Has a Facebook Rebellion begun?

I am amazed at how much Facebook can get away with. And yet, their self-inflicted problems and arrogance have not made a dent in their seemingly inexorbale march toward world social media dominance. Until now.

I often get asked,  “What competitor will unseat Facebook,” and my answer is “Facebook.”

The answer is not so puzzling as it may seem.  Facebook is the most pervasive social networking platform, with a whopping 80 percent of the U.S. young folks aged 13-24 owning a profile. And the fastest-growth is occuring internationally and with the demographic over 50!

More important, there is an incredibly high emotional switching cost that a competitor would have to overcome to beat Facebook down. A competitor would not only have to get somebody to switch, it would have to get all their friends and family members to switch too. I recently wrote that it would be easier to change your house than to change your social network!

But are there cracks forming in the Facebook master plan?  What can “defeat” Facebook?  Only two things, in my opinion, and they are both controlled by Facebook itself — privacy and relevance.

PRIVACY

Facebook has been arrogantly toying with our privacy on an almost weekly basis with nary a peep from the masses.  The company has been the subject of a U.S. Congressional investigation, numerous FTC probes, international regulation and regular hack attacks and it has not made a ripple in its growth rate. In fact, the amount of time people spent on Facebook accelerated in 2011.

RELEVANCE

About 15 years ago, I owned stock in Nike.  Every teen I knew coveted Nike tennis shoes and the brand expertly nurtured their cool factor. Then one day my son came home from high school wearing leather boots.  “Where are your tennis shoes?” I asked. “Oh, nobody is wearing them any more,” he said. “All my friends are wearing leather shoes.”  I immediately sold the stock, which was a very good move at that time.

The point is that the business plan of any brand that depends on the youth movement is this: “Be cool and stay cool.”  This is an extraodinarily difficult task. I recently discussed the fact the fact that one of the reasons Google + was flailing around is because it is not on the radar screens of teens. They are a “Tom Hanks” brand when they need to be a “Jay Z” brand. If the cool kids find something hipper than Facebook, a migration will certainly occur.

IS IT TIPPING?

My Spidey Senses are starting to tingle. New research by Reuters showed that a third of Facebook users are bored with the network. In the past few weeks, some of my graduate students have reported that their teens are starting to use Google+. I have never heard that feedback before.

The IPO debacle and subsequent stock price plummet pierced the Facebook shield of invincibility.

And the Internet was warring against Facebook again this week after new features were released that included a “Find Friends Nearby” option to find people around you, and a new requirement making Facebook email addresses a mandatory default setting, another in a long line of changes the company has made without informing users.

MAINSTREAM ATTENTION

And here’s another hint that a Facebook rebellion might be brewing. Mainstream media, which usually covers fluffy stuff like Facebook etiquette and YouTube memes came out with guns blazing after some of these recent incidents. Here are highlights from a segment on NBC’s top-rated “Today Show,” featuring commentators Donny Deutsch, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, and Star Jones.

Deutsch: The whole nature of Facebook is all about connecting and social intimacy.  It’s all of a sudden become Big Brother.  The whole  IPO thing was also damaging. This brand is in trouble for a lot of reasons and is going to come crashing down.

Snyderman: I was in a meeting with several Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists a few weeks ago and they have all stopped using Facebook because they were “spoofed” and their identities were pushed out to other people. They think the privacy issues are so egregious that they have stopped using it. So they no longer will participate and these people are the heart and soul of Silicon Valley. I think it is a very damaged brand.

Jones: Young people signed on to Facebook for connectivity. Now that young people are thinking that their businesss is out on the street, it’s just not cool any more and then that’s it — it’s over if Facebook is not cool any more.

Snyderman: Yes, that’s the issue. Facebook is NOT cool any more.

Deutsch — It’s not even the privacy issue. It’s a tarnished brand. It’s not the privacy issue any more, it’s the “not cool issue.”

Now, these 50-year-old business executives are not necessarily Facebook’s core audience but I thought this exchange was pretty bold.

