Let’s face it, in the fast-paced world of marketing, you need to stay on your toes to keep up with the competition. That’s where Instagram and Facebook come in. With billions of users at your fingertips, these platforms are the perfect way to connect with your target audience and grow your brand.
But here’s the thing – posting pretty pictures and witty captions isn’t enough. You need to engage with your audience, answer their questions, and provide exceptional customer service. That’s where chatbots come in. Think of them as your trusty sidekick, always ready to jump in and save the day with fast, accurate responses to your customers’ inquiries.
So, if you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, it’s time to embrace the power of Instagram, Facebook, and chatbots. Trust us, your customers will thank you for it! Don’t let your potential customers get lost in the sea of social media noise! Use chatbots to hook them in and create new, personalized ways to engage.
Offer round-the-clock support throughout their entire journey, without lifting a finger. It’s like having a 24/7 personal assistant for your business! Stay in touch with your customers by sending reengage messages. Building and implementing a chatbot can be a complex and technical process, requiring specialized skills that you may not have in-house.
Depending on the complexity of the chatbot, creating and maintaining it may require a significant investment in time and resources that you may not have the budget for. Give your chatbot a unique personality, such as an assistant, customer support agent, salesperson, tutor, guide, or any other role. It will then automatically speak about your product in the desired tone.
According to eMarketer, Facebook lost over 2 million users under the age of 25 in 2018, which set a trend for the entire year of 2019. However, it’s not only Facebook that is losing members but also other social network technology enterprises such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
The problem is not in anything that Mark Zuckerberg did lately. In fact, the reason why general social networks such as Facebook are becoming less interesting is the growing interest in vertical networks.
What Are Vertical Social Networks
A vertical social network is a specifically targeted social network that connects people with very specific interests, hobbies, and passions. In other words, it is a network that caters to a certain category of users who are interested in sharing content and connecting with others over their shared interests.
Users on general social media platforms can easily get lost among all the irrelevant content. However, if they joined a platform that is specifically focused on their main interest, they would find way more value and satisfaction in its purpose. With that said, vertical social networks provide many advantages over broader platforms.
For instance, people can receive specific and targeted content on a daily basis and, even more importantly, connect with people who share the same interests. This relevant connection makes it easier to bond with others and form new friendships, relationships, or even business partnerships.
By joining vertical social networks, users get to be surrounded by like-minded individuals, which is especially important for entrepreneurs, students, athletes, and others who are trying to achieve their full potential at all times.
The rapid advancement in cloud computing made cloud technologies cheaper and more accessible. This enabled the growth of new and unheard of vertical networks, which quickly grabbed the attention of their targeted audiences. These specific vertical networks provide plenty of networking opportunities for people with almost any type of interest out there.
For instance, you will find a variety of vertical social networks catering to different individuals, including Behance, StackOverflow, Goodwall and ResearchGate. Behance is an advanced vertical network for creative individuals. It allows artists and designers to showcase their work and discover new art every day. On 2012, Adobe acquired Behance for $150 million.
On the developers side, StackOverflow, a platform that provides questions and answers related to code development and the surrounding challenges. The platform allows developers to learn and share valuable content, as well as base their career on strong foundations. Developers can also gain reputation points while answering specific questions of other developers and this enhances their technical resumes for their career process.
Another vertical social network platform, Goodwall provides a positive and supportive community for over 1 million students and young professionals to connect and discover opportunities from $1m+ in scholarships to 5m+ jobs and internships. Members support each other to achieve their goals. They share ideas and tips, ask and answer questions, gain recognition and inspiration, and connect on shared interests from social impact to entrepreneurship.
With members across 150+ countries, Goodwall is a good choice for professional social networks out there for Gen Z and millennials. On the researchers side, ResearchGate is the platform for scientists and researchers to share research articles, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. ResearchGate was founded in 2008 by a group of scientists, and has quickly grown to become the biggest networking site for its kind, with over 70 million unique monthly visitors worldwide.
