Facebook offered M&M Global’s Anna Dobbie a tour of its global headquarters at Menlo Park near Silicon Valley, and reveals what it plans to do next.
A visit to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters might take a 40-minute Uber ride from my Airbnb room in leafy Berkeley, but it is certainly worth the journey.
The campus, which Facebook employee Annie Demarest is kind enough to walk me around, bursts with quirky modern art and murals, created specifically in a designated workroom by Facebook’s artists-in-residence. The community feel is built upon by traditional-style sweet shops and pubs inside the forecourt of the expansive grounds.
“The Valley is very much part of Facebook’s DNA,” according to product marketing director Kelly Graziadei, who explains Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to move from his Harvard origins to the West Coast.
“Ultimately it began with serendipity. The early stories are fantastic, with Mark and some of the first five folk at Facebook all in a house working together, and then from there the company started to grow,” she adds.
“I’m really inspired by just the entrepreneurship and innovation happening in so many parts of the Bay Area”
“Facebook found a foundation in Silicon Valley with the tech talent that’s here, with Stanford and the university community.”
Facebook located itself close to Silicon Valley as technology is at the company’s core, although its New York base continues to grow, with a focus on local agency communities and big brands working from the East Coast.
“Overall, we’re in an exciting time,” says Graziadei, addressing the rise of Los Angeles’ ‘Silicon Beach’ and the company’s current tech/media balance. “We’re seeing a lot of innovation in a number of different and, at times, unexpected places.
“I’ve committed myself to make sure I spend more time reading and watching and seeing what else is happening because there’s just so much,” she says. “I’m really inspired by just the entrepreneurship and innovation happening in so many parts of the Bay Area, in the Valley, in the city area and beyond, and I hope that continues.”
Shift to mobile
Facebook itself is constantly adapting to fit with trends that have become apparent in the San Francisco region.
“I feel like we’ve been talking about the year of mobile for years and years,” Graziadei comments, with regards to behavioural alignments in the local media scene. “The shift to mobile is essentially the biggest technology shift that we may see in our lifetime.”
Facebook has recently improved its mobile experience through expanded, personalised notifications tabs in the app, as well as the introduction of ‘profile videos’ and ‘bio fields’. The network has also grown from third-party apps to the mobile web, with Facebook Audience Network available to publishers and advertisers out of app.
Following an announcement by Zuckerberg a few years ago that the company has to strive to be mobile-first, there was a lot of retraining in the differences in mobile engineering, to enhance the newsfeed, messaging and visual discovery experience, including videos, photos, AR and VR.
Looking to the future, Graziadei predicts that Oculus Rift and 360-degree video will rapidly become more accessible as capable cameras become more common.
“Our core mission is to make the world more open and connected, and Messenger is a big part of that,” she says, regarding how people communicate with each other, as well as with businesses.
Looking at monetising Messenger, Graziadei feels that the focus is on the consumer experience and adding value, while monitoring what’s happening on the platform. “Typically, people on Facebook ultimately point to and start to give us these signals of what they are trying to do, and then we look to make that easier,” she adds. “I think we’ll see something similar with Messenger as we start to go down that path.”
Graziadei feels that, while the East Coast can learn from global innovation, San Francisco can teach other areas to move fast and not be afraid to fail.
“You see that all over Silicon Valley, people trying new things and failing, and it’s not something that marks their lives or careers – they say ‘Great, here’s what I learned from it and here’s what I’m going to apply to the next one’, and that’s a lesson that fuels me and fuels us as a culture.
“I do hope that as we make the world more open and connected, we can simply learn from one another at an even more rapid pace.”