2011 will be a great year for Facebook, but there are a number of factors ranged against them that are likely to impact in the longer term. These factors are primarily of Facebook’s own doing. These are things that Facebook are likely to known about for a fair while and either haven’t addressed or actively encouraged for perceived short-term business gains.
Back in January 2008 I had already started disengaging from Facebook:
I have noticed that Facebook has become less useful the more people and applications have come on to it. I am so sick and tired of receiving vampire bites, invitations to become a zombie, group messages and event invites that I have to log-in to read or wall-postings that the person never actually sent. I have backed out of my engagement with the site and as Ben mentions he knows a group of his friends that were planning to jump right out of Facebook together
This year danah boyd talked about how teens were changing the way they used Facebook, which Drew Benvie then experimented with. This wasn’t just an early-adopter edge-network thing, for over a year research from the likes of Mindshare and Comscore has indicated that younger people are re-evaluating their use of Facebook. just listen to how IPC Media’s young men aged 19-29 years old use social networks (aka Facebook).
There are too many of the wrong people in your network on there. There are serious privacy concerns and it can have a real implication for your professional life.
People are cautious about how they use Facebook now, I used just pipe content in from my blog on to my Facebook page. Now with Facebook Like’s the average person can do a similar thing with the stuff they found online with what I was doing a few years ago with my blog RSS feed. The ironic thing here is that content on the open web is being used to artificially bolster the Facebook splinternet.
It’s a shell game, consumers will soon wise up to the fact that they’re following zombie accounts. When this awakening happens, more consumers will become much less engaged with Facebook, adversely affecting the company’s advertising platform due to a lower amount of inventory served and a probable lower click-through rate. However, there isn’t a corresponding decrease in storage requirements as Facebook can’t delete the ‘zombie’ profiles because this would affect remaining members friend numbers which has become a source of self-validation for many.
There comes a point when advertisers catch on as well squeezing advertising rates. Facebook is addressing this issue through a number of ways:
- Facebook messaging – just don’t call it email. Back when AOL and CompuServe was where the hip kids hung out online the key functionality of the internet was communications: email, chat rooms, USENET groups, bulletin boards | forums and various forms of messaging (mostly at time IRC). Yahoo! and Hotmail both did well because web mail was a service that kept people coming back. Facebook hopes to go forwards by looking back into the ‘net. It also explains why Facebook’s former role as a pain-in-the-ass address book didn’t let contact details leave the network
- Compelling content on Facebook Pages – Up until the past few weeks Facebook was focused on maximising revenue by squeezing a price for everything. This meant that sweepstakes and giveaways were heavily taxed by Facebooks commercial teams. The problem is that without this ‘free stuff’ brand pages are pretty normal. So Facebook has now stopped interfering in competitions, sweepstakes etc that brand pages run compelling content
- Facebook Profile pages redesigned – the latest profile page redesign has been done to try and highlight the most interesting content and encourage clickthrough like work information and tagged photos (surely a deadly combination for many Facebook users?)
- Facebook seems to make it exceptionally difficult to cleanse your profile of interesting content, as I found from personal experience earlier this year
Stealing the keys of city
Part of Facebook’s success has been the games played by many of its users. No one is going to get fired for the state of their plants in Farmville (but they may get fired for playing it incessantly at work), its a low-risk highly-engaging social experience. This also poses an interesting question, is a Farmville player loyal to Facebook or Zynga? Whilst Facebook has managed to do deals with Zynga in areas such as virtual currency for virtual goods in the likes of Farmville. It has also ‘zucked’ the games company on more than one occasion so Zynga has quite smartly broadened its wings allowing you to play Farmville via MSN Games, on the iPhone and iPad.
The only thing that binds Zynga to Facebook in the future is the sign-in so what value can Facebook bring to Zynga in the longer term to stop it walking off with the customer? Could Facebook be building up their own successor?