Overall, vertical social networks offer plenty of creative, professional, and personal opportunities for individuals who want to learn, share, or get to know people and content in certain fields. With this trend being on the rise, we can expect vertical networks to grow even further. Especially advancements in cloud technologies enables companies to rise easily in terms of scalability of the platforms, and this lowers the threshold for this kind of companies in many aspects.
Major tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online, The Markup has learned. The data, sent through widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.
The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service has an account on Facebook or other platforms operated by its owner Meta. Each year, the Internal Revenue Service processes about 150 million individual returns filed electronically, and some of the most widely used e-filing services employ the pixel, The Markup found.
When users sign up to file their taxes with the popular service TaxAct, for example, they’re asked to provide personal information to calculate their returns, including how much money they make and their investments. A pixel on TaxAct’s website then sent some of that data to Facebook, including users’ filing status, their adjusted gross income, and the amount of their refund, according to a review by The Markup. Income was rounded to the nearest thousand and refunds to the nearest hundred.
The pixel also sent the names of dependents in an obfuscated — but generally reversible — format. TaxAct, which says it has about 3 million “consumer and professional users” also uses Google’s analytics tool on its website, and The Markup found similar financial data, but not names, being sent to Google through its tool. TaxAct wasn’t the only tax filing service using the Meta Pixel.
Tax preparation giant H&R Block, which also offers an online filing option that attracts millions of customers per year, embedded a pixel on its site that gathered information on filers’ health savings account usage and dependents’ college tuition grants and expenses. TaxSlayer, another widely used filing service, sent personal information to Facebook as part of the social media company’s “advanced matching” system, which gathers information on web visitors in an attempt to link them to Facebook accounts.
The information gathered through the pixel on TaxSlayer’s site included phone numbers, the name of the user filling out the form, and the names of any dependents added to the return. As with TaxAct, specific demographic information about a user was obfuscated but still usable for Facebook to link a user to an existing profile. TaxSlayer has said it completed 10 million federal and state tax returns last year.
The Markup also found the pixel code on a tax preparation site operated by a financial advice and software company called Ramsey Solutions, which uses a version of TaxSlayer’s service. That pixel gathered even more personal data from a tax return summary page, including information on income and refund amounts. This information was not sent immediately upon visiting the page but only when visitors clicked drop-down headings to see more details of their report.
Even Intuit, the company that runs America’s dominant online filing software, employed the pixel. Intuit’s TurboTax, however, did not send financial information to Meta but, rather, usernames and the last time a device signed in. The company kept the pixel entirely off pages beyond sign-in.
“We take the privacy of our customers’ data very seriously,” Nicole Coburn, a spokesperson for TaxAct, said in an email. “TaxAct, at all times, endeavors to comply with all IRS regulations.” Angela Davied, a spokesperson for H&R Block, said the company “regularly evaluate[s] our practices as part of our ongoing commitment to privacy, and will review the information.”
Megan McConnell, a spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions, said in an email that the company “implemented the Meta Pixel to deliver a more personalized customer experience.”
“We did NOT know and were never notified that personal tax information was being collected by Facebook from the Pixel,” the statement said. “As soon as we found out, we immediately informed TaxSlayer to deactivate the Pixel from Ramsey SmartTax.”f
After The Markup contacted TaxSlayer, spokesperson Molly Richardson said in an email that the company had removed the pixel to evaluate its use. “Our customers’ privacy is of utmost importance, and we take concerns about our customers’ information very seriously,” she said, adding that Ramsey Solutions “decided to remove the pixel” as well.
Rick Heineman, a spokesperson for Intuit, said the company’s pixel “does not track, gather, or share information that users enter in TurboTax while filing their taxes,” although Intuit “may share some non-tax-return information, such as username, with marketing partners to deliver a better customer experience,” like not showing Intuit ads on Facebook to people who have accounts already. The company said it’s in compliance with regulations but has modified the pixel to no longer send usernames.
“This is appalling”
Mandi Matlock, a Harvard Law School lecturer focused on tax law, said The Markup’s findings showed taxpayers “providing some of the most sensitive information that they own, and it’s being exploited.”
