side-effects of the social media phenomenon. (A good overview of cognitive biases for the non-psychologist can be found here.)

If you’re a passive user (you’re not likely reading this blog) and all of this might not change your using habits too much. Although Zuckerberg himself has admitted that you might not spend as much time scrolling as you used to because the puppy videos and political rants that held your attention previously will no longer be as prevalent in your news feed.

MZ: “Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.
At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together -- whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world -- we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.”

Final Observations

When all is said and done, Facebook is likely going to fall back on these lofty aspirations as merely well-intended hypothetical goals of a conscientious founder - like Google’s now defunct “Don’t be evil” motto. But to actually position itself as both the arbiter or ‘good’ content, as well as the conduit for “meaningful interactions” is an ambitious experiment that has traditionally be reserved for religions or socialist states.

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