Our recent visit out west to Facebook, Twitter and Google HQ! Written by Gordon Stewart
(Notice: Our Confidentiality agreement prohibits the release of certain information regarding current projects or images of special workplace areas, etc.)
This Disney inspired campus design never fails to impress me. It really feels like Willy Wonka took residence in the Pentagon. The architectural metaphor of a safeplace for elite nerds to be protected from regular society does not escape me. These are the intellectual superheroes of our generation and they deserve a decorated fortress where their brains are free to roam without bully threats to their lunch money. Facebook associates can bring their pets for free daycare, decorate their offices any way they want, drink beer or wine, grab a pizza or BBQ or prime rib or gourmet salad in the various restaurants, receive medical services and dentistry, bring their dirty laundry for free cleaning services, perform banking, make vintage posters in the printing press room, learn wood carving and furniture construction in their woodshops, spend the day hacking websites for fun, achieve travel arrangements, etc all without leaving the campus. You could literally live there. There is no reason to leave.
I once asked a 22 year old employee how he dealt with all the distractions and the amazing opportunities to lose focus on his job. He darted back quickly with “Would you want to lose this job?”. Point taken. They may be young but they are in total control of their productivity and do not succumb easily to these temptations for their own immediate gratification…like most of us would perhaps. They like having these options and they genuinely use them but only in moderation. They dont remember anyone ever getting crazy and throwing up beer on a laptop. These amenities were designed to attract the brightest young people in our Country and you can tell these folks are genuinely appreciative to walk among their intellectual peers. Basically, if you didn’t get your computer science degree at Harvard, Stanford or MIT….AND do NOT have a genius IQ, you cannot work here. I’m talking elite humans folks.
So what are they all working on? Us. Its coding of course but they are coding new products and strategies to accommodate US knowing how we behave on-line. They know everything. What sites we visit, how long we stay, the things we click, who our friends are, where we are right now, what we are likely to respond to and what time of day is better to catch us. What they know is a marketer’s dream. What they know about people is more valuable than a PHd in Psychology. What they do with it all..is getting more and more interesting. With great power comes great responsibility. Protecting our privacy is paramount to them for obvious reasons but strategically divulging our behavior to marketers for a price is the where all the value comes in for Facebook. Rightfully so. Im not offended or scared by this. I am thrilled by the idea of someone filtering all the noise and delivering content that I am genuinely interested in. As a consumer, personally, I will learn more, read more and buy more as a result. Everyone wins.
Of course, I am giddy about all this when i am wearing my marketing hat too. The opportunities to present my wares to a filtered audience that is more likely to appreciate it provides great value to me. No need to present content to people that will never be interested. My campaigns can be more efficient and better targeted. Thank you Facebook.
But I cant help feeling that there is an even bigger picture here…not just with Facebook but with all social media platforms. Considering our increasingly prolific use of mobile devices and the inconveniences of clicking on links that take us away from the application we are in (and our subsequent decrease in engagement with these links as a result), there is a genuine race to carve new methods in keeping us in the application without needing to leave the platform for another. In other words, what if you could get all your content, news, videos and shopping without ever leaving your preferred social media application? Think about it.
There is a strong and direct relationship between live TV events and Twitter. Twitter wants you to be able to watch TV in Twitter without ever leaving their application. Twitter rolled out the ability to play videos in tweets this year and is now very busy buying video companies and media content sources. They are now testing shopping on Twitter with “Buy Now” options thru certain stores like Home Depot and seeing good results. Facebook achieved this ability first of course and has been a bonanza in generating both engagement and ad dollars. Article sharing and political news content has been going thru the roof in Facebook feeds and there is more news article sharing going on then ever. The tide is shifting towards social and the race is on to provide you all these resources.
Compare this to the old days of watching the 6 o’clock news on TV. Being presented with a variety of stories you were not interested in and begging for them to get to the Sports news which they strategically made you wait until the end. Now, you can get filtered news directly to your feed and protect yourself from subjects you are not interested in. Taking it a step further, you can share the articles or clips immediately with your friends and add your comments. Amazing stuff. You know this already though.
So take it another step further…wait…I cant…but that’s what these brilliant minds are trying to predict and then anticipate the solutions. That is what concerns them. That is what consumes them. These amazing people are not only predicting our futures but inventing solutions for us. Its a brave new world and the traditional media companies know it better than anyone. It’s the social media companies (that we statistically prefer anyway) in particular that are going to win the race and they have the stock value and money to buy it, force it, make it, fix it, kill it or invent it.
There are still some minor challenges in the present day like: I keep getting ballet shoe ads in my Facebook feed because my daughter borrowed my laptop once and visited ballet websites and now Facebook thinks Im the one that likes ballet shoes…I swear it was her!)…or black hat hackers trying to steal our personal information, etc. But the real game is in seeing how we behave on line and accurately predicting how we will react to new product developments. There will be minor advances in the next year but I humbly predict that, very soon, we will be getting everything we get online today without ever leaving the preferred social media platform of our choice. Its already happening in the background, they are just working on the functionality in the foreground. From live sporting events to headline news, from shopping to banking. You wont need Cable or DirectTV anymore. Your TV monitor will simply become a larger display option for your phone to project on. That’s already here too with Apple TV and Google ChromeCast. I’m buying stock in the Social Media companies. They are going to be the remaining Media companies and the word “social” will already be implied from now on. Journalists will work for Facebook not CBS. We are all going to be on the scene journalists between tweeting and video sending. Movie producers will work for Netflix and YouTube not 20thCenturyFox. Musicians will create content without Record companies and hope to sell original music back to those video producers. Wait…this is happening already.