“This is appalling,” she said. “It truly is.”
On Monday, after TaxAct was contacted by The Markup for comment, the company’s site no longer sent financial details like income and refund amount to Meta but continued to send the names of dependents. The site also continued to send financial information to Google Analytics. Also as of Monday, TaxSlayer and Ramsey Solutions had removed the pixel from their tax filing sites and TurboTax had stopped sending usernames through the pixel at sign-in. H&R Block’s site was continuing to send information on health savings accounts and college tuition grants.
How the Meta Pixel tracks users
Meta makes the pixel code freely available to anyone who wants it, allowing businesses to embed the code on their sites as they wish.
Using the code helps both Facebook and the businesses. When a customer comes to a business’s website, the pixel might record which items the customer browsed, say, a T-shirt, for example. The business can then target its ads on Facebook to people who looked at that shirt, allowing the business to find an audience that may already be interested in its products.
Meta wins financially, too. The company says it can use the data it gleans from tools like the pixel to power its algorithms, providing it insight into the habits of users across the internet. The strategy has been successful for Facebook. In 2018, the company told Congress that there were more than 2 million pixels across the web — a massive data-harvesting operation most internet users never see.
“The practice is ubiquitous,” said Jon Callas, director of public interest technology at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who said he was left in “shock but not surprise” at The Markup’s findings.
Some of the sensitive data collection analyzed by The Markup appears linked to default behaviors of the Meta Pixel, while some appears to arise from customizations made by the tax filing services, someone acting on their behalf, or other software installed on the site.
For example, Meta Pixel collected health savings account and college expense information from H&R Block’s site because the information appeared in webpage titles and the standard configuration of the Meta Pixel automatically collects the title of a page the user is viewing, along with the web address of the page and other data. It was able to collect income information from Ramsey Solutions because the information appeared in a summary that expanded when clicked. The summary was detected by the pixel as a button, and in its default configuration, the pixel collects text from inside a clicked button.
The pixels embedded by TaxSlayer and TaxAct used a feature called “automatic advanced matching.” That feature scans forms looking for fields it thinks contain personally identifiable information, like a phone number, first name, last name, or email address, and then sends detected information to Meta. On TaxSlayer’s site, this feature collected phone numbers and the names of filers and their dependents. On TaxAct, it collected the names of dependents.
The data collected by the matching feature is sent in an obfuscated form known as a hash, which Meta states is used in order to “help protect user privacy.” But the company can generally determine the pre-obfuscated version of the data. In fact, Meta explicitly uses the hashed information to link other pixel data to Facebook and Instagram profiles.
This pixel feature was turned off by default when The Markup set up a test pixel attached to a business account but could be turned on by clicking a toggle during setup.
When TaxAct sent dollar amounts like adjusted gross income to Meta, they were transmitted as parameters to a “custom event,” which are sent only if the pixel is configured beyond the default by a website operator or another application the website operator adds to their site. TaxAct did not respond to questions about whether and why it configured the pixel in this manner.
Once a tax return was filled out on Taxact.com, information including an individual’s adjusted gross income, federal refund amount, and number of dependents was sent to Meta via the Meta Pixel. Data in the screenshots is not real user data. Image: Taxact.com and The Markup
There are limits to the types of data Meta says it will collect through the pixel. The company says it doesn’t want sensitive information sent to it, including financial data, and that it uses automated filtering to block potentially sensitive data. Its help center states that it prohibits sending information including bank account or credit card numbers or “information about an individual’s financial account or status.”
Still, one specific type of prohibited data — income — was exactly what two tax sites sent to Facebook, The Markup found. Data sent to Facebook by TaxAct suggests it was also previously sending a parameter labeled “student_loan_interest,” which is now being filtered by the pixel before being sent.
Meta says it doesn’t want to receive sensitive financial data
From January to July of this year, The Markup tracked websites’ use of the pixel as part of the Pixel Hunt, a partnership with Mozilla Rally. For the project, participating users installed a browser extension that provided The Markup with a copy of all data shared with Meta via the pixel.