DOES ANY OF THIS MATTER?

These are anecdotes and data points but does it really represent a shift in momentum away from Facebook? Or, is Facebook so powerful and popular that these issues will just slide off of them like a fried egg on a Teflon skillet?

What are you hearing out there?  Are you seeing signs of a meaningful backlash against Facebook?

Illustration: The original source of this is a Getty photograph. I pasted the Zuckerberg picture on there. It is not a real protest sign.

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  • The privacy thing is important. They can only sell to advertisers by giving away more of our info. Because they are now answerable to shareholders, they will now have to persue this as far as they can, in order to make money. This means ever more of our info gets shared.

    But people aren’t clicking on the ads. This is a huge problem when you are relying on advertising income.

    And Facebook is terrible for B2B. None of the new stuff works there – you can only really interact in personal mode – you can’t do it with your business page.

    And if the personal info issue and the omnipresent ads get in the way of people using it and this ties in with or partly causes its’ loss of cool, then what future is there for FB?

  • Just an Idea: g+ could become more of a organization and business tool, like Linkedin. A place where you could set up a group to share ideas while keeping your personal friends on FB. Like the classic home and work boundary, Google could allow for a social boundary.

    I have noticed in my courses that students are very protective of their personal space and have developed a boundary around Facebook. Yeah, they will friend a business for a coupon or something free, but they are really not letting the organization into their friend circle. This extends to university courses and clubs. The students are very reluctant to join a structured group on Facebook. Thinking like an entrepreneur this limitation could present an opportunity for Google. g+ could become the organizational meeting place. I am trying the idea in the Fall and will let you know how it works out. What do you think?

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  • It makes sense that the omnipresence of Facebook will decline. The privacy concerns you cite are definitely one clear driver. But – to continue the anecdotal theme – many people I talk to complain about the “clutter” on Facebook. Because so many people are now on it, you have to wade through a lot of uninteresting information to get to what you need. If you accept anyone who wants to friend you, it becomes an unmanageable network – and made even worse by that certain percentage who use it for ridiculous updates such as “Hmm, what shall I cook for dinner tonight” (followed by 20 comments back and forth).

    I’m starting to see people focus on other networks, often more niche-related. And many professionals – who of course are the target of many of those advertisers – stick with LinkedIn as the one network they have the time and interest to keep up to date on..

    It may be a slow decline, but over time, Facebook will become less relevant in a fragmented landscape. (I was at a Brad Paisley concert this weekend, and heard him change a popular lyric from ” Go check out MySpace” to “Checkout my Facebook page” – that’s a reminder how relevance can change!)

  • Great post, the part about relevance was really insightful. I know a dozen people who left facebook because of privacy worries have sense come back because thats where everyone is, its more like email.

    The next question is then what could they do to win, can they just stay the same and ride the wave.

  • Google + still has the feel of a business persons network. If it gets some cool factor people may start changing over from Facebook. There’s a lot of changes going on in advertising on Facebook at the moment and to get their share pricing rising they will need to find more ways of making money which means that users will get more annoyed. So yes, I believe change is coming but is it Google + or is there a new kid on the block?

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Speaking to some friends personally, I’m hearing similar feedback as you mentioned. From my own view, Facebook definitely has lost that cool factor. Myself and others from my generation basically grew up with Facebook through our teen years. Now that we’ve graduate and are working, Facebook kind of seems dated.

    Now to your point that Facebook is its own competitor – I agree, this is their game to lose. It’s interesting that Facebook is having privacy issues when networks like Twitter are a lot less “private.” This is because Twitter was built to be an open public network so privacy issues don’t exist. I believe that this will be Facebook’s primary undoing even more than the relevancy factor. Facebook’s social network model is flawed and incompatible with the open nature of the Internet. For example, Facebook doesn’t allow you to connect with like-minded individuals like Twitter allows you to. Facebook’s ideal is that you built a social profile – along with your life’s timeline and events – on the Internet while maintaining privacy. Those two ideas, to me, are incompatible. Their whole business model rests on the fact that advertisers can sift through your data and show you relevant ads. That’s not very private.

