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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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Is Zuckerberg Trying to Fix Facebook or Outdated Business Models?

Is Facebook About to Pivot?

Despite the comfort we find in the familiar, we understand that change is a healthy thing. It’s the impetus that drives evolution and spurs innovation. It’s the impulse that compels so many of us to make New Year’s resolutions. It’s also why Mark Zuckerberg announced that his annual challenge – which until now has always been of a personal nature – is to “fix Facebook” this year. And after all the flak Facebook caught in 2017, the timing couldn’t be better.

Facebook remains the world’s most popular social network. People love it because it lets them keep in touch with old friends and family members. Businesses love it because they can connect with customers and appeal to new ones. And still others love it as a platform for playing cute online games with friends. But as with any relationship where one partner’s trust has been abused, the bloom is beginning to come off the rose.

What Happened to All the Good Times?

Facebook officially rolled out in 2004, with its initial membership reserved for students at select university campuses. Two years later, the buzz had spread and Facebook opened its doors to the general public, so long as users were at least 13 years old. Flash forward to 2012 when the company began selling its stock, achieving an original peak market capitalization of $104 billion -- a new record. Of course, that’s also when the social media giant’s legal problems really took hold, kicking off with litigation against Facebook leaders and underwriters for unsavory practices related to the IPO.

Not long after, as we discussed in Tuesday’s post, Facebook stumbled into fresh troubles involving its approaches to data collection and usage, abstruse privacy policy relaxations, and content curation.

The 2014 algorithm update and policy change, for example, hid posts that didn’t immediately generate interest. Whatever the intent, this tactic proved detrimental to small businesses. Furthermore, the new net neutrality laws may end up having a compounding effect.

For the truly inquisitive, Wikipedia hosts a laundry list of Facebook’s data privacy problems. Issues span the proverbial gamut:

  • Data mining methods
  • News feed manipulation
  • Violations of international consumer data protections
  • Difficult to locate (or comprehend) policy amendments
  • Uncanny willingness to hand over information to government agencies
  • Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts

These disconcerting discoveries culminated in 2010’s Quit Facebook Day movement, when users pledged to abandon the social network over mounting privacy concerns.

More recently, attention shifted to Facebook’s fake news problem, followed by their promise to fight, followed (in historic fashion) by the inevitable backfire.

And, of course, there’s the unforgettable case of Russian influence during the election.

User qualms started with Facebook’s switch to a profit model and focus on generating ad revenue. Now, the social network is highly-dependent on ads, which produce 98% of its revenue. This dependency will make it extremely difficult for Zuckerberg to fix Facebook the way people want him to.

Zuck’s Pledge to Do Better

Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to fixing it, and Zuck seems to have figured this out. People have been losing their patience with Facebook for some time now, and the network is seeing a decline in its user base and engagement. It seems the prime time for a change. So on January 4, the hoodie-bedecked face behind the Face announced that his personal challenge for 2018 would be to fix Facebook.

Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force. But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.
There are important counter-trends to this --like encryption and cryptocurrency -- that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people's hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I'm interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.

Unfortunately, Facebook’s chief demons are not Eastern Bloc influence peddlers, spam bots, trolls, or sneaky user policy adjustments. As NewCo Founder John Battelle noted, “It’s the company’s core business model, and abandoning it is not an option.” In other words, experts see little chance for Zuckerberg to fix Facebook without completing gutting its advertising-based profit center -- the very thing that makes the business model sustainable and investor friendly.

Although Battelle cleverly and sardonically muses over a few scenarios for fixing Facebook (each somehow doomed to failure), he ultimately concedes that: “Maybe, just maybe, Facebook decides to charge a subscription fee, say, $10 a person per year. That alone could arguably bring in $20+ billion annually.” To be fair, he also cites this strategy as the epiphany spawned by an acid trip.

What Would a New Facebook Mean for People and Businesses?

Modern recruiting professionals and talent acquisition leaders recognize the power that vibrant social networks offer, particularly for locating skilled passive candidates. We rely on social media not merely to identify candidates but to engage and interact with them. This is something that traditional job boards lack. For Millennial latent, social media is an absolute necessity. So what happens if Facebook can’t be “fixed?” It’s difficult to say, though here are some hypotheticals.

  • Facebook ultimately stays the same, as Battelle basically predicts. Recruiters continue moving forward -- business as usual.
  • Facebook does switch to a subscription model. Well, annoying ads go away and users could presumably have much more control over the system. Content would no longer be filtered by Facebook algorithms, which could make the data richer and more functional. And $10 per year is nothing when you consider that LinkedIn premium accounts range from $59.99 to $199.99 per month.
  • Or, for the sake of forward thinking, an innovative company (let’s call it Crowdstaffing) pioneers a technology ecosystem that creates a genuine, robust, and growing talent marketplace where clients and independent recruiters have access to an immense crowd of readily deployable professionals -- with socialization and engagement features built in. It may be sound futuristic, but I can tell you it’s more attainable and realistic than fixing Facebook.

Point is, Facebook is still just a social network -- a supplemental resource in hiring that helps recruiters expand their reach. But it is not, at its core, a hiring platform. Its features could obviously be incorporated into one, and that is likely the next iteration we will witness in our industry. And an established company, especially one reaping huge profits, can end up shackled by its own golden handcuffs. Don’t believe me? Look no further that the acquisition of Monster by Randstad.

The forthcoming generation of talent acquisition is going to look very different than Monster, Facebook, or the myriad ATS systems on the market. Tomorrow’s tools will incorporate AI, machine learning, blockchain, socialization, the human cloud, and global marketplace models that are nimble, agile, and independent of traditions we see currently -- supplier funded programs, user licensing fees, ad revenue. While Mark Zuckerberg may find himself hobbled in his attempts to fix Facebook, his intent speaks volumes to the advances we are developing in the staffing industry: it’s a new world, a new economy, a new workforce -- and it requires new solutions.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley thought leader, speaker, motivator, and the visionary behind the groundbreaking Crowdstaffing ecosystem. Blending vision, technology, and business skills, he is transforming the talent acquisition landscape and the very nature of work. Prior to launching Crowdstaffing, Sunil honed his skills and experience as a business leader for companies such as IBM, EMC, and Symantec. "We need to think exponentially to mindfully architect the future of humanity, civilization, and work. When we collaborate and work together, everyone prospers."
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