15 years ago, four Harvard students laid the foundation for today’s networked world. Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes developed the web-based version of the printed Harvard Yearbook (“Facebook”) in 2004, creating a concept that spread worldwide within a few years. Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki, Professor of Social Media Marketing and Market Research at Cologne Business School, told us in our interview why this concept has made Facebook one of the most successful social networks.
CBS: Fast, accessible everywhere and free of charge – Facebook has fundamentally changed the way we communicate over the past 15 years. What do you see as the great pioneering achievement of Facebook?
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki: The pioneering achievement lies in the fact that Mark Zuckerberg and his partners thought differently than the classic media. Facebook made the users themselves editors, published content and reacted to external content. This created a special attraction for users and the essence of social media: “Everyone can communicate with everyone in a network and collect their own audience”. Facebook helped us network the world. In retrospect, we will rank Facebook among the companies of the century of our time.
CBS: What distinguishes Facebook from other social networks?
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki: The founders of the network recognized early on that they can satisfy basic human needs with Facebook. They introduced the Like button in 2010, which users help to express what they are interested in. I would describe showing interest in your friends’ topics as such a basic need. Your own friends are more interesting than others. The same applies to the introduction of the Facebook Messenger app in 2014: it is now even easier and more convenient for users to communicate via Facebook.
CBS: Facebook is often criticized for its relaxed approach to data protection. What do you advise users to do?
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki: I think the criticism of Facebook for data protection is generally excessive: Users can define very precisely under “Privacy” which data they want to pass on. Since every user on Facebook becomes a content producer, he himself is responsible for checking what he discloses. Of course, this doesn’t always work well, but Facebook has content moderators who clean the network of illegal content. In the field of social media, too, the German motto applies: a tool is only as good as the craftsman who uses it.
CBS: One reads again and again that young target groups turn their backs on Facebook. Will Facebook last another 15 years?
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki: I have no doubt about that. Facebook has been recording steady user growth for 15 years with 2.3 billion users worldwide at present. And the fact that Facebook is becoming increasingly unattractive for young users is not entirely correct: although they communicate more frequently via Instagram and Whatsapp, these platforms are also part of the Facebook group. Against this background, it is also unlikely that Facebook will go down in the medium term: From the outset, the management has pursued a wise takeover strategy in which competitors are bought up.
CBS: Social media marketing has been taught at the Cologne Business School since 2007. Starting next winter semester, our Bachelor’s and Master’s students will be able to study four specialisations in digital management and digital transformation. What role do social media play in digital transformation in companies?
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki: Social media have promoted digital transformation in companies because they offer enormous opportunities as digital marketing channels. Companies are in direct contact with their users and can play out their content in a targeted manner. In 2007, the Cologne Business School was the first university to integrate social media into its curriculum. At that time, we already created studies on “Web 2.0” within my market research lecture. With the new study specialisations “GM – Digital Management”, “IB – Digital Management”, “GM – Digital Transformation” and “IB – Digital Transformation Management” we go beyond digital marketing and combine business with IT know-how. In addition, we have integrated at least one additional subject with a focus on digital management into almost all study programs. For me, this is a consistent continuation of this thematic field.
CBS: What prospects does a specialisation with a digital focus offer students in their professional lives?
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki: The students themselves are “digital natives”, the managers in companies are often “digital immigrants”. With the help of the new specialisations, the students acquire a knowledge edge in digital transformation and become companions of digital change processes. Such a profile is very much in demand among companies in all sectors.
CBS: Thank you very much for the interview.
Prof Dr Klemens Skibicki offers more information on the topic “Digital Transformation” in his lecture during the Open Campus Day on 16 February 2019 at 2 p.m. in room “Vancouver”. Please register for the event at: www.cbs.de/en/advice-admission/dates-events/