    I have a very peculiar opinion of privacy on the Internet – along the lines that it can’t truly exist. We think of privacy on the Internet comparable to privacy in the “real world” where we can shut the door and people can’t see us. Yet, very much like the real world doesn’t give us the ability to communicate with someone half-way around the world, the open Internet doesn’t give you the ability to say hey I’m not here you can’t see me. The very definition of privacy cannot apply to the Internet. “The state of being free from public attention.” Yet the Internet blurs that line between private and public. Google understands this with their social search.

    I think the issue over privacy is a result of the monumental cultural paradigm shift that’s occurring because of the Internet. Those who demand privacy aren’t seeing the full power of the Internet. Facebook was what ushered the world into that age, but it has more or less served its function.

    PS: I think privacy on the Internet comes not from being hidden but from being exposed with everyone else. I hear people say “I don’t what my personal business out there.” Well, unless you’re a celebrity, no one really cares for your personal business when there are 2 billion other people online. Your business isn’t that important and no one is going to take time to read. It’s a privacy of the masses. That is my opinion of what privacy should and will be on the Internet.

  • I wonder if indeed Facebook isn’t cool enough, or if we’re going to see a general social media fatigue. Not saying that it’s ‘the death of…’, but probably people are having enough and spend less time on social networks – not limited to a slowing down for Facebook.

    You’re article gives examples for reduced Facebook enthusiasm. I feel that the Google Plus streams I’m watching show significantly reduced activity.

  • People are definitely bored with Facebook and my news feed shows it. Plus, it’s so full of baggage and past history that probably shouldn’t have been dredged up in the first place. I think we are already seeing an exodus from Facebook into smaller networks like LInkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr. People may use more than one. Facebook will be the end of the monolithic social network.

  • There is one category of people possibly interested “in your business”, and which you might not want to share everything, and that’s potential employers. Especially if you are in any way “weird”, but that’s something you wouldn’t/won’t bring into work, and which isn’t relevant, but employers might still pass on your candidacy in favor of someone who is more conventional.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    I believe the whole thing boils down to “not cool anymore”, it is bound to happen, change happens on a regular basis. Funny thing is I am seeing more myspace account links in my internet travels. Does it mean anything, probably not, but it is interesting, and I will be keeping an eye on this very situation.

    I think you hit the nail the right on the head…you can learn a lot from a teen…ha ha

  • Along the same lines as this, i saw some research the other day pointing to how the new micro-networks are slowly working to capture the younger audience. Sure, most of these networks like instagram, pinterest, foursquare, etc.. post updates through facebook, however in the long run, facebook isn’t going to want to be reduced to simply a feed for numerous other piggyback social networks.

    Regardless – the trend with teens seems to constantly be moving towards the more rapid sharing of LESS information rather than the long-term cultivation of a massive profile. Im’ afraid that kind of usage might be difficult for facebook to easily adapt to.

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Good point. But the businesses that continue to hire “conventional” employees aren’t going to be around for much longer because the desire to hire conventional workers makes for a conventional business. A conventional business will not succeed today, and it especially won’t succeed in the next decade as more and more startups and companies around the world are doing unconventional things. Now granted, that’s an overly positive and optimistic way of looking at things, and it may not be in line with reality, but I’m speaking for where I see things headed.

  • Yes, those micro-networks you mentioned are on the move for sure, and definitely what the young people are into. I thought Facebook might save itself by turning into a quasi-search engine when it acquired Bing, but they have not really moved in that direction yet….the next year should be interesting. The bloom is definitely off the rose…

  • Great post Mark! I’m Gen Y. I mention that because I’m part of the shift you mentioned. While the privacy issue is a black eye, that’s not the reason FB is going to be stagnate. Mostly, it looks like FB has lost it’s ‘cool’ factor. I’ve heard 1,000 times how FB was great back when they required a college ID to get on it.

