Facebook in 2013: How To Manage Big Business

As Mark Zuckerberg’s business leads the way in 2013 with a crushing domination of the internet (threatened only by pictures of cute cats doing cute things), all business eyes are on Facebook to see what they have in store. 2012 saw a creative boom in the form of Pinterest’s aesthetically pleasing flair, a design tacitly adapted for the Facebook experience in the form of a “Timeline”. This proved controversial for many users, but the amount of registered accounts still went over the 1 billion mark. The amount of people on Earth who now haven’t heard of this company is now in the minority.

What can be expected from this powerful firm is attempts to keep themselves ahead of the competition? This article takes a look at what Facebook has achieved so far in 2013; in a space of just over a month they have been very busy, and it sets the tone for the year ahead. This is big business on a grand scale, but their ideas can prove handy for smaller businesses across the world.

Facebook At a Loss

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2013 started for Facebook with the news they had lost 600,000 users in the UK during December 2012. The figures were revealed by SocialBakers, a social media monitoring startup based in the Czech Republic. Although a drop off in the UK’s social media usage is normal during the Christmas holiday period, there was a dip in Facebook user numbers across the world during December, 1.86% according to SocialBakers.

The figures support the theory held by some social media observers that Facebook is approaching its limit or saturation point in the number of uses it can recruit in core markets, including the UK, and further growth in the Facebook community depends on expanding markets in the developing world.

$100 for Mr. Zuckerberg

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At the beginning of the year it was revealed Facebook was expanding its experiments in charging for messages to people outside your friends list. Initially the cost was $1 to send a message to the inbox of someone you want to connect with, such as someone you have met or a potential employer, but the experiment has since extended to include the opportunity to send messages to VIPs at a far higher cost.

Some users reported their attempts to send a message to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg – here they were asked to pay $100 for the privilege!

Facebook and Starbucks

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In January, Facebook apparently began testing another experiment, this time in connection with the Facebook Gift platform. Along with promoting the Gift platform for Facebook friends’ birthdays, some users began noticing e-gift suggestions specifically recommending sending a Starbucks birthday present to friends who have “liked” Starbucks.

So far it is uncertain whether these recommendations are part of an active form of sponsorship with companies such as Starbucks paying for gift suggestions, but it is likely Facebook users will see a growth in branded birthday present endorsements.

Facebook’s Confession

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Officially, Facebook’s rules state users must be aged 13 years or over, but research revealed in January suggested more than a third of children aged nine to 12 years in the UK have a Facebook profile.

Facebook admitted there is no strict age verification process when new users create their profiles and children aged under 13 could simply lie about their age. The company argues young people are protected against offensive or pornographic material on the site because of Facebook’s strict rules on content, but it remains to be seen whether the company will introduce a tighter age verification mechanism in the future.

Graph Search

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The biggest Facebook news of the year has been the announcement of Graph Search. The app is currently in the beta stage of development, but once completed it will allow users to search through their extended friends network and get results based on their Facebook social graph. The search engine results are personalised according to the specific user’s Facebook graph based on friends’ and friends-of-friends’ experiences, likes, tags and photos. Search initially focuses on people, places and photos.

The announcement was greeted with a mixed response from the media. The app does set up the possibility for a future challenge to Google’s  search supremacy, but privacy concerns were raised. Facebook has sought to reassure users of how only information already public on their profiles will be available to searches.

Going Mobile

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In January it was announced a smartphone application to track users’ locations is under development. This app can be used as a tool by users to find friends when they are out and about – it could also be used by advertisers and sponsors to provide real-time marketing according to a users’ locations. Some Facebook users will welcome the opportunity to share their location with their friends and receive helpful local information and promotions; others will no doubt be alarmed that their every movement could be tracked by Facebook and marketers.

Against predictions and expectations, Facebook reported a surprise growth in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012. The reason for this unexpected growth was the company cashing in the mobile boom with more people now accessing Facebook daily on their smartphones than people accessing the site on desktops. This has resulted in a jump in mobile advertising revenue.

Increasing Costs

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Towards the end of January, Facebook sent out a warning to Wall Street that 2013 could see a growth in the company’s costs, which will increase faster than its profits, while the company tries to secure a greater share of the mobile advertising market. The reason for the predicted drop in profits, and rise in costs, is related to Facebook ploughing more cash into new ventures, experimental applications, research and development in an attempt to invest for the company’s future value – Mark Zuckerberg stated, “We’re building profits for the long-term.”

A Victory for Twitter

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On February 3rd 2012, n a very closely contested game, the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers with a score of 34-31 for victory in the Super Bowl XLVII, but in the social media stakes there was one clear winner. Measured according to references to social media sites in national TV commercials during coverage of the Super Bowl, Twitter dominated the field.

In the advertising that CBS broadcast during its coverage of the game, 26 out of a total 52 adverts featured mentions of Twitter. Facebook only managed to get mentioned in four of the adverts, YouTube and Instagram were referred to once each while Google+ received no mentions during the entire coverage.

A Facebook Vacation

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In early February 2013, US think tank Pew Research Centre produced results of research suggesting two thirds of Facebook users were taking breaks from the service – often several weeks or more without logging onto their account.

Users were polled to find out the reason for this, and answers given for the vacation included “excessive gossip or drama from their friends”, “concerns about privacy”, “I was tired of stupid comments”, “I had crazy friends. I did not want to be contacted”, “people were posting what they had for dinner’”and “I didn’t like being monitored”.  Despite this over 90% of those polled still regularly use Facebook, and two-thirds considered the site an important part of their lives.

Cats

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It is still unclear if more cats are using Facebook.

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