Facebook goes private: what does this mean for brands?

Thought Leadership
Last week, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg publicly announced a new vision of a privacy-focused future for social networking. Here, Strategy Director Caroline Lucas-Garner shares what this move could mean for brands and the platform.

Mark Zuckerberg recently announced radical changes in Facebook’s vision and principles, placing greater emphasis on privacy – an area where he readily admits they haven’t built a credible reputation to date.

While some of the platforms in Facebook’s arsenal – namely WhatsApp – were founded on protecting user privacy, Facebook and Instagram have focused on helping friends and communities connect on open platforms, providing clear benefits for brands who are subsequently able to understand and target audiences based on implicit behaviours.

As an agency, we have felt the decline of the social newsfeed for a while, and although mass brand appeal will remain relevant, we are increasingly exploring other ways to connect with communities. At last month’s Global Digital Report UK event, we discussed the shift towards more ephemeral messaging through Stories; one-to-one communications through Groups and Messaging services; and how that caters to increasing audience demand for intimacy and privacy, and how brands can prepare for that.

So what are the implications for brands if Facebook starts to close its doors?

Without sophisticated data to target audiences, how will they monetise the platform? A consumer subscription model could be one route, but this feels unlikely. Rather, we anticipate an increase in controlled access for brands – and perhaps the recent move whereby brands are now allowed to participate in private Facebook Groups (when granted permission) is the first move towards this.

The announcement marks a clear shift-change in intent from Facebook, so brands, marketers and agencies will need to keep an eye out for new features – or changes to existing ones – that embody this migration. Brand-side teams should also be preparing for a new strategic approach to social media, one which understands how to connect with audiences in more private social environments, and reassessing what success looks like in this new context.

For more on how the changes might affect marketers online, our Chief Strategy Officer Mobbie Nazir recently spoke with Campaign magazine. Read the full piece here.