    Actually, I just looked at my own profile and of the several hundred friends I’m linked to, guess who’s updated their posts (other than an occasional pic)? Yep, my mom (with 4 paragraph posts)…and others from her generation.

    I don’t think very many people are going to get “off” of FB, most will just stop using it. I’ll confess, the only time I check it is 1. when I get an email (direct message) or 2. AFTER I’ve checked Twitter and have run out of tweets to read.

    Oh, and the fact that businesses are using it for employment screening shows how much FB is losing it’s cool factor.

  • In the last month or so I have had more people (considering numbers
    previously) ask me should they delete their FB? Or should they join at
    all in the first place? Of course they know I never joined and
    why…..but there does seem to be sense of a crack happening. Just my 2cents.

  • I hope you are right Mark. I’ve always been a bit creeped out by Facebook’s omnipresence and seeming omnipotence. In spite of being a fairly active (daily) user of the platform mainly for business purposes. And nope – have NEVER clicked on an ad! Ah, once the kiids latch on to something else us old fogies may be left holding the bag!

  • Great post! My wife and a few of our friends were talking about how Facebook is boring. It’s not the same, especially since the IPO flop.

    I like G+ a lot better now that I’m using it more. It has a more adult feel, while Facebook feels like Myspace did when the migration began.

  • Hi Mark,

    Some of the reasons I never joined. For now, Twitter and G+ are the platforms that work for me. I’ve toyed with opening a Facebook account, but pieces like this simply reinforce my arguments for not joining in the first place.

    Also, regarding B2B, I’m pushing clients towards other social networks.

    My almost-13-year-old son seems way more intrigued with the G+ interface as he hovers asking me what I’m doing 😉 All his friends are way more dialed into YouTube for a variety of reasons, but they tend to think Facebook is kinda, sorta like Myspace. Ouch! Not a good sign of things to come 😉

  • Thanks Marc 🙂
    That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about for the last cpl. of weeks. I guess Facebook (and then Google) will be the first examples of how there is no “Too big to fail”…

  • Yep. You’re right. There is a rebellion. I’ve told my clients that I’ve sensed a backlash brewing for quite some time now. It can be traced back to Timeline for businesses. When Facebook introduced it, I fell in love with the big cover images and Facebook’s urging to tell the story of your brand with this cover image (no commercials allowed.) I even wrote a few blog posts to help my readers navigate through the changes. But since the introduction of Timeline, it seems to be more challenging for business owners to build a community within Facebook. Some businesses are still thriving with their communities of fans but those page owners are working hard at it and investing a good chunk of time every day.

    I personally find more value from participating in a few strategic Facebook groups in which I am deepening relationships with members, much like joining a 24/7 Tweetchat or a private club. The Facebook groups allow for much more interaction and intimacy. I have bonded with many people in two groups in particular. We are helping each other grow our businesses. I try to help members when my particular expertise can be of service.

    Since Google+ appeared on the social scene, Facebook has copied and implemented many of G+’s better features (sharing posts privately used to be harder than it is now and most recently, Facebook introduced the feature of editing posts that had already been posted).

    Facebook should just keep things simple and don’t fix things that aren’t broken. They should also remember what happened to MySpace. (What DID happen to MySpace, anyway? It certainly went off MY radar a couple of years ago.) [End of my facetious statement about MySpace].

  • Some of the points here I ade in a recent article you might enjoy Barry — Why Facebook will become the most dangerous company on earth — http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/04/10/why-facebook-will-become-the-most-dangerous-company-on-earth/

  • I am not sold on it going away any time soon. While it is not impossible it is too big to just fade away and I don’t think the youth are going to drive it one direction or another.

    The “children” don’t have enough purchasing power yet to kill anything like Facebook, but Gen X and the Babyboomers do.

    Except we are still using Facebook because the tech is still cool to us. We still use telephones to make telephone calls too.

    Won’t take much for Facebook to find a way to continue to lock down a very sizable piece of the market. OTOH, they could continue to screw up and bring down our wrath, but I am hesitant to give enough traction to that to kill things.

