At a time when you needed a dial-up connection to get online and the first iPhone was still three years away — Facebook was born.
This was 2004 — from internet users barely knowing the term “social media platform” — to Facebook becoming an everyday fixture for millions of people globally.
Today, Facebook has almost 3 billion active users, and Zuckerberg’s net worth is $56.6B according to Bloomberg.
Who could have imagined that a social networking site would transform into a rapidly growing Platform as infrastructure (PaaS)?
So what was the stepping stone for Facebook? How did Mark Zuckerberg come up with this idea and what were the product ideas behind Facebook and its massive growth?
In this post, let’s go back in time and discuss the key product growth strategies behind Facebook.
History of Facebook
To understand Facebook better, let’s start with the history of Facebook and the inspiration behind it.
Mark Zuckerberg started down his route at a young age. Zuckerberg’s father, Edward, saw the necessity of coding and taught him Atari BASIC computer programming. It didn’t take long for his abilities to be recognized
At the age of 11, Zuckerberg created a new program called ‘ZuckNet’ which was the first product he created. After turning down offers from Harvard in 2002, he set out on a prodigy of creating Facebook.
The second product that he created was called ‘Facemash.’ This product allowed students to judge the attractiveness of each other and sort them based on rankings. But the website was surrounded by endless controversies and was shut down within a month.
In 2004, the soon-to-be-social-media-giant was all set to launch. Zuckerberg conceived the idea of Facebook as a social networking site where people could share their interests, connect with other people, and upload pictures.
The Idea Behind Facebook
In an interview with CNBC, Zuckerberg revealed that he never intended to build Facebook as a business:
“Ten years ago, you know, I was just trying to help connect people at colleges and a few schools,” he stated.
While there were websites for music, games, and even movies, there was no such idea that could connect people to people.
Facebook started to fill in that void. The idea behind Facebook was to connect the users with their acquaintances while creating an experience as seamless. Facebook was solely made keeping entertainment and fun in mind.
But what do users like most about this social networking site?
Why Users Got Hooked to Facebook
- The user-friendliness of Facebook makes it accessible even for the least technical sound people.
- With just one click, users can share photos, videos, and text messages to reach out to large audiences. Facebook also provides privacy safeguards and ensures that user data stays protected at all costs.
- There are other features that make Facebook one of the most likable social media sites. Be it for humor, to create social awareness, or even for political awareness.
- For initial and loyal users, Facebook made them feel understood. It helped to establish the human connection we desperately seek and made users feel like they are a part of an exciting world. All with minimal effort of course…
Facebook did not only bridge the gap between the acquaintance but also between businesses and its customers. Besides becoming the general audience’s favorite, Facebook also became the businesses’ and leaders’ favorite. Businesses can leverage the meta suite of tools to grow their business and reach out to their intended audience.
Facebook Product Growth Strategy
Since its inception, Facebook has witnessed various product successes and failures over time. However, the product ideas behind Facebook remain intact on two key outcomes — great execution and great strategy.
The product roadmap at Facebook has undergone rapid transitions, shifting from a social media site to focusing more on voice search, messaging, and communication.
Facebook has developed around 100 products empowering users in one way or another.
The VP of Facebook Inc. Julie Zhuo in one of her talks gave a simple framework for Facebook to guide product thinking.
Here’s what the product framework revolves around:
- What are the problems we are trying to solve?
- How to find out if the problem is real and needs action?
- Finding if the product can solve this problem.
After going through the product strategies of Facebook, here are some of the key learnings to take from its product growth.
- Understand the Three Buckets
Not just Facebook, every product development involves the three buckets of audience.
The first bucket is the users that have never heard of the product. The second bucket is the users that have heard of the product but aren’t using it. And the third bucket is users that know about your product but don’t want to use it.
Product Managers at Facebook developed a product focusing on the first two segments of users. For these users — the company ran various beta tests and performed endless tests to finalize a product that could ease sign-ups.
For example, when Facebook was launched, the only way to sign up was through email addresses. The PM team conducted research and found that most people in remote areas didn’t have email addresses. That’s when they provided phone numbers as another option for signing up.
- Focus on Driving Impact
For Product Managers, Facebook’s key learning has been focusing on driving the impact. Here, impact refers to the sum total of choices that increases the value of the product for the users.
To drive the impact, you need to understand the problem and challenges. That’s what the team at Facebook is taught — to understand their impact on the users’ problems cohesively.
At Facebook, different teams work towards leaving the same impact but at different levels and different processes. By individualizing the employees’ impact, you are assigning them a responsibility to bring users close to their goals.
- Build a Healthy Retention Strategy
The team at Facebook had more focus on initial retention rather than acquisition.
Why? Because there is no user acquisition without healthy customer retention.
By healthy retention, we mean that the customer should keep coming back again and again until they have converted.
To get hold of the retention, Facebook created a product with the motive of reducing the friction in people’s lives that could nail down the retention.
- Innovating Communications
The primary goal of Facebook Inc. is to bridge the gap in communication between users. What started as simply a social media platform for exchanging texts and media files has evolved as a medium of communication through audio and video calling.
As it went through various changes, Facebook improved its communication channel, enabling businesses to market their products and reach out to the masses.
The introduction of Meta Business made it easier for businesses to manage their ads, social pages, and audiences on Instagram and Facebook through a single dashboard. These new tools helped Facebook with more engagement from businesses and advertisers.
- Create a Framework That Accelerated Decision Making
Frameworks are the core of any product. In the product development phase itself, the framework was designed to make quick decisions and hand ownership to team members.
Facebook’s product framework is created for each level of the organization. From CEOs to the PMs and further to other employees — frameworks helped Facebook in reducing internal friction and speeding up the decision-making process.
Without needing the CEOs, the PMs can make decisions. Similarly, without the PMs, the individual team members can reduce internal cannibalization and make sure the decision is in the right direction.
- Keep Innovating Problems
The problem-solving approach of Facebook is endless. And that’s what makes it more demanding among businesses and its users.
Facebook served as an intermediate for connecting businesses with its intended audience. While businesses needed a platform where a large part of their audience can be targeted, the users wanted a platform to gain more knowledge about the product they are willing to purchase.
As the product grows, the spectrum of the audience becomes wider. The massive growth of Facebook witnesses a surge in different audiences from different industries in search of a solution.
Replicate what Facebook did: Create the first set of user base and think about what the next million would like. The product managers at Facebook moved ahead keeping the future product roadmap in mind.
Hence, the product strategy in tandem with technology enabled the PMs at Facebook to find and innovate these problems.
The basis of Facebook is the robust product strategies and the ideas involving its growth. Hence, the product growth strategies must be on point and should iterate the risks.
What makes Facebook scalable is its innovation and technological advancements. New products attract more individual users and advertisers, which are the main source of the company’s revenues.
Before creating a product, the idea is to build a framework that could reduce friction and improve decision-making.
Lastly, the right guess about your audience, its needs, and solutions can be an absolute goldmine.
What do you think has worked most for Facebook and what product development strategies can they employ in the future?
This post is created by Zeda.io, an-all-in one Product Management tool with a vision to empower your product teams around the world to build simpler and smarter products.