While in NYC last week, I attended a digital conference at which there was tremendous buzz about Facebook—it’s rampant growth, the value of the Facebook ad exchange, and about their mobile and attribution products. No one can argue the transformation that has occurred globally, in terms of both a cultural shift and an enormous user base.
I also spent some time with my two daughters and their friends while in town. One daughter is 24, a young professional living in Manhattan. The other is 19, a sophomore at NYU. They each have extensive groups of friends, both in their immediate vicinity and around the country. What is their take on Facebook? Meh. Especially since their parents and grandparents are on it.
The juxtaposition of these two groups—media professionals vs. young adults—as it pertains to Facebook led me to look deeper at organic trends. Facebook started as a private means by which groups of people could communicate. This originated with school groups, then expanded to like-age groups, and now covers almost any group that can be imagined. The uniqueness and closed-community notion have disappeared.
My kids and their friends are moving quickly to other platforms. Instagram is a prevalent instrument (with no thought to its ownership). Twitter has a place, as does Pinterest, and Tumbler is an up-and-comer. If my girls didn’t have to use Facebook, they wouldn’t. The have to has to do with the size of the audience and the ease of reaching so many people in one place. Facebook is no longer cool. It is no longer appealing. It no longer satisfies their desire for community. Combine that with the rampant proliferation of inane advertising, and you can see that Facebook has a real problem brewing. A product that generations of people are rejecting as quickly as they can is not a good place to be.
My conclusion: Social savvy generations are loyal to their communities, not to the platform by which they reach them. If one platform becomes intrusive or watered down, they can just pick up their personal network and move to the next one. Loyalty is where their friends are, and their friends can access where they want to be when they want to be there. Increasingly, that leaves Facebook on the sidelines.
Facebook is still the 800 lb. gorilla. MySpace was once too. I acknowledge that they are vastly different properties, and I also recognize that the core value proposition is the ability to meet the needs of specific social groups. Facebook has a real challenge ahead of itself.