Facebook UK boss Nicola Mendelsohn: 'Young people are our most engaged users'

Facebook's VP EMEA says 4.5 billion people now own a mobile phone - and firms need to recognise mobile's potential.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 07 Aug 2014

Mobile phones have become the most important thing in people’s lives and it’s how the majority of young consumers access the internet, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa has said.

‘Mobiles are the thing people wake up to; it’s the thing they go to bed with,’ Nicola Mendelsohn told Management Today.  ‘Around 4.5 billion people now own a mobile phone, with many owning more than one.’

Speaking at the recent MT Live conference, Mendelsohn admitted that Facebook was slow to catch on to mobile’s potential but that it’s now the company’s main focus as it aims to keep younger users engaged.

‘Facebook – like many others – was caught out by the explosion of smartphones. So we made some big changes – about 2 years ago the entire company reoriented to become mobile-first. 24 months ago, we had no mobile revenue. Now 59% of our revenue comes through mobile, and young people are some of our most engaged users,’ she said.

These changes included making sure that all Facebook engineers learned how to code mobile, which means all concepts for new products are presented on a phone screen first.

This year, the amount of time UK consumers spend using digital media – taking into account desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones - is expected to surpass the amount of time spent viewing traditional television, according to recent research from eMarketer.

Some 1.28 billion people use Facebook every month, while 802 million log in every day. In the UK, 22 million people access the social networking site on a mobile daily.

‘It took 67 years before TV reached a penetration of over a billion, while it took the smartphone just 5 years. So firms need to make sure they have a mobile strategy for their business. If you don’t have that, you’re not where consumers are,’ Mendelsohn said. ‘What we’re living through is nothing short of a renaissance for business and marketing.’

She pointed to the success of burger chain Wendy’s social media campaign #PretzelLoveSongs, which reached 85 million people.

Meanwhile the take-up of smartphones in the UK is one of the highest in the world, so having a digital strategy gives UK businesses 'a real competitive advantage,' Mendelsohn added.

Facebook’s $19bn acquisition of Whatsapp, which has 500m users, and its more recent acquisition of virtual reality firm Oculus Rift ‘shows how we hope to achieve our aim of building a more open and connected world,’ Mendelsohn said.

See more highlights from MT Live here.

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