19 billion dollars. That’s what Facebook just spent on acquiring the mobile app WhatsApp. Yes, that’s a lot of money. However, as the dust settles on the deal some experts are seeing the logic in the deal and why it makes sense.
If you run social media for your church, this type of news doesn’t typically affect you. However, I do think that the purchase of Whatsapp can give us some insight into Facebook’s future strategy and what it means for your church.
Facebook is going all in on mobile
Mobile is the future. Facebook has seen dramatic growth in mobile use of their platform and they know that’s where their future lies. You should expect to see a heavy investment from Facebook in the mobile experience. This means that as a church, you need to focus on the mobile experience first and then focus on the desktop. Ask yourself, how does your church’s content look on a mobile device? Is formatted correctly? Can it be easily read on a smaller screen?
It’s a Reminder that You’re the Product
Facebook’s business model is pretty simple, users hand over personal data through status updates, pictures and likes. That data is then sold to marketers who use the data to sell ads. It’s a pretty simple revenue model. The addition of Whatsapp and it’s 450 million users adds to the growing list of users who give Facebook their data. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg projects that he could easily make at least $2-$3 off of each users to begin with.
Remember when you’re dealing with social media companies, you’re the product, not the customer. It’s easy to confuse the two. That’s not to say that Facebook or Twitter don’t care about the user experience, but it does mean that goal is to get as much data out of you as possible. Again, you’re not paying for the service, marketers are and that’s who social media companies have to keep happy.
As churches we need to be careful not build too many of our communication channels on “free” networks. While these networks are great for your budget, they come with little or no customer service, no gurantee of their uptime and no promise of protection of your free speech as a church. Consider diversifying your channels to platforms that you’re truly the customer or that you yourself can host. While yes, it does take a little more time and effort, but it ensures you will have stable communication channels.
Whatapp is just the beginning
If you’re big fan and user of Facebook then this is just one more way that you will be able to incorporate Facebook into your life. However, if you’re weary of Zuckerberg and Facebook, then be careful what you sign up for in the future. This aquisition is one of many coming down the road for them. As Facebook struggles to create more ways to get on your mobile device (i.e. their dismal launch of the Android Home app), they will be forced to purchased established players in the field like Whatsapp.
Facebook will continue to be a key player in most churches’ social media strategy. As it should, considering its staggering amount of users and rise of popularity amongst senior adults . However, this recent aquisition of Whatsapp is healthy reminder to diversify your communications platforms and always explore new options.