The Markup initially discovered sensitive information was shared by the tax preparers through data shared by Pixel Hunt participants. The Markup then signed up for accounts on the companies’ web applications and used the “Network” section of Chrome DevTools, a tool built into Google’s Chrome browser, to replicate and confirm the data.
Meta collects so much data that even the company itself sometimes may be unaware of where it ends up. Earlier this year, Vice reported on a leaked Facebook document written by Facebook privacy engineers who said the company did not “have an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data,” making it difficult to promise it wouldn’t use certain data for certain purposes.
At the time, a company spokesperson told Vice that Facebook has “extensive processes and controls to manage data and comply with privacy regulations.”
In response to The Markup’s questions about the tax websites’ use of the pixel, Dale Hogan, a spokesperson for Meta, pointed to the company’s rules on sensitive financial information.
“Advertisers should not send sensitive information about people through our Business Tools,” Hogan wrote in an emailed statement. “Doing so is against our policies and we educate advertisers on properly setting up Business tools to prevent this from occurring. Our system is designed to filter out potentially sensitive data it is able to detect.”
Google spokesperson Jackie Berté said in an email that the company “has strict policies against advertising to people based on sensitive information” and that Google Analytics data “is obfuscated, meaning it is not tied back to an individual and our policies prohibit customers from sending us data that could be used to identify a user.”
The IRS closely regulates tax data
Nina Olson, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for Taxpayer Rights, was the national taxpayer advocate at the Internal Revenue Service between 2001 and 2019, a position in the agency meant to represent the interests of taxpayers.
As part of her role at the IRS, she contributed to the development of regulations that govern disclosures of tax information. Olson said the IRS regulations controlling the way private tax filing services can use data are intentionally “very strong.”
Under the regulations she helped develop, tax preparers — including e-filing companies — can use the information they receive from taxpayers only for limited purposes; for anything beyond immediately facilitating filing, the preparer has to get signed consent from the user that explains the recipient and the precise information being disclosed.
The government goes so far as to prescribe even the font size of requests for disclosure, saying it must be “the same size as, or larger than, the normal or standard body text used by the website or software package.”
Penalties for disclosing data without consent can be steep
The penalties for disclosing data without consent are potentially steep: fines and even jail time are possible, although Olson said she wasn’t aware of any criminal cases that have been pursued.
The Markup reviewed the tax preparation websites for disclosures that specifically mentioned Meta or Facebook but did not find them. Instead, some companies included relatively broad disclosure agreements.
TaxAct, for example, requested users approve sending their tax information to its sister company, TaxSmart Research LLC, so it could “develop, offer, and provide products and services” for users. It also stated, “TaxSmart Research LLC may use service providers and business partners to accomplish these tasks.” H&R Block, meanwhile, included nearly the same disclosure request so “H&R Block Personalized Services, LLC” could provide products of its own. Those sites provided the user with the option to decline to share tax information, although data was shared with Facebook regardless of which option users chose, according to The Markup’s tests.
Any disclosure from a tax preparer must provide the exact purpose and recipient to be in compliance, Olson said. “Do they have a list saying they’re going to disclose the refund amounts, and your children, and your whatever to Facebook?” she said. If not, they may be in violation of regulations.
The IRS declined to comment or answer questions about whether any of the sites sharing tax information were in violation of tax law.
No way out for taxpayers
American taxpayers have few options but to turn to private companies to file their returns.
A free preparation and filing option exists, but it’s limited to people making $73,000 or less and can be difficult to use. Companies offer their tax software at no charge through an agreement with the IRS but have been criticized for not making the option easily available.
Using the pixel, The Markup found that the IRS even effectively directs taxpayers attempting to file for free to some of the companies. A handful of tax preparation services — including TaxAct and TaxSlayer — are part of the agreement, known as the Free File Alliance. TurboTax and H&R Block have been part of the program in the past.
