When Facebook filed to go public in early 2012, Mark Zuckerberg noted that the social network wasn’t originally designed to be a company. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg wrote in Facebook’s S-1 filing, presenting the business as an engine supporting this goal.
Now, five years later, the social network’s CEO still believes Facebook’s primary purpose is a social one, but he’s ready to update this mission for the first time. At at time when Facebook has come under scrutiny for not adequately curbing the spread of false news and extremist activity on the social network, Zuckerberg is committing to making the world closer. On stage on Thursday at Facebook’s first Community Summit, a gathering in Chicago of leaders from 120 different Facebook Groups, Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s updated purpose: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Facebook’s new mission, Zuckerberg said in an interview at the company’s Menlo Park, California headquarters last week, doesn’t mean that the company is shifting away from connecting friends and family, but rather, that it’s broadening its focus to enabling people to connect with meaningful communities, too. Why do these communities matter, Zuckerberg’s case goes? They help users find common ground, which helps people engage with new perspectives and become aware of different issues. Groups also offer individuals personal support, which gives them bandwidth to look outward and address the biggest human problems, like climate change and global health issues. Being exposed to common information and ideas isn’t enough to bring individuals together, the thesis continues – they need to identify with people who seem different from themselves to adopt new perspectives.
“For 10 years, we focused on doing everything around connecting people with their friends and family,” Zuckerberg said. “Now I think that there is a whole lot of similar work to be done around communities: Meeting new people, getting exposed to new perspectives, making it so that the communities that you join online can translate to the physical world, too.”
Zuckerberg described the new mission as an extension of Facebook’s original mantra, as opposed to an entirely new direction, and a focus that will guide the company over the next decade. The new mission is intended to reflect that Facebook’s responsibility has “expanded,” Zuckerberg said.
“We’ve been thinking about what our responsibility is in the world,” Zuckerberg said in an interview. “Connecting friends and family has been pretty positive, but I think there is just this collective feeling that we have a responsibility to do more than that and also help build communities and help people get exposed to new perspectives and meet new people – not just give people a voice, but also help build common ground so people can actually move forward together.”
A Decline In Community
The new mission was inspired by a shift that Zuckerberg said has become more pronounced over the past few years. When Facebook started, the idea of connecting the world wasn’t controversial. But increasingly, some movements in the world work against globalization, whether the exchange of policies, goods or ideas, and prevent the globe from coming together. Simultaneously, Zuckerberg noted, participation in communities has been declining around the world, in some places by as much as one quarter.
The decline in community activity is concerning, Zuckerberg noted, because while people can get personal and economic support from families and governments, people’s needs have historically also been filled by participating in other networks, revolving around everything from religion to sports, neighborhoods, health or shared values. Zuckerberg said the importance of community groups and leaders, like pastors and local advocates, and the impact of declining community membership, has been visible to him on his “50 states tour,” which will ensure he meets people in every U.S. state to better understand how social networks affect their lives.
“I’ll go talk to people in a church, and a pastor will say, ‘I know that when a factory closes down in town, I’ll be doing marriage counseling with a lot of people in a month’,” Zuckerberg said. “Someone needs to do that, but that’s happening less and less. People’s support structures are going away.”
One of the primary benefits of being part of “meaningful groups,” Zuckerberg said, is the potential for that network to help members from a range of backgrounds and perspectives connect over shared values. Access to information alone isn’t a cure-all to helping people care about a broader set of global issues, Zuckerberg said. People often hone their perspective and become interested in new causes as a result of personal relationships.
Research suggests, Zuckerberg said, that in order for people to productively debate an issue, they need to first find recognize their common interests or beliefs. As the world’s largest social network with nearly 2 billion users, Facebook could have an unprecedented opportunity to promote these connections.
“People share more information, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that understanding is shared – that doesn’t mean the perspectives people have are getting closer together,” Zuckerberg said last week. “We can help you connect over things that you share before exposing you to debates that are really important to have productively.”
Currently, 1 billion Facebook users are part of groups, but only about 100 million are part of groups they would describe as meaningful, Zuckerberg said. For many, these groups can range from support networks for people experiencing or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, like Affected by Addiction Support Group, to religiously-focused groups like Original Free Will Baptist Church group, run by a minister in Decatur, Georgia, who uses the app to chat with congregation members and share live videos of sermons to allow people to watch from their homes. Zuckerberg said Facebook has set a new goal to help 1 billion people join meaningful groups.