    So, I don’t think we are going to say goodbye any time soon. Could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first or last time.

  • I think you’re correct and certainly think fragmentation is going to occur. However I think G+ would consider it a huge failure if they were relegated to a niche. Don’t you think?

  • Great observations. Thanks!

  • There level of innovation is breath-taking. In fact I think they lose people because they change so much! That could be a factor, too.

  • Honestly, I think it will be a new kid. Keep an eye on Path.

  • Well there are a lot points in this stream, but let me pluck out two. The first issue is privacy and Facebook advertising. It is possible yo have privacy and still have targeted ads. Let’s not confuse privacy with personalization. Those ads might be useful and certainly are responsible for delivering a free platform to us!

    And speaking as a business old-timer, (yuck) companies ae always sought innovative people. You will shrivel without them. The social web as not cornered the market on innovators! : )

    Thans so much for the extremely thought-provoking comment Pavel!

  • Agree on all counts Ralf. Nothing more I cam add!

  • Interesting point of view. Thanks so much for sharing Molly!

  • Wow. A MySpace comeback. That would be quite a story!

  • I could be wrong but I do not believe they acquired Bing, but they have a deal with them. But yes, there does seem to be a shift going on.

  • You have me thinking here Marcus. FB wants to gather increasing amounts of personal info and also have you spend more time on the site so you can see ads. Seems like viewing other outside content on the site like YouTube would support that strategy? Thanks so much fr commenting!

  • Yes, the growth in mom usage definitely cuts down on the cool part!! Thanks.

  • Interesting. I had no idea when I wrote this post that so many people would be making the same observations. Thanks Caroline.

  • Yeah, it creeps me out too, primarily because there is competition. It is the world’s largest dictatorship.

  • I was never a big MySpace user, so I appreciate the historical perspective. Many thanks!

  • Heck, you should be on FB just to follow people like @techguerilla. Hilarious! It is the dominant platform and will e for the foreseeable future.

  • Remains to be see. Stay tuned!

  • Nope–actually, you are right. I read all the reports about FB buying out Bing at the IPO, and did not read the followups—looks like someone thought better of investing in a SE that loses money every year. Guess that explains the stagnation… Thanks for kicking me in the butt on that…was much needed.

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Certainly agree that the social media hasn’t gotten all our innovators (that’d be terrible). I’m just saying if a company chooses to hire a conservative employee over one who is “weird” based on their digital profile then the company will be missing out on some amazing talent. Weird people are the ones who change the status quo

  • Bob Kinnison

    Such an interesting post. Thanks Mark for getting the conversation started.

    I’ve been thinking about it a lot, really prompted by the stock opening. I get the ‘cool’ factor that you raise, and I’ve never been cool enough to notice or care about such things…but I guess I agree. It occurred to me that Facebook is going to have some problems actually making money, and that’s soured me on the long term future of the brand.

    As far as I can tell, the only ways that Facebook can make money is through selling ‘push’ advertising (which is clearly a dying industry), or selling data that they collect on users (which is creepy, and a huge turnoff to users).

    Both of these earnings methods are totally dependent on the free, unfettered sharing of personal tastes, data, or relationships. Your privacy paragraph addresses how that puts FB in a pickle. If people are more and more concerned about how their info is being used, that will cause people to be more ‘careful’ about what they share via Facebook….and then as users share less and less information, the advertising becomes less and less relevant, or targetable.

    I don’t think Facebook is going away soon, but I’m betting big on G+, and I’m shorting the FB stock.

    p.s…on the privacy front, it’s my belief that Google is collecting a TON of information about users, too…but it just feels different.

  • Quite an interesting comment Lori! I wonder if you find any advantage of the Facebook Group over a G+ circle? Part of the G+ problem. They have nothing that FB can’t copy.