Harvard’s Matlock said The Markup’s findings showed the almost inevitable consequences of relying on for-profit companies to handle a government requirement. It’s a process that provides users little choice but to hand over their data to Facebook if they want to comply with the law, she said.
“It’s frustrating because taxpayers have been pushed into the arms of these private, for-profit companies simply to comply with their tax filing obligations,” she said. “We have no choice, really, in the matter.”
Harassment on the platform can be uniquely cruel, and for many it feels like there’s no escape. No app is more integral to teens’ social lives than Instagram. While Millennials relied on Facebook to navigate high school and college, connect with friends, and express themselves online, Gen Z’s networks exist almost entirely on Instagram.
But when those friendships go south, the app can become a portal of pain. According to a recent Pew survey, 59 percent of teens have been bullied online, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by Ditch the Label, a nonprofit anti-bullying group, more than one in five 12-to-20-year-olds experience bullying specifically on Instagram. “Instagram is a good place sometimes,” said Riley, a 14-year-old who, like most kids in this story, asked to be referred to by her first name only, “but there’s a lot of drama, bullying, and gossip to go along with it.”
Teenagers have always been cruel to one another. But Instagram provides a uniquely powerful set of tools to do so. The velocity and size of the distribution mechanism allow rude comments or harassing images to go viral within hours. Like Twitter, Instagram makes it easy to set up new, anonymous profiles, which can be used specifically for trolling. Most importantly, many interactions on the app are hidden from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, many of whom don’t understand the platform’s intricacies.
“There is no place for bullying on Instagram, and we are committed to fostering a kind and supportive community. Any form of online abuse on Instagram runs completely counter to the culture we’re invested in —a platform where everyone should feel safe and comfortable sharing their lives through photos and videos,” an Instagram spokesperson told The Atlantic in September.
This week, the company also announced a set of new features aimed at combatting bullying, including comment filters on live videos, machine-learning technology to detect bullying in photos, and a “kindness camera effect to spread positivity” endorsed by the former Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler.
Still, Instagram is many teens’ entire social infrastructure; at its most destructive, bullying someone on there is the digital equivalent of taping mean flyers all over someone’s school, and her home, and her friends’ homes. After a falling-out with someone formerly in her friend group last year, Yael, a 15-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, said the girl turned to Instagram to bully her day and night.
“She unfollowed me, blocked me, unblocked me, then messaged me days on end, paragraphs,” Yael said. “She posted about me constantly on her account, mentioned me in her Story, and messaged me over and over again for weeks.” Yael felt anxious even just having her phone in her pocket, because it reminded her of the harassment. “Every time I logged on to my account, I didn’t want to be there,” she said.
“I knew when I opened the app, she would be there. I was having a lot of anxiety over it, a lot of stress.” But still, she hesitated to quit the app entirely. Her friends on Instagram serve as a source of support. Also, quitting wouldn’t stop her tormentor from talking about her, and she’d rather know what the girl was saying. “You know someone’s talking about you, they’re posting about you, they’re messaging about you, they’re harassing you constantly,” she said. “You know every time you open the app they’re going to be there.”
Because bullying on your main feed is seen by many as aggressive and uncool, many teens create hate pages: separate Instagram accounts, purpose-built and solely dedicated to trashing one person, created by teens alone or in a group. They’ll post bad photos of their target, expose her secrets, post screenshots of texts from people saying mean things about her, and any other terrible stuff they can find.
“I’ve had at least 10 hate pages made about me,” said Annie, a 15-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym. “I know some were made in a row by the same person, but some were from different people. They say really nasty things about you, the most outrageous as possible.”
Sometimes teens, many of whom run several Instagram accounts, will take an old page with a high amount of followers and transform it into a hate page to turn it against someone they don’t like. “One girl took a former meme page that was over 15,000 followers, took screencaps from my Story, and Photoshopped my nose bigger and posted it, tagging me being like, ‘Hey guys, this is my new account,’” Annie said.