“A billion is a pretty important number in that, if we can do that, that will essentially reverse the whole decline in community membership around the world and start regrowing it to a point where it will have positive social effects,” Zuckerberg said.
Moving forward, a major new area of emphasis in Facebook’s product roadmap is building features that encourage users to find and join more groups that will be meaningful to them, as well as to make it easier for community leaders and Group admins to run groups and create new ones. It isn’t unusual for admins of large groups to spend several hours per day managing tasks like vetting requests from users to join, approving posts or addressing flagged content.
Facebook debuted a suite of new tools for Group admins on Thursday, including a new panel of real-time metrics called “Group insights”; a membership request filtering tool, which allows admins to organize requests through categories like gender and location; a “Removed member clean-up” tool, which makes it easier for admins to make groups safe by automatically deleting former users’ content; a post-scheduling tool to save admins and moderators time; and “Group-to-group-linking,” which allows admins to recommend similar or related groups to their members, aimed at helping sub-communities interact.
“The admins themselves are so critical because each group needs someone who’s going to look out for people,” said Zuckerberg, who noted that Facebook plans to continue rolling out additional tools to support admins over time. Facebook has also adjusted its algorithm to suggest Groups to people based on how meaningful the user will find the Group, as opposed to how likely that user is to join a particular Group.
As Facebook’s user base and the size and number of Groups continues to grow, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company will need to continue improving its tools and policies for addressing bad actors and harmful activity. Addressing issues around harassment, discrimination and issues like recruiting by terrorist groups, requires a combination of human policies and moderating as well as artificial intelligence.
“There are boundaries,” Zuckerberg said. “Hate speech is certainly not allowed, terrorism is absolutely not allowed.”
Tackling Global Problems
Zuckerberg’s focus on community building ties back to the nearly 6,000-word manifesto he shared earlier this year, which pitches Facebook as digital social infrastructure that can be leveraged for good. Although the company’s new mission emphasizes community, Zuckerberg seems to view the individual as the immediate, critical unit for change at scale. Communities are important, Zuckerberg said, in large part because they help give people more bandwidth to look beyond their immediate surroundings and concerns.
“A more connected world is going to be necessary to take on the greatest opportunities and challenges for the next generation, everything from stopping climate change, to stopping pandemics, to funding research,” Zuckerberg said in an interview. “These are not fundamentally national problems anymore. In order to get there, you need to build a world where every person has a sense of support and purpose in their life so they don’t just focus narrowly on what’s going on in their lives, but can think about these broader issues as well.” – Written by Kathleen Chaykowski FORBES STAFF
TikTok Launches $200 Million Fund To Finance Up-And-Coming Stars
TikTok will begin financing emerging creators on its short-form video platform with a $200 million fund that it announced today, an unusual move by a social media company and one that comes after several weeks of concerns about TikTok’s future.
The company, which is owned by China-based ByteDance, didn’t provide many specific details about how it will give out that money or who may qualify for it. It may be directed toward users from minority groups—with the press release about the fund’s debut singling out creators like Boman Martinez-Reid, a LGBTQ comedian who has signed with CAA, and Tabitha Brown, who’s become famous for her videos about family life and veganism.
TikTok is in a multi-front battle right now. The Trump Administration is considering banning the app over concerns it may share data with the Chinese government, and the users who flocked to TikTok over the past year have been exploring other platforms for their content. In the past few weeks, TikTokers have posted videos urging their fans to also follower them on apps like Instagram, while others have turned to rival music-and-video apps such as Dubsmash and Byte to produce work.
The best way to keep them on TikTok is to offer a clear path toward earning money. Instagram and other social platforms have struggled to do that, and YouTube’s ad-sharing scheme—based on the views generated by someone’s videos—remains the quickest and simplest monetization for influencers. Companies such as Chipotle and E.L.F. cosmetics are already paying for sponsored content on TikTok, where influencers post videos advertising these companies for a fee, as much as six figures now for the top stars. But those deals are typically hashed out between the brands and the influencers without the social media companies getting involved.
TikTok’s $200 million fund is a different step, something neither Instagram nor YouTube have done. It theoretically would allow more creators to flourish as they start out and begin searching for commercial work, such as the sponsored content posts.
The Billionaire’s Startup
The world is awash in streaming services, and Meg Whitman already had her fortune — but then Jeffrey Katzenberg came calling with a mobile-focused startup. With nearly $1.8 billion raised and America on lockdown, consumers may have no choice but to try Quibi.
