It is kind of obvious when you think about it, but it was only when I was at a recent industry seminar that it finally sunk in for me that Facebook is a mobile business.
Lee McCabe from Facebook was giving the presentation – McCabe is Facebook’s global head of travel, education, and consumer services strategy which certainly sounds like a very large portfolio of responsibility.
McCabe described the moment that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called his senior team and told them that they needed to put mobile first, that he was no longer interested in seeing desktop-specific strategies, that it was mobile technology that was going to drive their future growth and engagement with their enormous user base.
Facebook no longer sees mobile as just a technology, but more as a consumer behaviour – a behaviour that Facebook can leverage to help create a more immersive and interactive communication with its users.
McCabe’s presentation focused on Facebook’s Messenger app and how they are continuing to develop and evolve the functionality, integrating it into the day-to-day lives of its users as well as pushing into new markets such as Messenger for business.
But there’s a lot more to Facebook’s mobile strategy than just Messenger.
Since 2005, Facebook has bought about 50 different businesses to add to its portfolio of companies. A lot of these could be described as buying talent, or taking out potential competitors, but there’s a couple of big ones that clearly signify the seriousness that they’re placing on mobile as the technology enabler of the future.
In 2012 Facebook spent $1 billion to buy Instagram – a big step up from the normal level of talent acquisitions that it had steadily been making. Instagram had quickly grown to be a huge success – enabling users to share photos (and apply stylised filters), it had become one of the most downloaded apps on both iPhone and Android. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram transformed Facebook into a formidable mobile player. In 2014 Facebook announced that it had surpassed a monthly active user base on mobile of over one billion.
The purchase of Instagram wasn’t just about growing user numbers for Facebook, it’s also become an important revenue stream, with a new ad platform launched for Facebook’s advertisers.
Stepping it up again, Facebook spent $16 billion to buy WhatsApp messaging app. Although similar in many ways to the Messenger app that Facebook is continuing to invest heavily in, WhatsApp has a big uptake in emerging markets, so Facebook has essentially ensured total dominance in messenger services with this purchase.
Emerging out of Pittsburgh was Jibbigo – a product from Mobile Technologies. Jibbigo is a speech recognition and translation service and it was quickly snapped up by Facebook. Although it is a smaller purchase when compared to the scale of Instagram or WhatsApp, the capability that Facebook has acquired through its purchase of Jibbigo could be a real game changer.
Your business might not be as big as Facebook, but the important take-out is that you probably need to invest a bit more time and energy into your mobile strategy. If Facebook is now a mobile business, then the mobile space is where we all need to be focusing.