  • Actually I think you are right. I think Zuckerberg will find ways to react, and I don’t see a rid migration, if there is one. Our thinking is aligned.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    Justin Timberlake has a LOT of money and influence, it really wouldn’t surprise me all that much. The site is still very popular with musicians, and they are supposed to launch My TV soon. Time will telll

  • Thanks for the kind word Bob. I’m so happy you chose to comment. All of these services dens on our personal information to survive. I would notut too much of a halo over Google. They have had some big missteps too. The abuse of our personal information is inevitable.

  • Ha! You’re welcome!

  • Microsoft 2011 revenues were at $69 billion while Facebook’s revenues were around $4 billion. I really don’t think that Facebook is in any position to “acquire” Bing nor do I think Microsoft is willing to sell it.

  • Hey Mark– MS does well, Bing does not, it loses money, so Microsoft would probably love to dump it. Check out this article.
    http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-04-25/tech/31396689_1_mark-zuckerberg-facebook-s-ipo-skype

  • Mark, you make some really really great points. My first thought is people are lazy. People will stick with what they’ve got as long as it’s easy. When Google+ first came out, I remember I was lazy and didn’t want to have to build a whole new group of friends.

    At the time, many of my friends weren’t on there. Really, it was just one guy posting and posting (GOT REALLY OLD). I quickly abandoned my account. Months later, I came back and Google+ began suggesting friends. Many of them were brands or categories of pseudo-famous people. Now, my Google+ account in flooded with people I don’t know. It’s a very inpersonal social network.

    If someone were to unseat Facebook, they would need to be able to export all their friends, photos, and other personal, info off of facebook. Make it easy. Just allow whatever new service you’re using to access all that info and import it in one swoop. I doubt Facebook would allow such a thing.

    People have spent hundreds of hours uploading pictures, tagging friends, etc. To undo ALL that time would be an enormous waste.

    All that said, I see their biggest problem is advertising. When companies pull away in droves cause their advertising model just doesn’t have the impact it could, it will cave in on itself. They offer a platform to advertise to people in ways that years before couldn’t be imagined. They need to rethink how that works. Being able to pinpoint who you want to hit is amazing, but give us something other than just a side bar ad. Incorporate ads into a newsfeed. Allow advertisers to sponsor posts as part of campaigns. Create new advertising opportunities within facebook with re-marketing features. Let people actually design ads as opposed to the tiny little thumbnail.

  • The very moment Mark Schaefer starts questioning Facebook’s coolness and integrity, Google’s stock- and stakeholders start planning next years’ summer holidays!

  • I doubt very much that Mark Zuckerberg has been put on alert but I appreciate your vote of confidence Erik! : )

  • Fantastic comment MIke. A lot of very relevant observations in there and I agree that the switching costs are just enormous. I have been working in digital marketing in one way or another since around 2003 and can tell you from first-hand experience that moving first and dominating the niche is very important! Customers will turn up their nose at a “me too.”

  • You know I’ve thought about that. Wonder when the re-launch will be?

  • Mark, great bunch ‘o comments here.

    I am a Facebook “user” and a Gen Y kinda guy. Hey, what do a bunch of 50 year old guys know about what’s trending for teenagers? I don’t have any but I do have a nephew (so my market sounding = 1) and I can’t figure out what he’s going to be into next. I just think kids are fickle. They don’t know what they want yet.
    Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Even if they lose a small percentage of market share, so what, most people are too lazy to shift and a major shift takes some sort of radical act anyway. Cool is subjective and a hoard mentality at the same time. Zuckerberg will piss us off as he morphs the platform to generate more income and until the day I have to buy a subscription will be the day I consider to stop using it.

  • When timeline was first introduced 8 out of 10 people on my list were bitching about it. But even though they still pepper their status updates with “I hate timeline” I haven’t noticed these people cutting down on FB usage.

    As far as privacy is concerned, I also see very few people talking about it. Those that do are like us- wired in to these issues, regular readers of tech blogs or those involved in some way in social media. Sure, there is the occasional media report of how a jilted ex created a fake Facebook profile but people usually shrug their shoulders and carry on posting intimate data like nothing has happened.