“I had to send a formal cease and desist. I went to one of those lawyer websites and just filled it out. Then she did the same thing to my friend.” The scariest thing about being attacked by a hate page, teens say, is that you don’t know who is doing the attacking. “In real-life bullying, you know what’s doing it,” said Skye, a 14-year-old. “Hate pages could be anyone. It could be someone you know, someone you don’t know—you don’t know what you know, and it’s scary because it’s really out of control at that point.
Teachers tell you with bullying [to] just say ‘Stop,’ but in this case you can’t, and you don’t even know who to tell stop to.”
Aside from hate pages, teens say most bullying takes place over direct message, Instagram Stories, or in the comments section of friends’ photos. “Instagram won’t delete a person’s account unless it’s clear bullying on their main feed,” said Hadley, a 14-year-old, “and, like, no one is going to do that. It’s over DM and in comment sections.”
Mary, a 13-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, said that relentless bullying on Instagram by a former friend gave her her first-ever panic attack. It started, Mary said, after she made the cheer team and her former friend did not. “She would DM me, or when I was with my friends, if they posted me on their Story, she would [respond] and say mean stuff about me since she knew I would see it since I’m with them,” Mary said. “She would never do it on her own Story; she’d make it seem like she wasn’t doing anything.”
“There was literally a group chat on Instagram named Everyone in the Class but Mary,” she added. “All they did on there was talk bad about me.”
On Instagram, it’s easy to see what people are up to and whom they’re hanging out with. For teenagers who are acutely aware of social status, even a seemingly innocent group photo can set a bully off. Teens say that tagging the wrong friend in a photo can unleash a bully’s wrath. Every location tag, comment, Story post, and even whom you follow or unfollow on your finsta (a secondary Instagram account where teens post more personal stuff) is scrutinized.
“Lots of bullying stems from jealousy, and Instagram is the ultimate jealousy platform,” Hadley said. “People are constantly posting pics of their cars, their bodies. Anything good in your life or at school goes on Insta, and that makes people jealous.”
Many high schools have anonymously run “confessions”-style Instagram accounts where users submit gossip about other students at school. For instance, an account like Greenville High School Confessions will pop up with a bio asking followers to “send the tea,” i.e., gossip. Students will follow the locked account and submit texts of people saying bad things about one another or gossip they’ve heard about people at school.
The account admin or admins will select the juiciest rumors and blast them out on Stories or on the main feed, sometimes even tagging the student’s handle. When someone who runs a school’s confessions account doesn’t like you, it can feel like the whole school has turned against you. “There was a page made called DTS.gossip, the initials of our school,” Riley said. “The account was made to post rumors and crap about people in my school, but a lot of them were about me.”
Rory, a 15-year-old, said that confessions accounts had gotten so out of control at her high school that administrators had banned taking photos of other students on campus. “People at my school would … expose drama or make up stuff, Photoshop people’s faces, bully them basically. It’s all anonymous.”
But Rory said that the no-picture rule hasn’t really curbed bullying. Not long ago, someone posted an entire diss track saying awful things about a 15-year-old girl to SoundCloud, which students promptly set as the link in their Instagram bio. “I think a lot of kids get really invested in drama,” Riley said, “with beauty gurus, YouTube, stuff like that. When it happens at school, they’re very interested in it. It’s fun. Which is horrible.”
“Tons of people from my school saw it immediately and started to make memes of me, calling me anorexic,” she said. “Then there were others suggesting I wasn’t thin enough. On their finstas, people were posting these mean things, people I thought I was friends with. I would block their finstas and they would tag my main account.”
But even in the midst of the worst bullying, teens say they’re wary of logging off. Rory is still active on the platform, though she only uses one account. “Everyone has friends from Instagram,” said Liv, a 13-year-old. “Everyone makes friends that way. It’s inevitable. Everyone does it.” Some teens did say they’d deactivate or take a break if their parents forced them to, but quitting forever “wasn’t an option.”
