I have long held the belief that Facebook’s days as the premiere social platform may be limited, this may be especially true for Millennials.
Facebook has evolved into a raucous town square
I have held the belief that Facebook’s days could be numbered based upon three points.
1.0 Change has been the only constant on the web.
The digital landscape has always been transformative by nature. Popular platforms, social trends, and audience behaviour has always changed over time, the rate, speed, and type of change has been variable. I have seen big popular platforms rise to fame and then spectacularly disappear into the wastelands of digital obscurity as the hordes and crowds move onto newer and brighter experiences.
The great can fail, for example CompuServe, Geocities, Lycos, Netscape, AOL, Google+, Del.icio.us, Yahoo (without Alibaba’s revenue), DIGG, Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Friendster, and MYSPACE to name a few. Nothing is forever, and online, digital accelerates everything quickly, the journey from fame to fail can be quite a quick trip for some brands, longer for others.
Failure can be around the corner
2.0 Facebook’s Dilemma: What made it successful may also bring about its demise.
Let me explain, Facebook’s genesis and success was based on the core principle of a being a social platform for a community based upon a common interest, which was initially students. This basic principle is the core element of any successful social network platform. As Facebook became mega successful, it also became a mega social platform, but no longer based on the core principle of serving a community or even communities of common interest. Facebook started serving vastly diverse communities, individuals, and organisations with no or little common interest.
Facebook delivered most value to its user base when it was smaller in scale and was a relevant social network based on shared or common communities of interest. Facebook has ceased being a relevant social network for communities of interest long ago. Its model is now a frenetic public town square, populated by media moments, casual forgettable comments made by casual forgettable acquaintances, and all punctuated by ever spawning unrelated and unwanted content and advertising streams.
Due to the town square model, Facebook’s bright digital lights have attracted endless soapbox spreakers with poorly considered opinions, and growing armies of trolls, dolls, and social media debutantes. I guess Facebook has simply grown up, and in doing so it has become just like any other large city.
Megaphone moments of Facebook
Put simply, Facebook has become a victim of its own success. Facebook is too public and populated with friends we don’t know or care about, posting content that we care even less about. Newsfeeds are mostly full of unrelated, irrelevant, and mundane media moments creating vast pools of social media pollution. These Facebook pools of pollution are putting some of from jumping back in, and many have become reticent about Facebook’s social experience, including Millennials. Which brings me to my next point.
3.0 Facebook has become just too popular.
Sure, this can actually be a problem as Facebook has become too mainstream, therefore it has become unpopular with early adapters, younger generations, and digital trend setters. So what you have left are moms and dads, grandparents, self-appointed media mavens, social show-offs, political ranters, the digitally awkward, all surrounded by vast numbers of companies falling over themselves being told by marketers they need to capture your vague and transient “Like”, and all wanting to “be your friend.” I guess this last point is closely related to the second point.
Facebook’s steep growth
So where are they going and what are they doing?
Millennials have woken up to the fact that leaving personally identifiable information, along with conversation and media trails in very public spaces can bite back. Everyone from parents through to potential employers, along with less savoury more sinister characters can all access and track their activities when posted in public networks.
Millennials are moving into apps which have more immediate short form messaging and content. They prefer chat apps and media apps where they can communicate within a closed circle of friends for more meaningful instant conversations and media sharing that is more relevant to their own personal network.
Platforms like Instagram and YouTube are still are very popular with teens, however huge growth is being seen in mobile chat apps like WeChat and SnapChat, and short form content like Instagram and Spotify. But of course, let’s not forget the most popular teen app is still texting/SMS!
Source: WeChat & GlobalWebIndex
To wrap some analysis around this, current major macro movements across digital are towards relevance and personalisation, Google’s search strategy & algorithm is based upon constantly improving relevance. All major platforms and digital service providers are building in personalisation and customisation services. This is why the personal network and personal content sharing will become more popular with teens.
Are teens loosing interest in Facebook?
Dominant players like Google, Snapchat, and Pinterest are constantly moving towards building more relevance and personalisation. When you combine these macro themes with the basic tenet that any successful social network is based upon a shared, and sharing of a common interest, you clearly see that Facebook needs to change dramatically to stay a relevant and healthy social platform.
The new private social media
We are seeing more new social platforms that are based on a closed network model combined with movement away from public or semi-public platforms. We are on the cusp of a new private social media experience. Platforms like Yammer, Snapchat, WeChat, and Slack are all gaining ground, along with the growing number of social platforms dedicated to traditional communities of interest.
A Maturing Digital Market
Digital service providers are maturing as the digital market matures. As markets mature they also fracture, and build platforms and models that accommodate more diverse and specific groups or segments. As the market matures and audience behavior drives further change, transformation naturally follows and dominant players loose relevance unless they too can change.
A maturing digital market
Since in the digital world everything is constantly changing and evolving, it is no wonder that digital, and especially social, is the perfect platform for teens who are themselves in a constant state of change, and who have grown up with the idea that digital is built upon change. Being a teen and being digital is a perfect relationship.
Digital & Teens, a perfect relationship