    For reasons like these, I don’t see FB going away soon. I do see a shrinkage in their growth numbers. Maybe they won’t grow much after a billion users. There might be a reduction in the number of page views, or in the amount of time average users spend there during the day.

    But from FB’s POV you don’t even have to be on the site, or signed in to be of use to them. Just click on the like button and bingo. Unless you have installed something like Priv3 on your browser FB will keep building your profile and keep harvesting your information.

    FWIW FB is going to be around for much much longer than MySpace. MySpace was a guy whom you hung out with regularly, but FB is your shadow

    .

  • Good comments here Ralph. Agree!

  • Very wise points Bhaskar. It seems that the upcoming generation is being conditioned to share without regard to privacy concerns. A recent blogger on this site, Greg Pouy, liked it to a frog being slowly boiled in a pot of water. He doesn’t know it until it is too late!

  • I’m surprised that you didn’t mention another huge reason why people are abandoning Facebook: the constant changes that force users to learn Facebook all over again. The Timeline, and the deadline that forced everyone to scurry around to get a new Timeline photo in plac,e is just one example. Last night, I was talking to my 23-year-old nephew and his fiancee. Both think Facebook has lost its cool because “it used to be that only people our age were on it.”

  • Hi Mark, as usual a very thought provoking (and timely) post! While I agree with many of the comments, the biggest challenge Facebook faces is that of privacy as it goes against the entire facebook business model. The more private, the less advertising value. This also speaks to relevance. We’ve known for years that the commercial value of facebook content in general is weak. People don’t look there for product advise or other key topics of interest because users don’t generally discuss this level of depth there.
    This is fundamentally the difference between a Social “Network” (where people connect with people) and a Social “Community” where people connect specifically with products, goods and services. Conversely, the topic specific Social “Communities” are growing globally (due to just normal internet usage growth) because this is where online users research and discuss commercially focused activities. This is also where Brands are looking to advertise because users of the “Communities” are very focused on specific buying interest.
    The other major threat to both Twitter (as they continually lock down broader social access) and Facebook is emerging technologies from advanced internet markets such as China. Since services from these markets have evolved based on the “Community” approach, many are hybrids of the value delivered individually from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. As these services become more pervasive globally, they will threaten those services who don’t respect or understand the power of the overall social domain and try to singularly dominate it.
    Specifically, in order to be truly (commercially) relevant, Facebook needs to attack Google head on with internet search. This is the only way it will be able to determine the true “Commercial” versus “Personal” interests of users and build true value to advertisers. IMHO. Although there have been rumors for a while about this possibility, the FTC could easily stand in the way of something like this happening (and most certainly Google will challenge it).
    But, Facebook, Twitter and Google need to be aware that no matter how big or how seemingly pervasive any company gets, without continual innovation to address growing demands and trends, they’ll all eventually fall. The most recent example of this is RIM. It went from “Crackberry” to “Crapberry” (yes this is a term I’m now hearing from users everywhere) in a few very short years. And, it’s now likely at the point where it will never recover. Why, because with size and dominance comes a bureaucratic monster that feeds itself and fails to react because of a highly conceited attitude.

  • To lead fashion is to search out and adopt the unfashionable or unthought of – it was ever thus.

    Summer, means outdoors and sociable and always will. Winter is indoors, constrained and alone. When facebook tips as it must the crash inflection is likely to be during late summer August / September 2012 – we shall see.

    Fashion is the ultimate Ponzi scheme

  • A very good point. I have brought this up in previous posts, but you are correct in that it bears repeating. By contrast, G+ seems to be evolving in a way that is less stressful on users. But I don;t necessarily trust them either. Both companies have had big privacy problems and it will just get worse with the pressure from shareholders for ever-increasing profits from our personal information.

  • I have no idea what this means but it is a very poetic comment and probably just over my head. : )

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  • Yes, the Facebook rebellion has begun. People who have been using Facebook for over a year see that it is a wild river of talk talk talk. Posts that are supposed to start conversations…don’t really go anywhere. I see people who post what they are doing, who they are with and what they are eating. Very few of these posts actually start a conversation with more than two people.

