'Out of Touch' Zuckerberg Post Foreshadows Tough 2019 for Facebook

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December 31, 2018
Updated 20d ago

By Chloe Aiello

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's "out of touch" year-end post foreshadows a challenging 2019 for the social media giant, said Mark Douglas, CEO of digital display advertising platform SteelHouse.

Zuckerberg posted a message to users Friday on Facebook ($FB) expressing how proud he was of the company for dealing with challenges it has faced this year, among them Russian operatives using the platform to meddle in the 2016 election and the massive Cambridge Analytica data breach.

"For 2018, my personal challenge has been to focus on addressing some of the most important issues facing our community ー whether that's preventing election interference, stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation, making sure people have control of their information, and ensuring our services improve people's well-being. In each of these areas, I'm proud of the progress we've made," Zuckerberg wrote.

The post drew swift criticism, including from Business Insider's Troy Wovlerton who called it "tone deaf," at time when Facebook is fighting to regain user trust.

Mark Zuckerberg "is a bit out of touch with people's perception," Douglas said. "It's going to be a rocky year, that's clear."

"They are the least trusted company in tech. They are going to have to rebuild the trust with the users or they are going to lose those users," Douglas said.

Furthermore, if the going gets tougher, the company might not be able to turn to its time-tested strategy of acquiring competitors.

"I think the biggest near-term problem as a company is that its strategy has been to buy companies to defend its position, and that is basically off the table. The problem is that they have all this attention now," he said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Cheddar's request for comment.

Increased regulatory scrutiny on big tech has opened new questions about antitrust concerns and monopolistic behaviors among technology giants. European regulators have already begun taking aggressive action, and in July slapped Google ($GOOGL) with a record-breaking $5 billion fine for anti-competitive practices related to Android. With evidence the tide is turning in the U.S. too, Facebook will likely have to stray away from its go-to acquisition strategy.

"I don't see them being able to make those types of acquisitions and that starts the slowdown. The worst case is that someone else comes along and they can't buy them ー that's the issue," Douglas said.

Of course not all is doom and gloom. Facebook-owned Instagram stands as a beacon of hope for the social media giant, especially when Facebook figures out how to monetize Instagram stories, which Douglas called a "near-term focus" for the company.

"Instagram's best days are not behind it," Douglas said.

But all the ad-revenue in the world won't erase the scrutiny Facebook faces as it welcomes the New Year.

"2019 is not starting out better, that's for sure," Douglas said.