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The Future of Facebook and Marketing

// February 24, 2011 // Social Media // Comments Off

I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve heard people predict the demise of Facebook. Everytime there is a hiccup in the service, or a major news outlet comes out with a story about Facebook and privacy, it stirs the pot all over again. And as a marketer, these uproars always come with the concern from clients and colleagues that maybe we shouldn’t be investing so much in Facebook. What if Facebook goes the way of Myspace and all this time, money and strategy we’ve put into it is useless?

Although I understand the concern, I think it is wasted energy. Here’s why:

Facebook isn’t going anywhere.

Now before you all jump down my throat about Diaspora and all of Facebook’s privacy flubs, or all the people you know who have quit their profiles, let’s put things into perspective. Facebook has 600 million users. 600 million. And each of those users has spent time and energy building their network – whether it be 100 people or 1,000. As a whole, the public is invested and has come to rely on using the social network for everything from making plans and sharing photos to dating and networking. Because of this, even Facebok haters would have to agree that the only way Facebook would ever lose its ground is if some other miracle network blew it out of the water (eg. the way Facebook did to Myspace). “Exactly!” you say to me, “It has happened before, it could happen again.”

Well, I am going to have to respectfully disagree. Even if there was some amazing network that had no privacy problems or service hiccups, how likely is it that all 600 million people are going to want to start from scratch on building their networks again? Not only would that be a huge pain in the arse, it would also mean much smaller networks. You see, everyone has connections that they friended at one point, that they would never be able to friend again. These are the people that you would never admit to paying attention to, but whom you thoroughly enjoy checking up on. People like friends from high school, ex-boyfriends, frenemies from college, co-workers from your first jobs, etc… The idea of giving up all of these connections is insanity. And while those of us who have been on Facebook since the beginning may have more of these “friend relics” than the ever growing 50+ demo on Facebook, I’d be willing to bet that almost everyone has at least one.

I also think it is telling to see who is all up in arms about the privacy concerns on Facebook. I’m making generalizations here, but it is most usually the crowd that has only been on the platform for a year or two and is much less invested. It is also the crowd that doesn’t have a history with mass Facebook protest. If you fall into that group, I don’t blame you for your reaction. In fact, when my relationship with Facebook was just beginning there were all sorts of times when my friends and I were outraged about Facebook changes. First there was the newsfeed, “UM, a Newsfeed?? So now I can’t see birthdays prominently displayed?? AND I can see when people break up? Oh this is horrible. I will sign a million petitions about it and complain endlessly.” And then they introduced photo tagging – “WHAT? You are telling me other people can just tag things and they will appear on my profile without me approving them first? This is crazy. Crazy!” Oh and don’t even get me started on when they started letting companies on Facebook… And guess what. Despite how outraged I was over these changes, it didn’t take me too long to realize that ol’ Mark there knew what he was doing. And that he’s really smart. Sure there have been awkward times along the way where Mark has gotten over-zealous and made changes without properly explaining them or giving you an opt-out option, but he always remedies that. So for those of you who haven’t yet had the long relationship with Facebook, you’ll find yourself trusting Mark after a while. And then you can laugh with us when the next generation gets all out of whack about Facebook and starts predicting the network’s demise.

In the end, it really comes down to why people are on Facebook. They are there to connect with their friends, sure, but you can connect with your present friends easily enough via phone and email. The real power of Facebook is that it allows you to essentially keep a scrapbook of friends. It lets you to “creep” on people and build relationships you wouldn’t have had otherwise. It has a low enough barrier of entry that it makes it possible to connect with people in a way that no other medium can. And that is why, for the forseeable future, Facebook is here to stay.

Now, I will never be one to tell you to put all your marketing eggs into one basket, nor do I think Facebook is the end all be all for social media marketing. Far from it. I am simply saying for those marketers who are crossing their fingers and hoping this whole Facebook craze will blow over, you may be waiting for awhile. And while I respect that many may dislike the platform for personal reasons, it is undoubtedly a successful marketing tool and will likely be so for years to come. So if you are wondering what the next steps for your company’s Facebook page should be, I say invest. If you don’t have the skills to develop a business strategy on your own, find a social media agency to help you with long-term goals and who can advise you on how to handle the daily changes. Ultimately, how much you spend and to what extent you use the network will vary for every company, but if you were planning on sitting around waiting for the next Facebook to arrive, that may not be your best bet.

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    1. GREAT post! You verbalized many of my feelings…

      • Thank you, Megan! So glad to hear it. Especially from a client who has done such a stellar job of embracing FB and running with it.

        - Callan

    2. Wonderful article Callan. Loved all the link juice and extra tidbits such as the urban dictionary ‘“creep” on people’ link.

    3. Nice post Callan and I have a few thoughts.

      It all comes down to communication. Zuck gets this. Myspace and the other sites from the past didn’t. Myspace let you promote yourself yet that is a small minority who want that.