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  • When inappropriate ads started popping up in non-age-appropriate places, then I saw a huge backlash. Of course, the privacy backlash is constant.

    What I appreciated more in this post was your sources of insightful intelligence. You have a lot of different touchpoints (teenagers, students…and online friends of course) that provide a great cross-section for popular sentiment. And just like your book talks about Citizen Influencers, you’ve used those citizens to make wise investment decisions!

    It will be intriguing to see how many people overcome the emotional switching costs. It is kind of like banks. When you use a bank for years/decades, you withstand a lot of bad customer service and escalating fees because it would be so inconvenient to switch everything over. You nailed it regarding social networks because it isn’t enough for you as an individual to switch over…you have to get all of your friends to switch over to still have meaningful engagement on the new network.

    I have been enjoying Google+ more lately, but I need to do more optimizing of my circles…and still hope that more of my frequent engagers start using Google+ more.

  • I’m wondering if FB has a new role. Instead of conversations, it is a place to store your photos and videos in one place? Something to watch but hard to get data on that. Thanks Mark!

  • Great points Brian and I appreciate that you connected the dots with the Citiizen Influencer movement. Time will tell. FB is so pervasive that something dramatic will have to happen for the trend to tip another way.

  • Interesting. I have 3 teenage sons and two of them have migrated to Twitter. They still use fb but not half as much as they used to. And the other one prefers to stick wtih Reddit, Digg etc.

  • It is a place of conversation-but depends on who you are. Great for social networking. Expats build communities there for support, advice, arranging social events. Total strangers from all over the world get together, communicate and form friendships. Next platform will have to be able to do this too.

  • Mark: I just discovered that my Disquis notifications of replies were turned off. Sorry for this very late reply, 8 months later! But here goes: At the time my comment was written here, Google+ did not have “Communities” set up yet. The G+ Communities are Google’s answer to Facebook Groups. Short answer to your question: no. At that time, the FB groups was and is a different type of social tool than the G+ Circles. But now that G+ has Communities in place, I think this will turn out to be successful and more effective than Facebook Groups and even LinkedIn Groups simply because G+ is new and barren territory right now. Your signal gets through loud and clear. The only dilemma for me is that I’ve been invited to join 15 different communities there and had to decide on two. But being invited to join a community or group is very advantageous, I think.

  • Ready4better

    For my story: A long time ago AOL used to hold my contact list hostage. No way to migrate my mail in one piece – especially business correspondence, and older family members could not figure out new platforms. I was a subscriber from 1991-2004 . Eventually it got harder to use for the tech challenged, then they started just dumping the soicial services it offered on a plate to us… the suddenly (for a person deployed) erased these services and all info on them (Hometowns, photo storage that kept flipping services you had to manually migrate to). Add insult to injury became intrusive with brand hawking and even sneaky with ways to have you get subscribed to these ‘meh’ programs (like AOLTools). A big difference is that AOL was even a PAID service but still disrespecting its base. Especially catering to its huge free population of needs of paying users to try and get more members.

    I had several social services…MySpace was my front runner though I liked the easy navigated, straightforward way Facebook handled the social messaging in early part of millennium. I had Myspace for personalization and spammy news, Frankly I really like Tribes but they are not quite interactive enough at last heavy usage. A few tweaks would make it perfect .

    So FB was go-to for what I wanted to know about friends. AOL was abandoned except as address I’ve had for decades so family can find me. Eventually all my family , elder especially Facebook I have hated since about 2011.

    But like AOL it became intrusive, started knee jerk changes and has privacy at stake. My last straw was sum of 3rd privacy setting default change in a row the removal of the tabs that helped separate the spinning posts of shares and games from your home page post of personal posts. And I have family bailing in all directions. Many to Google Plus recently. For personal friends my biggest social platform contacts That I know I can see them daily on is gaming platforms: Steam or popular MMO’s.

    I eagerly await to let my facebook just be quiet place I update yearly to point people to my new abode until I have transferred the info

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