Futurology: Facebook

22 November 2016

Facebook vice-president EMEA Nicola Mendelsohn forecasts what will disrupt and drive business innovation in 2017 and beyond

Q: What will be the biggest disruptors of business in 2017?

A: One exciting trend we are observing is the rapid growth of video on Facebook and across the web. In fact, more than half of all mobile data traffic is now video and by 2021, it will be more than 70 per cent, according to an Ericsson Mobility Report. As an example, live streaming will continue to grow within television over the next five years as broadcasters build new ways to engage with a permanently-connected, mobile audience.

Q: Generation Y are the digital-first, mobile-first generation - how is this changing the traditional media mix for businesses advertising and communicating with their target audience?

A: Mobile is with us everywhere and ingrained in our personal lives. The average person spends up to three hours a day consuming content on a mobile device, so looking at it through that lens, mobile presents a huge opportunity for businesses to reach its audience. A Millward Brown study estimates that video consumption in the UK is now split between live TV at 32 per cent, TV on demand at 30 per cent, mobile devices at 23 per cent and desktop at 14 per cent. Businesses have an opportunity to create meaningful connections, with a higher bar for creativity and storytelling, across each screen.

Q: Does the blurring of lines between work and personal life on digital platforms make a positive difference to the way we recruit and nurture staff?

Already executives predict a move away from email, with a shift towards more sophisticated digital tools in the workplace

A: Future generations will approach workplaces in new dynamic ways. And it's important for companies to understand these new expectations and to learn about what inspires and motivates employees. Truth is, many businesses know they have to change. Our teams recently worked with Deloitte to learn from more than 200 C-level executives around the world about their view on the “Future of Work”. Fewer than 15 per cent of the leaders were completely satisfied with their organisation’s current ability to communicate, collaborate and actively monitor their progress. This will become more important in the new, future-state workplace.

While no one can predict the future, we believe people will embrace new ways of communicating and bring those experiences and expectations into the workplace. Already, more than three quarters of the executives Deloitte spoke to predict a move away from email, with a shift towards more sophisticated digital tools in the workplace. Businesses will shift from tools that are one-way communication, to tools that encourage feedback.

Q: How do you see workplace connectivity tools developing?

A: People spend most of their daily lives working and today's workplaces are complex. Organisations need new ways to work together, especially as workforces become more global and working styles become more flexible.

At Facebook, we use our own product to help us build our company. Facebook helps us encourage new conversations among teams and helps us get critical feedback from the people that matter.

In a mobilised world, businesses are increasingly global with a need to collaborate across borders and time zones. We recently launched Workplace, which was built and developed in the UK. Workplace is a new platform for collaboration and communication for businesses of all sizes, with companies like Danone, RBS and Oxfam already using it.

Q: How can managers embrace a more open, connected workplace?

A: At Facebook we believe that a more open world is a better world. When people have more information they can make better decisions and have a greater impact. A Facebook, we have built a culture that is open by design and focused on results and being more productive. We embrace a culture of feedback so everyone has a voice, from the CEO to the newest intern.

We believe the best ideas don’t necessarily come from the top and it’s only through a more open and connected workplace it's possible for ideas to be heard

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. We have an engineer at Facebook called Sharon Zeng and her friends were in the Boston Marathon bombings. Phones were jammed and it took her and thousands of other people an agonising amount of time to find out if their friends were okay. Later that year, Facebook held one of its annual hackathons. Sharon convinced her engineer friend Peter to work on a safety check product with her. They took it to Mark and, nine months later, it was shipped.

We’ve activated Safety Check for natural disasters like the earthquake in Nepal, and man-made disasters like the Paris terrorist attacks, where over four million people used the Safety Check tool to tell their friends they were OK. Over 360 million people got notifications that their friends were safe. It’s now one of our most important features.

We believe the best ideas don’t necessarily come from the top and it’s only through a more open and connected workplace that it makes it possible for ideas to be heard.

Q: What can UK businesses learn from early adopters elsewhere around the globe – such as heavy mobile users in the developing world?

A: Last June we opened up our first office in South Africa. Our teams meet with businesses across the continent to listen and learn about the new ways to help them succeed in a new mobile economy. Many of these businesses are mobile-first companies and using Facebook to grow.

Take for example, Kenyan entrepreneur Ciiru Waweru-Waithaka. Ciiru founded the brand Funkidz in 2010 after seeing the need for a children’s brand from Africa. Her flagship brand, Funkidz Furniture, offers funky designs that provide clever functional storage and a stimulating environment. With her sights firmly set on growth, Ciiru turned to Facebook to build awareness of the Funkidz brand and drive in-store traffic and sales. Ciiru has used Facebook to hone her overall business strategy, drawing on Audience Insights to understand her customers better and uncover opportunities for brand partnerships. The brand was able to scale across Africa, connecting with customers in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. Plus, more than 60 per cent of its web traffic is referred from Facebook and sales increased 92 per cent over one year.

People on Facebook from across Europe to countries such as Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, and the US are connected to UK small businesses

In the UK, more than two million small business have a Facebook Page. There is a strong connection between people and businesses on Facebook. In fact, more than 300 million people from around the world are connected to a small business in the UK. People on Facebook from across Europe, from Germany, France, and others, to other countries such as Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, and the US are connected to UK small businesses.

For example, Eve Sleep, founded in London, produces one type of mattress and offers customers a 100-night trial. They wanted to expand internationally, reaching new and more importantly, qualified customers at an affordable cost. Because of Facebook, the brand was able to launch in the US and in Europe, and experienced a threefold increase in sales volume.

As the bridge to the new mobilised economy, Facebook can help businesses connect with customers on the same street or around the world.