I think it is very safe to say 2018 was a rough year for Facebook. Their “Year in Review” is probably one they would not like to reflect on. The platform has dealt with more issues than any other time since its inception. Some of these instances include: Cambridge Analytica, Exodus of Executives, plummeting stock prices, and to top off the year a lawsuit filed by the attorney general that dropped Facebook’s stocks even further.
While Facebook handled the majority of these instances very poorly, in the spirit of the holiday’s I want to take some time to focus on the positive that Facebook was able to accomplish this year. The media has covered the negative in far more detail that I ever will be able to or quite frankly want to, so I thought it would be a nice change of pace to educate you on the positive that occurred this year.
Facebook at its core is a platform that connects individuals. As we have seen this year, connectivity at that scale can pose its problems and also be exploited, but there is still some amazing things that can come out of it. One of the most impactful things that stood out to me that Facebook was able to accomplish this year was the major milestone that they were able to hit in the amount of money that has been raised for causes on the platform. This year Facebook passed $1 billion raised through the platform helping over 1 million nonprofits. 20 million people donated through the fundraising platform since its inception. These donations helped accomplish some amazing things:
“Save the Children raised more than $7.5 million over the past two years, which contributed to helping 6.5 million children in crisis across 60 countries.
- 1 in 6 kids in America lives with hunger. No Kid Hungry raised over $5 million from more than 200,000 donors on Facebook to help feed kids across the US.
- The Marine Mammal Center, the world’s largest marine mammal veterinary hospital, raised over $30,000 to pay for 15 tons of herring – enough to feed all of its seal and sea lion patients for two months.
- Countless animals suffer from homelessness, abuse and neglect. This year, the ASPCA raised over $4.4 million from nearly 170,000 donors.
- Stop Soldier Suicide raised over $2 million to help provide 5,000 service members, veterans, or family members with 24 months of personalized support.
- St. Jude raised almost $30 million, helping to ensure that no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food.
- International Rescue Committee received over 27,000 donations, enabling them to provide essential support to millions of people whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered by conflict and disaster” – Facebook News Room
I believe this truly illustrates the power that the platform has to make a difference, whether it be good or bad. I myself have contributed to these fundraisers, usually started by very distant friends. Facebook is a great platform to unite individuals for a common cause. There has never been a platform that has been so impactful in doing so.
I think another part of Facebook that is painted in a negative light is Facebook Advertising. Facebook advertising has been painted in a negative light because the general public feels that their data is being exploited by the platform. To in an extent, I can see where this negative sentiment is coming from, but also with further education of the platform people would see that the data being collected is very surface level and also you are able to opt-out of the platform using your data all together. Yes, I know this is a very highly debated topic, but I want to talk about the portion that people often overlook.
The majority of the people who are benefiting from that data being used for advertising are small businesses. It’s your cousin John who had a great idea for a new gizmo or aunt Betty who is trying to get some additional traction for her local bakery. Advertising in the past was a rich man’s game. You had to pay premium dollars to advertise your company on TV spots that would make an impact or in trusted publications. Facebook has leveled the playing field which has been a big reason in the big boom in entrepreneurism and small business in the United States.
The barrier to entry to gain awareness of your business is so much lower than it used to be and a lot of these companies solely rely on Facebook for a big chunk of their revenue. A lot of these companies you discovered through Facebook, you may even be huge a supporter of their business now and you discovered them by Facebook being able serve you an ad that they know would resonate with you versus something completely irrelevant. The more that restrictions come over Facebook and people leave the platform the harder it’s going to be for these small businesses to progress. Not only does the platform innately help small business grow, but Facebook has committed to further helping small business through different initiatives.
Earlier in the year, Facebook pledged to train 1 million US business owners and equip people with digital skills they need to compete in the modern workplace. To do so they launched 3 tools: “Learn with Facebook, Jobs on Facebook, and Mentorship”. Learn with Facebook contains lessons that include things such as “Ace Your Interview” and “Manage your Content Marketing” and they are all free to access. To help the tool gain more traction they also partnered with the Goodwill Community Foundation to offer this training across the U.S. The Jobs on Facebook was launched in 2017 and to date it has helped people find over 1 million jobs.
Lastly, the Mentorship tool help connect people in groups who are seeking mentorship. The tool makes it easier for people to reach out to find mentors in their community. Facebook has also taken this commitment internationally. Facebook committed this year to train 1 million people and business owners across the EU by 2020. Through initiatives like there Facebook has been able to invest more than $1 Billion to support small business around the world since 2011.
While there are a lot of things that Facebook did wrong this year, they still were able to do a lot of good. While I don’t agree with how they handled some of the things they faced this year, I also think that they are facing unprecedented challenges that any company would have a hard time troubleshooting. At the end of the day Facebook is a very powerful tool that can be used for good and unfortunately as we are seeing for bad as well. Like the late great Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Hopefully Facebook can heed that advice and make a turn for the better in 2019.