Key trends to check your 2015 plans against:
• RIP free ad exposures: This was the year when the rules were re-written in social and free audience reach collapsed on Facebook. We predicted it back in 2012, but the casualties have been brutal, as the brands that built millions of fans have been left with almost no exposure. From now on they need to pay to be seen, and what brand wants to let go of the audience it’s worked so hard to build up in Facebook? As for what’s next, watch Twitter and others follow.
• Mobile-first: Zuckerberg led the “mobile-first” charge, and turned an IPO flop into a Google-challenging ad behemoth. The standalone Messenger app now has 500 million active users, catching its own $22bn WhatsApp business.
• Better ad formats: Now rivalling YouTube for videos, Facebook’s range of ad options are now vast – including the Atlas ad network, ‘Hyper Local’ and Instagram ads rolling out globally.
• Regulations move to the forefront: From the clamp down on ‘fake’ users, to cookied consumers and privacy protests, the regulation and personal data world heated up, and there’s much more coming in 2015
Two bold strategies bring mobile success
Facebook emerged as a mobile advertising powerhouse this year, buying WhatsApp for a staggering £22bn and following up with virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. But it was two controversial-but-savvy moves from Zuckerberg that really propelled the social network’s success this year.
Firstly, by adding auto-playing videos in its app, Facebook made its newsfeed a far more compelling destination , driving up engagement with ad dollars following behind. Secondly, by spinning off its Messenger service into a standalone app, the social network created a chat app to rival SnapChat, WeChat and iMessage, with a readymade audience of 500 million- a canny move to future proof Facebook from the fast-changing communication habits of consumers.
But with added pressure to appease shareholders and boost ad dolalrs, the social network squeezed out free reach for brands, putting pressure on small businesses. Meanwhile, an over-zealous clamp-down on fake names led to high-profile protests and a humble apology to the LGBT community.
Finally, Facebook wants to build the next major computing platform, which Zuckerberg believes could be augmented reality and the Oculus Rift headset. He also wants to bring the internet to more people through Internet.org and its free internet initiative trialled in Zambia.
As part of our review of the year, we look back at the 10 biggest headlines that shaped the social network during 2014.
Facebook has reportedly passed YouTube for monthly video views on desktop for the first time, delivered nearly a billion more than YouTube August, as the social networks ‘autoplaying’ video format looks to be paying off. The claim was made during this video interview by watch Beet.tv’s with ComScore’s co-founder.
Facebook has launched a new tool that lets advertisers target people within a set radius of their business. The feature, called Hyper-Local Advertising, lets ads appear on peoples’s phone or web browser.
View a video showing Facebook’s Hyper Local Advertising in action here:
Facebook has apologised for imposing a ban on fake names, a move that particularly affecting performers and drag queens, and has clarified that it will now allow ‘authentic’ names on the social network, even if they are not the user’s real name.
Facebook ads have started appearing on other sites based on each user’s behaviour, as the social network looks to rival Google with a new level of targeting for brands.When a user logs into Facebook with their device, it registers a unique device identifier with the company’s servers. The identifier can be used to track a customer so that if another app or website asks for an ad, Facebook can use information about the customer to find the best ad to display.
Facebook is testing is free internet access scheme in Zambia, giving mobile and web users access to a select number of sites.
Instagram rolls out ads to UK, Canada, and Australia
Instagram is launching ads in the UK, Canada and Australia following trials in the US last year, as the Facebook-owned photo app looks to expand its ad reach and capitalise on its popularity with younger mobile users.
Facebook has bought virtual reality firm Oculus VR for $2bn, as the social network continues its investment in future technologies.
Watch this BBC report looking into the Oculus Rift’s potential here:
Facebook is buying WhatsApp for a massive $19bn (£11.4bn), as the social network looks to restart its flagging growth in developed markets, while offering a popular free messaging service in emerging markets, shaking up the telecoms industry in the process.
Watch this video from Bloomberg discussing the deal here: