Facebook has treated marketers well for the past decade or so, and it certainly seems like it's here to stay. In the early stages of social media's development, no platform seemed guaranteed for long-lasting success, but now Facebook has reached a point of name recognition, technological prowess, and user loyalty that rivals major tech players like Google and Apple. To stay on top, Facebook is rolling out and testing a bevy of new features for users (and marketers) that are shaping how we perceive social media in general.
With all these developments and enhancements in mind, what does the future of Facebook marketing actually look like?
In-app content and search
Already, Facebook has released an in-app content feature called Instant Articles, where select publishers can opt to push their latest content to their users via Facebook rather than their dedicated external website. Facebook also offers an in-app search tool for people updating their status (and looking for a specific link to include). If these features are expanded, Facebook could become a force to be reckoned with on the content scene, hosting its own exclusive features and giving users in-app abilities that rival those of Google or Bing. If this happens, not only will brands have more options to get their content seen on Facebook, they'll also have another route to search visibility--provided they can please Facebook's search algorithms the way they currently can Google's.
Last year, Facebook acquired Oculus Rift, a new virtual reality technology that was still undergoing development. Next year, Oculus Rift is set to launch, and Facebook has big plans for incorporating the technology into its current platform. Though details are still on the thin side, it's reasonable to expect a full interface change for Oculus users and an even greater focus on visual content--images and videos, preferably taken using Oculus's panoramic capabilities. If that's the case, brands will be almost forced to adopt this technology and at the very least include more interactive, visual content in their syndication cycles.
Improved audience targeting
Every year, Facebook sees more signups, more status updates, more interactions, and is capable of testing more ads with users. In short, its available stores of data on its users continue to grow on an almost constant basis. As its big data analysis tools grow more sophisticated, it's going to gradually offer even better, more specific audience targeting options for its advertisers. That means you could theoretically drill down your target audience only to people with the greatest chance of eventually buying from you, netting you a higher ROI--provided you have the market insights necessary to make the right decisions and pitch the right message.
Customer service messaging
Starting this summer, Facebook has started rolling out new features to allow brand pages to send and receive private messages to and from its core users. Intended to serve as a new kind of customer service platform, only a handful of businesses are currently using the feature. However, as Facebook makes a bigger push for communication between users and businesses with new features and more attention for the program, in a year or two, Facebook-based customer service could become a new norm in customer communication.
Personal assistant M
As if Siri, Cortana, and Google Now weren't enough, Facebook is planning on unveiling its new digital assistant "M" to its users in the next few months. Working through Facebook Messenger, M actually serves as a hybrid, combining the power of an automated algorithm with sophisticated language recognition with human assistants behind the scenes, carrying out any tasks that are too complex for the algorithm. The hybrid system could be a hit or miss, based on human error and user expectations, but if it takes hold, it's going to represent a whole new outlet for optimization--and you might even be able to use M as part of your customer service package.
Further decay of organic reach
For the past several years, Facebook has slowly been throttling down the potential organic reach of company and brand Facebook posts. Newsfeeds are becoming increasingly cluttered with more competition, so Facebook's organic reach reduction serves to free up the pipeline. Plus, a decrease in organic reach funnels more brands to the company's advertising platform, which earns the company more revenue. It only makes sense that Facebook will continue reducing organic reach as the years continue.
More shopping options
Currently, Facebook offers "buy" buttons and brief shopping options for its users (and brands who choose to list their products using Facebook's ad service). In the next few years, expect to see this functionality expand, offering users in-app shopping carts and purchasing options akin to eBay or Amazon, essentially turning Facebook to a giant shopping cart in addition to its other functions. Facebook M's functionality will only enhance that level of integration.
It's hard to say exactly when or how these updates will manifest--in fact, some of them may turn out to be failed experiments. But no matter what succeeds or fails, Facebook will continue striving to be an all-in-one communication and app for its users. The more developed it gets, the fewer reasons its users have to go anywhere else on their mobile devices, and the more opportunities you'll have as a marketer to make your presence known.