‘The Social Media Wars’ is a phrase you hear less and less of these days. And with good reason; Facebook’s position as king of the social media landscape is assured and as the default gateway to the world of social media, Facebook can be confident that it will be able to boast increases in user numbers every quarter. But having won these wars, it’s clear that Facebook is on the hunt for a new battle to win, and has the worlds of online video and e-commerce in its sights.
Already, Facebook has been a major winner in the social video boom. GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that over half of users on the platform are watching videos, and a fifth are engaging with one of network’s biggest new development, Facebook Live. While Facebook is not yet posting the video viewing figures that YouTube can boast, the only way is up from here.
And as Facebookers become more and more acclimatized to consuming video on the network, clear opportunities will arise for Facebook to move aggressively into the world of online TV. Having already tested the waters by hosting Amazon Prime pilots, the network must surely be taking notice of the vast revenues that Netflix (and Amazon) generate from their online TV content. The leap into this competitive market will be difficult but for a company with such deep pockets, the potential is obvious.
There’s even more potential for Facebook in the world of online commerce. In Asia, networks like WeChat and Line have made huge revenues from facilitating commerce on their platforms. But many social media users, particularly in Europe and North America, remain either unaware or ambivalent about the potential benefits of social commerce, which has hampered attempts to roll out true social commerce options on many networks, Facebook included.
The launch (or re-launch, depending on your point of view) of Facebook Marketplace marked another effort by the world’s biggest social network to expand into some of the biggest e-commerce markets. And it’s easy to see why Facebook is committed to making social commerce work. If we take the US as an example, GWI’s research shows that over 30 percent of adult Facebookers in this country turn to social media when they are researching products online. And with 8 in 10 US Facebookers purchasing products online each month, there’s clearly a huge opportunity to bring some of these purchases inside social networks.
However, only 6 percent of adult Facebookers say being able to purchase directly via social media would encourage them to buy online. These figures amply illustrate the challenge that faces Facebook in its mission to popularize true social commerce options among digital consumers. While many people are comfortable integrating social media into their purchase journey, when it comes to final purchase, for now most will turn to traditional online retail sites.
Within this context, Facebook Marketplace could bridge the gap between research and purchase on social media. It could be an important step in educating Facebookers about the benefits of social commerce. It may take some time before we see the flourishing social commerce platforms of Asia replicated in Europe and North America, and we could look back at Marketplace as a big step in this evolution.
Although it will take a while for consumer attitudes to change, it may not be long until that Facebook app on your phone begins to resemble more than just a portal to the world of social and starts being the first port-of-call for users looking to engage with a wide variety of online activities.