Minutes after Meg Whitman announced she was stepping down as CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise in November 2017, her phone rang. It was Jeffrey Katzenberg, whom she has known since they both worked for Disney in the late 1980s and early 1990s — Whitman was in strategic planning; Katzenberg ran the film studio. ‘What are you doing?’ ” Whitman remembers her friend asking. “I don’t know,” she replied.
“I’m the chairman of Teach for America. I’ll probably do stuff with my husband and travel.” She continues: “He goes, ‘No. What are you doing tonight?’ And I said, ‘Knowing you, Jeffrey, I’m having dinner with you.’ ”
Katzenberg flew to Silicon Valley and, over dinner at Nobu in Palo Alto, pitched his idea for bringing high-caliber entertainment to mobile phones. For Whitman, the idea checked all her boxes: The potential market for the service was huge, prevailing trends were right and it occupied a unique niche.
“I ultimately said, ‘You know what? I think I have another startup in me,’ ” says Whitman, 63, who first got rich (she’s worth $3.3 billion) working with another visionary founder, Pierre Omidyar. She helped build eBay from 30 employees and $4 million in revenue when she joined in 1998 to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue when she left a decade later.
“We’re pioneering into a space that only exists because of two things: YouTube, and Steve Jobs and the iPhone,” Katzenberg says. “Those two things have now created a new piece of real estate, and that real estate is 7 in the morning until 7 at night… That’s the thing that’s exciting to me.”
Two years after that dinner, Quibi (an awkward portmanteau of quick and bites) is poised to launch its mobile streaming service offering original movies, reality TV, comedies and news edited into bite sized nuggets of 10 minutes or less, optimized for viewing on phones.
Many in Hollywood think it’s a terrible idea. At a time when viewers are awash in entertainment options, many of them free, who is going to pay for another? “If I’m going to watch Game of Thrones in eight-minute chunks, what’s the difference between what he’s doing and me hitting the pause button?” scoffs one powerful Hollywood insider, who requested anonymity because his clients sell shows to Quibi. Barry Diller, perhaps the greatest Hollywood visionary of his generation, recently called Quibi a “gutsy speculation” for his former protégé (Katzenberg, 69, worked for Diller at Paramount in the ’70s). “He’s so naked out there with this.”
It’s not a new idea. Back in 1999, Katzenberg tried something similar with Pop.com, which was supposed to deliver short animated and live-action films across the internet. With the technology for viable video streaming still in its infancy, it was an uncertain notion at best. Despite being backed by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Paul Allen, Pop.com was dead within a year.
This time around, Katzenberg raised enough money to play it out, including $1 billion in August 2018 from the likes of Alibaba, Disney and Sony. It fortuitously wrapped up a $750 million follow-on round in March, just days before the coronavirus froze the country. “I’ve never seen an environment change this fast,” Whitman says. “Every day is a new day, with new data and new concerns.” Luckily, Kevin Hart and Jennifer Lopez already finished work on their shows, and Spielberg has a movie in the works, attracted by a “cash plus” deal that lets them retain rights to their material. After two years, they can stitch together their “quick bites” and release them as a full-length movie.
Inadvertently, America’s lockdown might have created the perfect moment for Quibi. Nielsen projects media viewing will spike by as much as 60% due to COVID-19. People will certainly know it’s available: Quibi is spending a gargantuan $400 million to promote its new service and in mid-March announced that it will offer the service free for three months.
“This is a moment in time in which we have a chance to do something that is putting some happiness and some joy and some fun and some laughter into people’s hands,” Katzenberg says.
Quibi also has the advantage of being loaded with fresh content just as the production of all new shows and movies has been stilled by the pandemic. Quibi has been stockpiling programming since last September in anticipation of a possible writer’s strike, fearing a replay of 2008, when a union walkout halted new production for 100 days.
The service debuts on April 6 with 50 original shows, including movies offered in cliff-hanger chapters such as the thriller Survive, starring Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) and Corey Hawkins (BlacKkKlansman); 120 reality shows and documentaries; plus news, weather and sports. In all, Quibi promises to deliver 8,500 quick bites from 175 shows in its first year.
But the $1.8 billion question remains: Will anyone pay to watch them? Some Hollywood players are adopting a “DBA Jeffrey” — Don’t Bet Against Jeffrey — attitude.
“Jeffrey has only taken a couple of big swings in his life, and he’s hit it out of the park,” says a senior executive at one of Hollywood’s major talent agencies. “If you had blindly bet on Jeffrey Katzenberg for the past 30 years, you’d have made a lot of money.”
