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28th January 2019

The Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp Merger – What’s Going on?

On Friday it was announced that Facebook is to merge with Instagram and WhatsApp. After 2018’s data scandal many people, quite rightly, will be questioning Mark Zuckerberg’s latest announcement. What does this mean? Why is he doing it? What are his true motivations?

The truth of the matter

The party line is it is a ‘personal project’ in order to help people communicate directly cross platform. On the surface this makes perfect sense, we’re seeing different demographics using different platforms, each in their own unique ways and this change would help friends and families connect – which was obviously the original purpose of the social network.

However, there is no doubt that this change is also to safeguard the future of the Facebook empire. Facebook holds a vast amount of data which has been one of the biggest factors in its success, building a highly successful advertising platform for brands to reach specific audiences. It was predicted that by 2020, social media advertising spend will overtake TV – and in 2018 we saw in the UK alone, that four fifths of the money spent on social media networks was spent with Facebook. As millennials are migrating to Instagram and other platforms the move to integrate platforms and undoubtedly ‘share data’ will help to protect this advertising revenue.

Another important factor is that new rules and regulations will doubtless come in to play over the next few years. At the moment advertising restrictions are in place, but quite loosely, and there is no specific authority that is responsible for the governing of ‘social media’ in the same way that there is for TV. Ofcom and similar bodies are constantly pushing for strict and formalised regulation and whilst it might take a while it is inevitable. This cohesion of platforms from Facebook is another way to protect themselves, as they would be much harder to break up as a collective.

What does this mean for brands / advertisers / the industry?

On the surface it won’t affect brands directly, in many ways it may actually help as they’ll have access to richer data that they can leverage across multiple platforms to reach their audiences with relevant content, where they are. Simple, no?

Evolving platforms = evolving strategy

However, streamlining for brands isn’t the motivating factor for Facebook – they’re incredibly smart, they’re constantly evolving and learning from their own (and other brands’ e.g. MySpace’s) mistakes, they’re not going to get left behind or find themselves second best. For example, the move last year to launch and push IGTV was a carefully orchestrated plan to reach younger audiences and take on YouTube – the platform where younger generations are watching hours and hours of long form content that aligns to their interests, from make-up tutorials, gaming, cooking, comedy, pranks…

And it’s clear YouTube see IGTV as a direct contender with reports that they’re offering ‘five and six figure payouts’ to its top tier partners, such as comedian Lilly Singh, to ensure that their best content remains on the platform.

For the industry this is another move by Facebook to ensure they’re aligning with audience behaviours to secure their monopoly and the future of their empire.

For brands and advertisers, this means:

Brands too must put their audiences first

An evolving ‘audience first social strategy’ has never been more important. Brands simply can’t put content on Facebook or any other channel and assume their audience is listening / watching in the same way year on year, they must evolve and adapt. We shouldn’t be recommending that a brand has every single social media channel available to them, unless their audiences are using these channels, they have a clear strategy in place and budget/resource to activate. Putting the audience first and having a clear strategy that constantly evolves is imperative.

By Laura Perry, Head of Social