Henry Jenkins describes the Web 2.0 as a service-based platform predominantly composed of user-generated content where intelligence is shared and user data has monetizable value. I will be talking about Facebook, one of the most prominent platforms that arose from the Web 2.0, and its incredible influence and reach that has revolutionized our generation. I will be sharing the impact it has had on my personal life as well as its impact on businesses and advertising.
From the day I first created my account, Facebook has always been an influential part of my life. Especially coming from Panama, Facebook has allowed me to easily connect with other parts of the world and maintain long distance friendships. I even met my college roommate and best friend through Facebook. Creating images, documenting memories, and connecting with people have always played a central role in my life. From a young age I remember getting together with friends dressing up and making funny videos and pictures. In any social event I was always the one with the camera taking pictures of everyone and everything, many times in excessive amounts. Both my grandmothers are photographers, so cameras and pictures always surrounded me, and I came to learn the value and power Images hold.
“In the informal gift economy, the failure to share material is socially damaging.” –Jenkins
When I first heard about a new platform called Facebook, where you were able to create, upload, and share pictures with friends I could not have been more excited. I first created my account in 2007 when I was 10 years old, and immediately became a very active user. I remember uploading albums for every single event and relying heavily on the “tag” feature in order to easily share and engage with friends. It was all so new and exciting. These were the earlier stages of Facebook before there existed the certain Facebook culture we have today. No one really knew the rules of the game yet or how powerful Facebook would become. Facebook quickly became a central part of my day-to-day life, and in hindsight I can say that it had a huge influence on my childhood development and character building. It allowed me to expand my realm of connections, dive deeper into photography, and I began to emulate the fast past nature of its platform.
Not everything from Facebook was a positive experience, growing up a lot of drama arouse from my heavy use of Facebook. I remember several instances in middle school where friends would get upset at me for uploading pictures of them without their consent or pictures where they thought they looked bad. It got to a point where sometimes I felt marginalized within my friend group because I was much more interested in the world of Facebook than they were. They saw my use of Facebook as an obsession and my constant uploading of images as annoying. Looking back, I think I recognized something valuable in Facebook that many others did not stop to appreciate. Maybe it was because my school in Panama did not embrace technology or creativity, teachers would lecture the dangers of social media instead of the opportunities it withheld. Nonetheless, I appreciated Facebook’s platform, not only as a user but I understood the power it had and the movement it was creating. Today, most of my childhood friends are grateful for my use of Facebook and constant documentation because I am the only one who has images of our experiences and memories.
My Facebook profile clearly tells the story of my life, any important event, accomplishment, or experience appears somewhere within my profile. You can see the evolution of my life and how I grew up and changed throughout the years by simply looking at my profile pictures. For all of these reasons I have build a sentimental connection towards Facebook and the role it has played throughout my life.
In Where the Web 2.0 Went Wrong Henry Jenkins argues “Web 2.0 companies seek to integrate the social and economic in ways that make it hard to distinguish between them.” Facebook’s value now a day not only comes from it’s social features and its ability to connect people but the path it has paved for the future of advertising and a new era of internet marketing. This industry has immense value and as Danah Boyd states in Participating in the Always-On Lifestyle, “We are moving away from an industrial economy and into an information based one, and knowing how to get information is more important than memorizing it.” Facebook handles an immense amount of bulk data and has given businesses the opportunity to connect with their target audience by selling user information. Facebook argues that targeted advertisement is also beneficial for the consumer because they can now see personalized ads that are relevant and meaningful. However, do users really know the extents of information that is being released to advertisers about them? Should Facebook be more transparent? Or are we responsible for the information we put online? These are all questions that don’t really have answers and frankly I don’t think the answers even matter to the average Facebook user. Our participatory culture has become such a central part of our lifestyle that modifying our routines and habits will be very hard. Users are sharing more private information than ever before, and anyone in the advertisement industry knows that targeted ads are the future of marketing. So until there exists a greater demand and concern about privacy that conduces the market to find a way to monetize from this need, not much will change.
I think it is important to learn the history of how Facebook ads developed and changed. Facebook’s move towards incorporating ads was gradual and I think it is important to learn from its historical timeline and when each update was launched. Facebook could not have had the same success if this process was not measured because its ads could of easily come across as un-organic and ruin Facebook’s original concept and user experience. However, they were able to create huge value from advertisers and not only maintain but increase their user engagement levels.
When pages first launched it was different from how we see it now. Each page on Facebook had a “Become a Fan” button instead of a “Like” button, which allowed you to see your friend’s interactions with these brands. In “What is Web 2.0” Tim O’Reilly argues that the main thing that most of the greatest companies of the Web 2.0 have in common is their reliance on organic marketing. This was Facebook’s way of creating an organic flow of word of mouth advertising. In 2008 Facebook released “Engagement Adds.” This led to a revolution in advertising by brining businesses closer to their audience. An ad appeared on Facebook’s right-hand column when viewed on a desktop. Facebook later allowed users to comment, share, and like the ads, which created notifications in their newsfeed continuing the concept of producing an organic hype. In 2009 Facebook released targeted advertising, which enabled businesses to reach their target audiences by filtering gender, age, location, education level, and relationship status. In 2012 Facebook allowed ads to be placed in News Feeds, instead of on the right margin but only for users who were already connected with the page. By the end of 2012 Facebook ads appeared on any users newsfeed, even if that user was not connected to the brand. That same year Facebook released “Custom Audiences”, which enabled advertisers to input bulk data collected outside of Facebook, such as phone numbers and emails in order to target their customers through Facebook. In 2013 Facebook released “Partner Categories,” allowing ads to be driven by users activities outside of Facebook. For example, companies could use information from third-party data providers who could provide costumers shopping activities. In 2014, Facebook acquired Instagram, which gave advertisers another venue for reaching their audiences. In 2015, Facebook came out with “360 Video”, a more immersive and interactive viewing experience. Following this video trend the next year they released “Facebook Live Video.” This was a huge move towards video instead of photo. “By 2020, 75% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video.”-Facebook Q3 2016 Earnings Report. Facebook Live allowed advertisers and users to broadcast in real time through their mobile devices.
Facebook is the largest social media platform and one of the most influential companies in tech and leaders of the industry. I think this company’s potential for growth and expansion is incredible and holds great power and influence. We see and hear about Facebook in our daily lives and is penetrated is almost everything aspect of our surroundings. I think that the next step for Facebook now is original content and video. I am very excited to see where this company will be headed in the next couple years and even more excited to be able to work for them this summer.