Five essential insights from F8 2015
Last week, Facebook staged and livestreamed its not-quite-annual developer conference F8 to an attentive crowd in San Francisco and beyond. F8 is where Facebook introduces new technologies and concepts that shape the company’s strategy for the coming months. They also mark trends in a general sense: F8 shows what Facebook believes to be the developments that will define tomorrow’s communication, contents, consumption and interaction.
Florian Zühlke and Max Orgeldinger, our Head of Community management and Senior Strategist, respectively, have compiled the essential insights of F8 2015. Our editorial team made them into a handy list for you.
1. Video and direct chat will be core elements of communication
Facebook is becoming more open: it will be much easier to share contents from the network outside the network’s borders. All in all, communication beyond the confines of facebook.com becomes more important. The embedding of Facebook videos outside of Facebook itself and the massively enhanced messenger offer powerful features that are going to have a profound impact on communication between users and their friends, family and companies. For brands, Facebook’s portfolio becomes more extended and more granular: there will more touchpoints and points of presence and interaction for establishing contact to users and customers. The social network as a defined and fenced-in target area for communication becomes less relevant.
2. From social network to app portfolio
This plays into another observation: The Facebook platform as presented in a blue framework in your browser has reached and passed a peak! The future: a portfolio of apps and services that each bring a unique value for Facebook and its users: the best messaging app, the best photo app, the best video platform – the system will be modular and can be modified according to future trends, developments and needs.
These services will be connected via a single database of user profiles – which they, in turn, will supply with fresh data. This makes Facebook’s user targeting – already impressive with Facebook advertising – even better, more specific and more versatile.
This is not a new idea per se. Google has been entertaining this strategy for the past decade, offering a well-kept portfolio of services for free – and collecting user data in return. These days Google shows how they can connect this data into a new customized service: Google Now merges search, calendar, contact and location data into a personal assistant which in turn generates new and more refined user data. Because of course it does.
3. Facebook Messenger becomes the center tool for communication
We may present this one as just the third of five essential insights, but actually it’s really hard to over-estimate the importance of Facebook Messenger. Having removed the messenger from Facebook’s mobile app and transformed it into a standalone version, Facebook now expands on it and transforms it into Messenger Platform. Platform makes it possible for developers to integrate their iOS or Android apps into the messenger, transforming it into a universal communication tool. It’s telling that the very first mention of “Messenger Platform” drew a round of applause from the developer audience.
The most interesting part for brands and companies not planning on releasing their own applications is, of course, Messenger for Business. This new service aims to transfer customer interaction into Facebook’s most intimate and direct channel. Users will be able to register on company websites via Facebook Connect to receive news and shipping updates or to start a conversation. Since most Facebook users are always logged-in, all it takes is a single click.
4. e-tail and 1st level support on Facebook will be more efficient and intuitive
At F8 Facebook gave a peek into Messenger’s new capabilities via the retail launch partner Everlane: after purchase, Everlane sends a confirmation to the connected customer, plus live shipping updates. Companies can design individual update cards. The integration of Zendesk gives us a glimpse of the future: after taking over e-commerce, Facebook will go for customer support.
For businesses, the advantages are manifold: any issue can now be solved on a private channel – ending all public discussions and negotiations and removing the need for impractical detours (“Please send a mail with your customer number and order confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org.”) And what’s more: with the integration of Facebook Payments new e-commerce and cross-selling opportunities arise.
Again: there is not much actual innovation going on here. But there’s something ever better: A fascinating and well-timed simplicity. Messenger for Business is very much in tune with modern communication and technology habits. For both businesses and their customers, it has a single important offer: ease of use. In these times of ever-changing customer expectations, businesses can make use of Facebook’s reach and infrastructure, remaining current and relevant terms of UX and technology. While individual mobile solutions usually come with a hefty price tag, Facebook offers to covber for the better part of the effort necessary. Of course, businesses and agency are still required to develop viable concepts, processes and structures to make this more than just a mobile-messaging remix of existing problems with call centers.
5. Facebook becomes less important – and indispensable
These new features are likely to foster Facebook’s online dominance. And they are likely to succeed where earlier efforts such as the company’s own e-mail solution @facebook.com the the Home OS failed. Facebook today is more a tool than a toy, and more a dominating part of online infrastructure than a social network. Even today, many users can not distinguish between Facebook and the Internet. And as Microsoft proved: you don’t need to love or hype infrastructure to still use it every day. The social network called Facebook will be a mere structural element among many others.
For brands, a nuanced picture begins to emerge. There is still a long way to go before brand pages and painstakingly developed presences on the social network become obsolete. Especially in Germany and Europe, where the extensive merging of customer data and Facebook’s user data will raise a lot of concerns about data protection and privacy. Still, it’s obvious again that brands and agencies will need to develop concepts beyond the fan page. Social media are but a small element of digital transformation. And Facebook will keep playing an important role. As a driver of change, as a trend indicator, as a business.