Facebook turned 15 earlier this month to a resounding chorus of ‘So What?’ Apart from making us feel ancient, its only relevancy today is in uniting all its stakeholders to categorically list its many failures, right? Every day brings about a new scandal or announcement that’s left users untrusting and advertisers uneasy.

Its size is one of the biggest barriers to rebuilding trust. For the past two of these 15 years, Facebook has been dealing with seemingly endless data breaches, stagnating user growth and unreliable metrics, but it’s not like they’re the only ones facing these issues, they’ve just been unfortunate enough to be made an example of. A lot.

I doubt Zuckerberg knew how big an operation he would be managing when he created the platform in 2004 from his college dorm room. Facebook’s growth has been nothing short of staggering, building their empire by acquiring early competitors and pivoting to mobile when few knew how to monetize their offering. It was, and still remains, impressive.

Listen, there’s no denying they have screwed up, but what’s important is how they go about fixing things, rather than focusing on everything that has gone wrong so far. It’s easy to lose sight of the value that this platform can bring for marketers in the wake of so much negative press, but the signs are positive that Facebook can and will fix these mistakes.

It’s gone through iterations before and it will again. Facebook has fundamentally changed what it means to be social and that doesn’t just go away – it will become relevant again in an entirely new way that we can all take advantage of. Trust is the biggest hurdle they will have to address, more so on the user side, as despite mummerings of discord, marketers are showing no sign of easing their spends on such a lucrative platform. According to a recent report, revenue for the fourth quarter stood at $16.91 billion, a 30.4% year-over-year (YoY) increase. Nearly all of that – $16.64 billion – was thanks to advertising, so whatever you’re hearing isn’t actually translating into a financial concern for Facebook yet.

They remain the best way to reach audiences, their global reach unrivaled, but shifting user perception is a challenge; after all, a social network without trust doesn’t exactly sound like a winning proposition for marketers, does it? Perhaps this is a task that doesn’t fall to Facebook alone, with new technologies already being feted as an alternative solution.

In future, Facebook could end up as the middleman, or broker if you like, as user data is moved to a decentralized database via Blockchain. This would put the control squarely back with the users, as they opt in to the data collected, opening up this identity marketplace to a variety of participants, Facebook among them. That would go some way to solving the trust gap, whilst relieving the platform of its responsibility, and creating a lucrative advertising revenue stream in the process. If something like this became a reality, we could be looking at a total 360 on the platform, where marketers have access to unrivalled metrics and users become the gatekeepers in allowing this. The balance of power shifted, Facebook could ironically (given where it sits today) become one of the most trusted platforms for both users and advertisers alike.

Right now, there’s no sense in having a knee-jerk reaction to the digital media issues coming to the forefront without understanding the alternative or context. I still maintain that all options should be explored, not relying on just one platform to reach users, but phasing something like Facebook out of media plans entirely would be a mistake. Competition is healthy, it stops complacency and we’re already seeing agencies look beyond the walled gardens to other digital ad inventory suppliers, who can be more accommodating than the bigger players.

Facebook still has a massive hill to climb in regaining user trust, but we should look at the big picture and where the platform is looking to head in the next 12-24 months. News that they are planning to unite all their messaging apps under one infrastructure is a shrewd business move that will combine its data with information from Instagram, WhatsApp and third party websites, presenting a tempting package for marketers. Narrowing the focus on where we are today is irrelevant, we need to look beyond this and see what comes next. For Facebook that’s tighter data controls in the immediate and a complete resurgence in the future.

Facebook 2.0 is coming… are you ready?

Written by Ayman Haydar,
Chief Executive Officer at MMP World Wide