      Friendster was the same and actually more datingesque.

      The core of Facebook is and always (use superlatives lighty) will be more open communication.

      People squawk at this in regards to privacy and too many people knowing what they are up too but in the end that is at the core of everything we do and know about life.

      Mark, even from the beginning was about opening up communication, creating transparency and ultimately completely changing society as we know it.

      Everything I do, think about and strive to do is based around this core thought that better, and more open, communication can change the world. Mark believes this, as do I.

      This isn’t just about sext messaging friends on Facebook and understanding people on a deeper level through interactions we have with people, it’s bigger than that.

      The world, will become one and the mass problems and wars of the world will hopefully be that of past when we can all understand each other. Mis-communication, I believe, is the sole problem with the world. We just don’t know what others a saying, thinking, etc because we can’t understand each other.

      Technology can change that. I hope. When we understand each other we will then realize that we are all actually the same people, walking different paths. That’s it.

      As for Facebook dying, you never know. One thing I do know though is that Mark built Facebook on the core basis of curiosity and sex… That is the core of our human existence and if he keeps those 2 factors as the reason everyone spends their time creeping then he will succeed in every nation because that’s just what people do.

      He also allows people to do 2 of the main psychological traits that drive our entire consumer driven society. Display and consumption.

      Display is what you do when people are looking (Drive a BMW or Post good news on wall) Consumption is what you do when people aren’t looking (Creeping or online dating)

      Display is where companies make shit tons of money yet consumption has a massive market too…

      Having both, well, that’s a goldmine. :)

      Just some thoughts.

      • Hi Shane – Love the comment. Thanks. Completely agree with your statement that the open communication is what makes the site successful and that Mark has set out from the beginning to change society. And yes, I think in all the uproar about personal privacy, many miss out on the benefits of open communication like actually understanding one another.

        Thanks Shane,
        Cal

    4. Awesome post! I completely agree with this statement: “Facebook isn’t going anywhere.” I think people are so caught up in looking for flaws of Facebook that they do not realize how beneficial it really can be. Like you, when changes started I did not like them. Now I look forward to changes, because they are good changes and take Facebook in a new/good direction.

      • Hi Ashley,

        Thanks! Glad you agree. I do think it is amazing how people seem to completely overlook the benefits. The attitude is almost one of entitlement, and sometimes I think people think having access to a platform like Facebook is a given. I like to see the flaws as just a natural side effect to changing the way the world communicates. Annoying, sure. But not a reason to bash the entire platform.

        Thanks for reading,
        Callan

    5. I wonder if the myspace failure can be attributed to the horrible visual aesthetic that got so tiring so fast. Facebook’s simplicity is part of its brilliance. Zuck may just be the next Jobs.

      • Hi Rickie,

        I totally agree. Myspace was not friendly on the eyes. All the customization and the advertising lead to a butt-ugly product and I do think that that contributed to a lot of the platforms down fall.

        And yes, Zuck and Jobs do seem to share some similarities, don’t they.

        Thanks for the comment!
        -Callan

    6. Nice article Callan. Though I don’t agree that communication will stop wars and conflicts. Isn’t perception the most important factor in any attempt at communication? An example might be your last girlfriend/boyfriend. There was plenty of verbage being exchanged but you still wound up as their Ex. Might be off the point but in a fatalistic way I’m afraid we are doomed to wars, conflicts and the dictators of every sort who contribute to their existence.

      I agree FB will be around for a long time. I use it to “creep” on old friends on a daily basis. Fascinating stuff really. “People are life’s entertainment” !

      • Thanks Ken. Great point about communication and exs. You are right. Communicating can’t solve everything, but it can certainly help! Thanks for reading and for commenting.

        -Callan

    7. I agree with you for the most part, but I would like to point out that social media as a whole (not just Facebook) is subject to society’s communication preferences. Human civilization relied upon physical messengers to carry important information for centuries. We also devised other methods such as smoke signals and carrier birds to share information as well. Of course, all of these methods are now extinct. That’s because society decided that the available technology was good enough to stop using those methods once and for all. I don’t think that a platform like Facebook is going anywhere soon, but I do think that it is very difficult to say that Facebook will last indefinitely. It’s just the nature of human communication in my humble opinion.

      • Hi Steve,

        Thanks for the comment! Yes, you make a great point. I wasn’t intending to say that Facebook will be around indefinitely. Just for a long while and long enough that it makes sense to still invest in it now.

        Thanks for reading,
        Callan

    8. The thing that is helping facebook the most is that they are constantly evolving to remain current. I can also see their use of apps for fan pages evolving into what itunes apps have done for apple.

    9. Hi

      I like the above article, but would like to add that I think we need to also backup our Gmail accounts.

      I did this last week with a company called SysCloudSoft http://www.syscloudsoft.com. I backed up my Gmail account absolutely FREE.