23 October 2018

mark zuckerberg facebook - the big four tech businesses - social mediaReading of Facebook’s appointment of Nick Clegg I have to admit that I was surprised.

Where did that come from? Whilst other politicians have moved to the employ of the social network, this certainly came as a bolt from the blue.

Yet it’s no real surprise that Facebook is honing its communications strategy. The network has hit the headlines a lot recently, not least for the massive data scandal with Cambridge Analytica. In recent months those headlines have centred on a fall in user numbers and engagement.

In the second quarter of 2018, Facebook reported active European users were down from 282 million to 279 million. Young users are predicted to leave in droves with more than three million under-25s predicted to leave the site this year, countered by a surge in users over the age of 55.

Perhaps the appointment of Clegg is an acceptance of this new, older demographic. I certainly don’t think it’s a move that will appeal to younger users or stem the tide of them leaving.

Clegg’s new position, Head of Global Affairs and Communications, is a big role. Zuckerberg has reportedly said Clegg will ‘have a leading role in shaping the company’s strategy’. It seems to signal that Facebook knows it needs to get better at dealing with big governments from across the world.

A change in strategy

There’s no denying that Clegg has experience and contacts here, but is he the right choice? Having lost his seat in last year’s general election, it would be fair to say that Clegg ended a career in government far from the top of his game. His stint as deputy Prime Minister saw him repeatedly go back on his word, not least when it came to tuition fees. Controversially, he was named a Knight of the Realm in last year’s New Year’s Honours List, becoming Sir Nick.

Many commentators have questioned Clegg’s choice to take up the role as a champion of democracy when the social network has been accused of manipulating democracy during both the US elections and the Brexit referendum. Speaking of Brexit, Clegg is a self-described passionate European; as the UK is on the cusp of Brexit and going through the turbulent political time, it’s an interesting time for Clegg to leave the country. We really need all the leaders we can get to steady the ship right now.

Considering his reputation among many in the UK for leaving his principles behind to become Deputy Prime Minister, he’s made it easy for this conversation to restart with this latest role change.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting time for Sir Nick as Facebook evolves to cope with its ever-increasing size and status, changing demographics and the numerous scandals around fake news, political ads and extreme content.

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