In the face of whistleblower slings, regulatory arrows, and influencer outcry, what does Mark Zuckerberg do? Go big. To the internet’s delight, Zuckerberg’s recent announcement on a virtual stage to announce that Facebook is rebranding itself as Meta Platforms Inc. represents a continuation of the company’s business first approach and a bet that its direct line of communication with users (and line of sight into their data) allows it to withstand traditional attacks. Pair that critical set of tools with Zuckerberg’s maverick tendencies and you’re looking at a company unlikely to falter when potentially billions of dollars in revenue lay ahead.
The rebranding is sound strategy. “Meta”, which is already the colloquial name for the company, evokes the possibilities of utilizing augmented reality, virtual reality, and AI to create the “Metaverse” – an immersive internet of the future that tech evangelists, like Zuckerberg, have been proselytizing for years. Consumers have become inseparable from technology, allowing it to dominate their lives. Zuckerberg has produced a product, not unlike tobacco, that “hooks.”
So, despite the many jokes that the haughty use of the term “meta” (along with the usual jabs at Zuckerberg’s personal attributes and a rogue bottle of barbecue sauce on his otherwise well-appointed bookshelves) attracted, it refocuses the public attention where Meta wants it. Press coverage has temporarily shifted attention from a disastrous news cycle to the brand’s vision of the future. Zuckerberg continues to be one step ahead of his detractors.
Pause to envision the Metaverse, through a business lens. Recent estimates show Meta's ad revenue alone could reach more $114 billion in revenue this year. The use of augmented and virtual reality combined with AI to create immersive online social, professional, and educational situations could connect Meta to revenues streams that Facebook has not before targeted, and that diversification creates layered safety nets for the company. Peripheral companies, like video game chip giant Nvidia, are already profiting off Meta’s potential.
While the rest of us are just starting to envision exactly what augmented reality social media looks like, Zuckerberg’s gift for pivoting his business toward revenue tracks back to his Harvard dorm room. Not to mention, he has faced legal and reputational challenges while building his empire nearly from day one. We’ve all seen Social Network, but the list of lawsuits has many more names than Winklevoss.
The rebranding effort is important, it signals the company’s next chapter, and that these crises haven’t struck a fatal blow yet. An asset whose value potential cannot be understated is the data the company owns and continues to collect. The business case for Meta? The insights and profits that can be gleaned from that data will make them a nearly impossible competitor to beat. Meta is betting that their reach in the social media industry, although facing stronger competitors than ever, combined with the business acumen of their CEO, means that if they build a platform for the Metaverse to exist, they will be the shepherd of the next Internet Age.
We’ll see you in the Metaverse.