MKT209: This case is about the social network Facebook, which needs no introduction When we first featured it in an earlier edition: Digital Marketing Case Study, HU, Malaysia
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FACEBOOK – A TITAN OF THE DIGITAL AGE
This case is about the social network Facebook, which needs no introduction. When we first featured it in an earlier edition, it was a niche service mainly used in colleges and universities. Then in the first two years of operation, Facebook reached 6 million users, by 2009 there were 360 million (Facebook, 2018) and now there are more than two billion monthly active users, or nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population (over 14 years) (Noyes, 2018).
The purpose of this case study is to review the success factors, that propelled Facebook into such a successful position that it can influence global media, be a dominant player in online advertising and owns so much personal data that it is probably better placed to know who your best friend is than you are yourself. Learning about the success factors is one part of this case, but we also consider the risks associated with becoming one of the world’s most successful digital brands.
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The mission – the big picture
When Mark Zuckerberg launched a site called facebook.com in 2004, it was a student directory showcasing photos and basic information. Growth was rapid in the US and then internationally through universities and high schools. But it wasn’t until 2006 that Facebook began to expand its reach to everyone aged 13 and over with an email address. As the membership base grew, the functionality of the site developed, enabling the sharing of photos and an opportunity to expand personal social networks.
By 2015, the social media giant was riding high and its mission had become less about functionality and more about socially enabling members: ‘We want to give you the power to share and to make the world more open and connected. In 2017, the mission became more focused on ‘bringing the world together; and enabling the platform to encourage more connections, through newsfeeds and build “meaningful communities” to give individuals a voice to share a diverse range of viewpoints and opinions to address major societal issues e.g., poverty, climate change, terrorism’ (Zuckerberg, 2017).
When Facebook launched in February 2004, there were just three things users could do on the site: 1) create a profile with their picture and information; 2) view other people’s profiles, and 3) add people as friends. These are still core to its functionality and translate into core consumer benefits (as stated by Facebook):
- Connect and share with your friends. Staying connected is the core feature as we would expect but note the more emotional underpinnings of the other elements of the value proposition.
- Discover and learn. Facebook references public figures and organisations that interest them – available through Facebook company pages.
- Express yourself. A fundamental need. Facebook does this through its key features, which it describes as the Timeline, News Feed, Photos and Videos and messaging through Email, Chat and Text.
- Stay connected everywhere. Referencing the importance of mobile use and use on other sites to Facebook’s users and business model, people can access Facebook through the website, mobile sites, smartphone apps, and feature phone products.
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