It’s tough to predict what is going to happen at Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s astonishingly steady hand on the throttle, the inspired choice of Sandberg, and an agility that has allowed them to mini-pivot away from bad strategies. Zuckerberg has clearly spent a lot of time in the school of Bill Gates: emulate, iterate and acquire better than anyone else.
A very smart series of investments in WhatsApp, Oculus Rift and Instagram have secured the company’s future; these are best in class platforms that are all dominating their categories. The investment in Oculus Rift’s VR may have been a little early in a nascent market, but reviews of its latest offering are pretty convincing that there is some transformational technology there.
But what of the app, the core of Facebook, the social network, the ad model? The latest from Madison Avenue is not overwhelmingly positive. The telling amount of enthusiasm for a “Facebook killer” that appears to be slightly less encouraging should have been some telling tea leaves for some strategist somewhere. Facebook has issues.
Now there are rumblings of a move into B2B. This says a lot about the perceived weakness of rivals like LinkedIn and even Salesforce.com. There is a great sense of UX vulnerability in each of those platforms, and UX is somewhere Facebook has excelled.
And it may not need to spend as much to get in, not that it couldn’t. B2B is actually a bigger market than B2C with a much hungrier need for usable communication and collaboration technologies; just look at the rapid success of Slack. If Facebook follows its standard modus operandi, to get into business collaboration, they’d acquire Slack.
But why acquire Slack when you have it? There is likely thinking at Facebook that the platform already has the fundamentals of Slack in Messenger (hence the recent push), or at least the building blocks, and more. It has a validated membership, something Slack (or CRM platforms) can’t compete with yet and it could succeed in added value UX where LinkedIn has failed. Imagine a cohesive, manageable, value-add environment for real business communication and not just social networking. MySpace could never have done it, but Facebook’s brand is corporate enough now to move cleanly and logically without any perception issues.
Facebook/LinkedIn could then decide to convert themselves into the world’s best CRM platforms. I can’t help but think CRM vendors are looking over their shoulders at this, but probably more so at LimkedIn than at Facebook. They both can turn on true communications management and workflow functionality and CRM platforms will have very little to compete on. The bane of every CRM system’s existence is data input, and Facebook/LinkedIn already have the majority of that covered.
It becomes a seamless employee/customer/life management platform, but one dominated by business applications, not personal.
The idea of a single Facebook managing our personal and professional lives is, in the vein of Big Brother, unsettling, but it’s tough to imagine it is not in their plans.
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