The Evolution of Facebook’s Messaging

04.12.2018 | Christie Melby

The last few months Facebook has been the center of the media’s attention. In case you haven’t sifted through the articles, the gist of the story is this: Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, gained access to private information from millions of Facebook users. The backlash has been extensive and this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been testifying in front of Congress to explain how this happened.

As I was reading about the latest developments, I came across a Wall Street Journal video that looks back at how Facebook’s messages have changed over the years. As a young but powerful company with significant reach, it is interesting to see how Facebook’s messaging has evolved to adapt to the changing services the company offers to its users. The video pulls directly from a variety of interviews and speeches Mark Zuckerberg has given over the years about Facebook’s mission and vision.

Below is an overview of the messaging at each stage.

Connecting with People. In 2005, shortly after Facebook was founded, Zuckerberg said, “Facebook was about connecting people.” This could mean you’re connecting with old friends, such as friends from middle school that you haven’t seen in awhile, Zuckerberg noted. He also shared that it was a useful tool to look people up because “people feel comfortable sharing.” Note, at this point, Facebook had only been launched at Harvard and several other college campuses.

Sharing Information. Three years later, the social media platform made itself available to anyone over the age of 13. The message was no longer about connecting people, it was about “helping people share information and share themselves.” The company had been focused on building different services that enabled people to “share parts of their personality.”

The Social Platform. Facebook was working to become the underlying social media platform for the internet. After some criticism, Zuckerberg altered his message a month later, emphasizing the importance of people maintaining control over their information. He stated, “When people have control over what they share, they are comfortable sharing more.”

Making the World More Open and Connected. At Facebook’s 2012 IPO, Zuckerberg noted that the company’s mission was not to be a public company, but that it was to make the world more open and connected.

More than Social Media. In 2013, Facebook explained that it could have a role in politics, but it was all positive. At this point, Facebook was used regularly to facilitate communication and share news, but Zuckerberg thought it could go beyond that. He saw Facebook as a potential tool that people would use to choose their government and sign up for healthcare.

Responsibility. Following the 2016 presidential election, Facebook realized how the platform could be used to spread misinformation and that organizations, political parties, or other groups could use the platform in ways they hadn’t intended it to be used. Facebook recognized that with its reach to billions across the globe, the company had a responsibility “to make sure [its] tools were used to create the most benefit for people around the world.”

A New Mission. In December 2017, Facebook officially changed its mission to “bring the world closer together.” Zuckerberg noted a divided society and that he wanted Facebook to be used to help people join communities.

Under a global spotlight, Zuckerberg is currently testifying in front of Congress, addressing their inquiries about Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook member’s data. Undoubtedly, in a crisis of this magnitude, he would have developed messages to address the questions he knows will come. However, what will be interesting to watch is how Facebook’s message continues to evolve following the testimonies. Facebook cannot simply focus on the idealistic mission it has laid out. The company and Zuckerberg will need to focus on rebuilding trust with Facebook users and assure them their data and information is safe and secure.


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Filed under: COMMUNIQUÉ PR, Crisis Communications, EXPERTISE, Media

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