The challenges facing Facebook after a year of turmoil – and spectacular growth

By Dino Myers-Lamptey

Data breaches, Mark Zuckerberg’s senate appearances, Martin Lewis’ fake news playouts, undermining democracy accusations, tripling tax bills in the UK and paying kids to spy on their mobiles. This doesn’t sound like the achievements of a company that is posting 30 per cent increases in ad revenues, and a 12 per cent share value increase. Or does it?

Saying the past year has been turbulent for Facebook is an understatement, but the fact that it has managed a rise in share value is only a reflection of the environment in which this turbulence is occurring. Facebook has shown the survival skills that even the Maybot would admire, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Its numbers are growing: global users, revenues, WhatsApp, and it seems that all this data is finally proving to be the much-promised new oil.

While we can point the finger at Facebook and its faults, we must realise the power of its influence. What it is doing is working for consumers, advertisers, politicians and, unfortunately, also the one-man band fraudsters. Facebook has the data jewels, and in this economy that gives insight to a lot of things: what consumers like, what they want, what they are planning, what their friends want, what they’re downloading, what they’re deleting, what brands they engage more with and which ones they don’t. All incredibly valuable intelligence that advertisers crave, and perhaps most importantly for their success or even survival, where they need to move to next to maintain their relevance and their unfair share of consumers’ attention.

As Facebook knows, with its great power comes great responsibility, and it has a very big year ahead as it tries to regain trust. As it attempts to do this, it must put its hands up and draw clear lines between the good and the bad uses of data. We can all agree that what they are doing is of great value to consumers – so much value that its influence can also be used for great harm.

No one wants the latter of course. So, I would expect their new oil to ignite the engines of change. This may mean a temporary hit and the odd stall, but will no doubt keep it as a force for the future, turning data not into the new oil, but the new sustainable and renewable energy for the future.

Dino Myers-Lamptey is UK MD of MullenLowe Mediahub.

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