Let me start with the unthinkable – What if Facebook were to go away? What would people do with those hours a day spent posting, updating and sharing of vacation pictures? Would they all shift to a new platform? If so what platform would it be? YouTube, MySpace, Plaxo? Where would they all go?
Don’t worry, they are clearly the market leader and I don’t believe they will be going away any time soon. But is Facebook providing what the marketplace is looking for? Particularly the younger generation ? With the recent privacy issues and some negative buzz, are we seeing a potential turning point for Facebook? With all the concern this year about Facebook privacy issues, and the attempts by some to start a groundswell to get people to close theirFacebook acounts as a mass protest, it seems that Facebook may be losing some of it’s luster. On a seemingly separate track It also appears that American teens are losing some interest in Facebook, but for very different reasons. I don’t believe it is due to privacy issues but perhaps something even more impactful in the long term, it seems that Facebook just does not seem to be giving them what they want in a social platform.
As I talked about in a recent post on Who’s on Facebook the age demographic has shifted from college age to an average of 37 years old. That was surprising to me at first review. I always thought of Facebook as a younger environment that us older folks were just catching up on and participating in. As Facebook matures and expands it’s revenue models in the areas of advertsiing and eCommerce will it become more commercial and less engaging? Below is a chart that shows where people are engaging with Social Networking by age demographic. You can see that Facebook is the clear leader followed by Myspace, Linkedin and Twitter.
It is interesting to see the top line up. You would think that they would all be similar and fighting for position but what is interesting is that Linkedin and Twitter are not really competitors to Facebook. Linkedin is clearly a business social network and Twitter is for micro-blogging and does not offer the same services as Facebook. So the only real competitor to Facebook in the top 4 is MySpace and there seems to have been a major shift by young people to out grow My Space and move to Facebook. But what if Facebook loses it’s cool factor and becomes too commercial where would people go next? If you look at the lower end of the chart you see Tagged, Plaxo and MyYearBook. Will one of these platforms rise up to challenge Facebook? One of the challenges of course is the switching costs for a Facebook user. Once you have invested to time to build your profile, load all of your media and invite all of your friends it is not that easy to just move from Facebook. Earlier this summer there were some movements underway to try to create a groundswell for people to close their Facebook accounts. It did not reach critical mass but it does seem like the Facebook growth is leveling off.
Google would of course love to embrace the Facebook community and they have been aggressively launching new Social Networking capabilities. As I covered in one of my earlier blog posts, Google launched Buzz and Google Buzz for Mobile this year which allows for both micr0-blogging as well as Facebook like content sharing. They also own the Orkut social network platfrom as well well as YouTube so if anyone could come up with a Facebook alternative my bet would be that it would be Google in some form or fashion.
So what are your thoughts? Where would you go for Social Networking other than Facebook?
Post: Warren Raisch August 11. 2010 – Social Marketing on the Front Lines