On Zuckerberg's orders, Facebook making mobile its top priority as smartphones become main gateway to web in key markets

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 August, 2015, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 August, 2015, 6:35pm

Facebook has accelerated its mobile-first strategy, with all of its new products and functions that share breaking news or video clips set to load on smart devices without the time delays or glitches that frustrate users, a top executive for the world’s largest social media network said this week.

The shifting paradigm comes from the top down in response to a request from founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, said Jayne Leung, Facebook’s head of Greater China.

“We actually pivot to mobile very quickly. A few years ago, we didn’t have any mobile products,” said Leung, an advertising industry veteran who joined Facebook in Hong Kong about five years ago.

Two-thirds of the city’s 7 million people rank as actively monthly users of the social network, and 90 per cent now log on using their smartphone rather than desktop. Facebook has over 1 billion monthly active users.

“We know that the future is mobile,” Leung told the South China Morning Post

“On an average basis, you actually check your phone more than a hundred times a day, so we know that this is an important moment for us to pivot.”

On an average basis, you actually check your phone more than a hundred times a day, so we know that this is an important moment for us to pivot
Jayne Leung

“Mark Zuckerberg made a request to all the product designers and engineers: ‘When you come to have a product review with me, you have to present a product that is suitable for mobile, that’s mobile first,’” Leung quoted Zuckerberg as saying.

Other major global social media players including Twitter and LinkedIn have also been developing their mobile apps in the hope of keeping users pinned to their respective sites longer while also interacting more with other users.

Leung took up the post with Facebook, the site Zuckerberg helped build in a Harvard University dorm in 2004, after heading up new media sales for Google in Asia-Pacific.

This gives her a credible familiarity with both the region and its various social networks and mobile messaging platforms, which range from localised products like WeChat and Weibo in mainland China, where Facebook is blocked, to a preference for messaging app Line and its stickers in Indonesia and Thailand.

In China, the world’s largest internet market, e-commerce giants like JD and Alibaba have also been pushing their own “mobile-first” strategies. 

This comes at a time when China’s army of online shoppers is already becoming well-acquainted with using their smartphones to make payments while sharing their online buying experiences via blogs and emoticon-filled messages.

One of the key achievements for Facebook on mobile is its video-sharing service. 

The company, which claims that over 4 billion videos are watched on its site globally every day, recently launched a new service called Facebook Live so that celebrities can post videos of themselves in real time to stay closer to fans.

Since December, users have been posting more videos on Facebook directly, rather than pulling them from Google-owned YouTube first and then sharing them on the site, according to industry consultancy Socialbakers. 

The two sites now stand in direct competition. As a result, the competition to buy ad space linked to videos posted on Facebook has heated up, the company said.

In Hong Kong, Facebook has embarked on a number of high-profile video projects with household brands in recent months like luxury car maker Audi and sports apparel makers Puma and Nike to drum up interest. 

After Nike launched a video clip with a football theme in late April, more than 2.4 million Hongkongers watched it in just one day on Facebook, the company said. 

And the preferred medium? Their smartphone.

“The time spent on mobile is also more than the time spent watching TV or on other channels,” said Leung, adding that mobile-based attention spans tend to be briefer than on other channels as people often check their phones while waiting for a bus or having just a few minutes or even seconds to kill.

“That’s the sort of moment you have to engage with your consumers,” she said.

Increasingly, consumers are turning to sites like Facebook to catch up on the most exciting and important daily news because it is faster and often more fun and engaging than traditional newspapers. 

The SCMP’s official Facebook page now has nearly a quarter of a million followers. 

(Additional reporting by Zen Soo)