Facebook : Word of the day that broke the news that Facebook activity hit the 1 billion mark on Monday, in other words “1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family” to quote Mark Zuckerberg. And apparently “it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world”.
Facebook has to be the biggest brand success story of all time – as written until now, although it is also a bit frightening to think that one company has become so huge and powerful in such a relatively short amount of time, and yet is still not contented.
There is no disputing that the future is bigger and brighter for the brand, but it would be wrong to assume it’s Win Win all the way, or even Like Like, because there are a few elements that Facebook can’t control :
1) censorship in some markets has guaranteed success for alternative local social networks, such as QZone and WeChat in China, and Cloob in Iran, although local competition can be fierce and raging such as in Vietnam.
2) local-language culturally-relevant alternatives, such as VKontakte, the reigning social network in Russian-speaking markets (which you could be forgiven for thinking was Facebook, just misspelt, so similar is the design and user experience!) can simply be more accessible, and/or resonate more than global brands – although there is always the possibility that these may one day sell out to Facebook given the latter’s heavyweight acquisitions power and programme.
3) changing demographics – the Facebook generation is growing up, and old, which means the younger generations are already showing a preference for alternative messaging platforms and networks that won’t include their parents, or the friends of their parents in the Contacts list.
4) increased concerns over privacy and confidentiality breaches are causing people to reduce or delete their Facebook usage, especially older users who are more aware and security-conscious than the ‘bare-it-all’ youth.
5) innovation, quite possibly born out of research (that could be you, or could be us), or that could simply come out of ‘nowhere’ like Facebook seemed to, can still come along and re-shape our social and digital landscape. Such a challenge seems very likely to come from the realm of augmented reality, which is not (yet) a field in which Facebook dominates, but who knows what else is around the corner – we only know that something always is.
6) there’s always the possibility that advertising spend could shift (further) to other apps/sites/media causing Facebook’s revenue streams to dry up – although Facebook really does seem too big a beast to ignore, so this seems very unlikely to happen any day soon.
We should also remember the not-so-small matter of the ‘6 in 7 on Earth’ who are quite happy not using Facebook! Admittedly some of these use other social networks, such as in China and Russia as outlined above, whilst others – particularly in Africa – haven’t yet had the opportunity to connect to Facebook, (which the rather wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing of a Facebook.org seems intent on addressing), but that leaves a lot of people, a very big lot of people who are quite happy getting along without social networks, or with very limited use of these.
And these people are consumers too, and mustn’t be forgotten as the ubiquitous Facebook cloud descends lower over our decisions about hows and whos for marketing our brands, and conducting online research.