“You can message someone on insta ‘Hey, you’re a bitch’ so easily,” Liv said. “People need to think more about what they say before they say it, even if it’s a DM you forget about and log off. The person you sent that message to, it can impact them. You can really screw someone’s life up.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while speaking as he testifies before a joint hearing of the ... [+] Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth fell $11 billion on Thursday to $36 billion as the company’s shares plummeted a day after it reported dismal quarterly earnings. Meta shares fell 25% to $97.94 on Thursday, pushing the stock to its lowest point since December 2016. In its third quarter earnings released late Wednesday, the social media giant reported a 50% decline in profits and revenue sliding by 4%, far below analyst expectations.
To make matters worse, Meta’s virtual and augmented reality division has lost a whopping $9.4 billion this year through September 30 trying to create the metaverse. On that front, Meta appears to be failing miserably.
“Look, I get that a lot of people might disagree with this investment. But from what I can tell, I think that this is going to be a very important thing, and I think it would be a mistake for us to not focus on any of these areas, which I think are going to be fundamentally important to the future,” Zuckerberg said in the company’s earnings call on Wednesday after the U.S. stock market closed.
The stock decline knocked Zuckerberg down from the 25th richest person in the world as of market close Wednesday to the 29th richest as of market close Thursday, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaire tracker.
It hasn’t been a great year for Zuckerberg. Meta stock was flying high during the pandemic and reached its peak on September 7, 2021, bumping Zuckerberg’s fortune to $136.4 billion. Since then, Meta’s stock price has cratered by 74% and Zuckerberg has lost $100 billion, nearly three-fourths of his fortune at its peak.
Beyond the losses in its metaverse unit, Meta is facing fierce competition from TikTok for ad dollars—the source of the majority of its revenue—as well as a broader advertiser pullback amid concerns about an impending recession. Adding to its advertising woes, the social network is still reeling from privacy changes made by Apple last year that make it harder for tech companies to track users across apps, which has cut into its ad revenue.
It comes as investor doubts about Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the future grow, and revenues and profits decline. Meta’s sales shrank by 4% in the three months ending in September to $27.7bn (£24bn), while profits halved.
The fall in shares is set to wipe $78bn off the firm’s market value if the losses hold until the end of Thursday.
What’s gone wrong?
A year ago, Mark Zuckerberg declared virtual reality the next frontier to drive Facebook’s growth. But so far, there has been very little of it.The company, which also owns WhatsApp, is struggling as companies cut advertising budgets in the face of economic uncertainty, changes to Apple’s privacy settings hurt its targeted ads, and competition from rivals such as TikTok heats up.
Mr Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook at university almost two decades ago, acknowledged the firm faced “near-term challenges”.He said the company was focused on becoming more efficient and hinted at job cuts, saying the firm may be a “smaller organisation” next year.
But on a conference call stacked with sceptical analysts, he also maintained that the company was on the right path, as it invests in ways to keep people on its apps and stakes a claim in the emerging world of virtual reality, also known as the metaverse.
“There are a lot of things going on right now in the business and in the world,” he said. “We’re going to resolve each of these things… I think those who are patient and invest with us will end up being rewarded.”
Investor confidence plunged in February, when the company revealed it had lost daily users for the first time ever. Then in July, the company reported its first quarterly decline in revenue, as companies spooked by the economic outlook cut their advertising budgets.
Prior to the firm’s update, the value of Meta’s shares had fallen 60% since the start of the year, wiping hundreds of billions off the company’s value. They slid further on Thursday, after executives warned that recovery would take an improvement in the wider economy.
Analyst Debra Aho Williamson of Insider Intelligence said the company was on “shaky legs when it comes to the current state of its business”.”Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to focus his company on the future promise of the metaverse took his attention away from the unfortunate realities of today: Meta is under incredible pressure,” she said.
Meta continues to generate large profits – nearly $4.4bn in the three months ended in September – and it has also fended off a decline in users.The company said 2.93 billion people were active on one of its platforms daily in the three months ended in September, up from 2.88 billion in the quarter before.
Although the core Facebook platform is not adding users in the US or Europe, it continues to grow in other parts of the world.Despite its strengths, many investors fear the company has lost its way……