– Dawn Chmielewski
‘WFH’ here to stay?
The home will be hub and flexible working the norm. The result? Renewed employee trust, wellness and cost savings, say more companies.
Even the words out-of-the-box seem out of date at a time when shipping containers are turning into ICU hospitals and arms firms are making ventilators and personal protective equipment.
If technology is being repurposed, so too homes and humans.
Over the last few months the world over, the pandemic-induced ‘new normal’ has seen homes turning into head offices, with the volatile economy forcing businesses to rethink long-term strategies in a work from home (WFH) environment that looks here to stay.
Even the big corporates say this could extend post-pandemic.
Barclays CEO Jes Staley said its staff will not revert fully to its pre-January work habits. “There will be a long-term adjustment in how we think about our location strategy; the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” he said after the company reported its first quarter profits for 2020.
Internet giant Google said all staff are expected to work from home until 2021, according to a May 2020 report in Bloomberg. S,imilarly, Facebook will let staff work remotely through 2020. Twitter, on the other hand, announced a short while later it would let staff work from home “forever”.
Euromonitor International’s Global Consumer Trends 2020 report has highlighted areas that Covid-19 will have an impact for the year ahead. Some of these include multi-functional homes where, in the long-term, the home becomes the hub and businesses will adapt accordingly; private personalization, which will put privacy concerns on hold in the short term but will return in the long term; and inclusivity for all would see disabled communities benefitting from technology.
In South Africa, the government has stipulated five levels of lockdown dictating how businesses may be carried out, including which sectors can operate as levels change. This requires flexibility and being able to adapt from one week to the other.
Jordan Rittenberry, Edelman Africa CEO, says the company’s transition towards more flexible working policies has been sped up by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the process has been a success with renewed trust in employees.
“We believe that flexibility, particularly in the current environment, is a useful way for companies to treat their staff right and foster mutual trust,” he tells FORBES AFRICA. “The pandemic has required a rapid mind-set change as companies take on new responsibilities towards the people that work for them and employee wellness is the first port of call as we navigate these uncharted waters.
“Every crisis presents opportunities and new ways of doing things. The shift we are seeing now is one of those that could help to meaningfully improve employer-employee relationships if managed carefully.
“As more people work from home, we will naturally require less space over time and this will yield cost savings to the business that can be passed on to clients.
“Besides employee costs, real estate is our biggest expense,” he says. Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice President at Sage Middle East and Africa, has come to a similar conclusion. “We realized that we do not need as much office space going forward and working remotely using cloud technology tools has maintained productivity levels from our colleagues,” says Bensch to FORBES AFRICA.
“Our entire workforce began working remotely before lockdown and are in no rush to return until it is safe but have encouraged video calls so they can see each other.
“Our cloud accounting and payroll product sales have increased, which is a clear indication that our customers now understand the power and benefits of cloud solutions to maintain business continuity.”
The mental wellbeing of employees has also been top priority. “All Sage colleagues received a free subscription to Headspace, a brilliant award-winning app and guide to everyday mindfulness,” adds Bensch. The company also formed a ‘[email protected]’ community for staff looking for peer support on how to adapt with differing family needs and challenges.
A Johannesburg-based agency called BetterWork that specializes in design thinking for human resources has been hosting weekly lunchtime Zoom calls since the beginning of lockdown in South Africa. Attendees include a mix of its professional network, members of The GoodWork Society and other members of the general public. Some of its takeaways have proven that WFH is more productive than working in the office, which cited minimal distractions and the extra hours gained from not having to sit in traffic. Additionally, introverts seem to be thriving and tend to feel more comfortable with contributions to teamwork. On the other hand, BetterWork says parents on the call have expressed being overwhelmed with not just their own work but also the additional responsibility of being teacher-guides to their children.
The company believes the home-office is now the responsibility of the employer where people-focused services such as tele-therapy, support for parents and social programs become an additional duty to ensure a healthy, productive team. It adds that an obvious benefit would be the compensation or subsidizing of laptops, stable internet connectivity, webcams, etc.
Palesa Sibeko, Co-founder of BetterWork, says offices are typically expertly assessed and constructed to suit an organization’s work activity needs, but the same is not true for the millions of homes that are now acting as places of work. “There is not a concerted effort to view home-work life more holistically, to identify the needs and address them to create environments conducive to doing great work.” BetterWork says it is currently looking into how to support organizations on this important mission.
– Nafisa Akabor
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