“Nobody Seems to Love Facebook Anymore”


12-year-olds analyse the Instagram purchase. Image credit: @PatrickMoorhead

One meta network to rule them all: Why we remain beholden to Facebook

In this week’s Sales Source column in Inc., Geoffery James gets his hate on for Facebook. James argues that, because LinkedIn fills a dull but pragmatic niche, it will outlast Facebook. According to James, business people just want information; they don’t abandon ship for the next, coolest thing.

LinkedIn is a haven for the ultra corporate and the job seeker. It’s a workaday network used to sniff out prospects and climb the corporate ladder. Not a fun place to be, but extremely efficient if you want to find out who her boss is, and who his boss is… and who he used to work for.

I am reluctant to defend Facebook. We all love to hate Zuckerberg’s walled garden. We complain about (in James’ words) “its awkward design, 1990s-style layouts, weird privacy policies, and intrusive advertising”. I get depressed daily about giving so much of myself to a closed system that hoards and owns my content. But… when my content appears on Facebook, it gets exponentially more attention than if I posted it elsewhere. And that’s good for my ego.

And — face it — you felt a teensy bit sad when you heard that Facebook bought Instagram. And then you took out your SmartPhone and shot some Instragram pics to post on Facebook. Because it’s fun.

For everything that makes us cranky, there are so many reasons (not all of them bad) why Facebook is magnificently all powerful and will stay that way for the unforeseeable future:

It’s free. And everyone is there.

Your neighbor, your grandmother, your boss, your crush… Facebook crosses all demographic, economic and geographical boundaries. Unlike LinkedIn, users don’t pay for exclusive access or content. Your access is purely a function of your level of engagement. The more you give, the more your community gives back. Just like the real world.

It’s huge.

They say that the true nature of opportunity and networking is through friends. Given the pure momentum and size of Facebook and its highly social nature, many entrepreneurs (as well as millions of people in the arts), who are on multiple networks, generate more opportunities through their contacts on Facebook than on LinkedIn. I’m one of them. Facebook has the eyeballs, the hearts and the engaged participation of exponentially more people than any other network. Why look elsewhere?

The cool kids have moved on. But they’re on Facebook too.

There has been a lot of talk about how everyone left MySpace, and then Facebook for cooler shores and niche networks. Apparently that über chic social network is just around the corner, ready to take over.

The cool kids are already using multiple networks: one for their music, one for photos, one for gaming, and yes… one for their resume. Facebook is simply the glue that pulls all these networks together: one meta network to rule them all.

We rely on it.

Just like we complain about riding the bus or shopping for groceries, we all hate on Facebook (but continue to use it). Facebook has become an essential part of the social and economic fabric. Our networks reflect real events and issues happening now in our communities and in our lives. To divide this attention, would be to lose the social cohesion that Facebook has built over time between billions of users. It would take years for any upstart network to generate this much momentum and immediacy.

It’s where the consumers are.

Because everyone is there, the very C-levels who sing love songs to LinkedIn want their marketing people to build fan pages on Facebook. Because everyone is there, we can market to everyone, or we can target our campaigns to women over 50 in Missouri who read vampire novels. Yes, this kind of thinking freaks Facebook users out, but apparently not enough to drive them away.

What will drive them away?

Eventually, maybe, Facebook will come up with a user or privacy policy so abhorrent that its users will leave in droves. It hasn’t happened yet, so it’s a long shot. The policy would have to be so obnoxious that it threatens to undo the honest social equity that users have accumulated online. Maybe only then will a hipper, more grassroots social network be in a position to take over. And if this does happen, be prepared for massive social disorientation as people try to reorganize themselves and find new ways to build relationships and community online.

Kirsten Weisenburger, Digital Strategic Planner

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5 Comments

  1. Simone
    2012-04-20 19:10:29

    I think this article is great follow up to your post: http://www.businessinsider.com/hey-linkedin-youd-better-go-buy-branchout-before-facebook-does-2012-4?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+businessinsider+%28Business+Insider%29 Facebook's BranchOut is focusing on the same professional market that LinkedIn is. I wonder who will reign supreme in 2013?

  2. Henri Cohen
    2012-04-20 08:57:34

    Thoughtful piece. I can envision FB eventually phagocyting LinkedIn.

  3. Nasser
    2012-04-19 18:31:32

    On the subject of Facebook advertising, I tend to find it pretty poorly targeted. Contrary to the advertising that I receive on Facebook, I'm not a lonely obese man looking for a date. At least that is what I tell my wife.

  4. Andrea
    2012-04-19 16:21:30

    Interesting article!

  5. Scott Ensign
    2012-04-19 15:58:45

    Great post. I couldn't agree more. Facebook is supremely useful for so many things; that's why it gets used a lot. I remember emailing pictures to people. Can you imagine? Facebook works just a little bit better for that kind of stuff. Sure, I could put them on Tumblr or some other "cooler" place, but I could also tape them to the bottom of my desk. The point is I want people to see them. I would only argue that I don't find the advertising intrusive. In fact, I think they do a pretty good job of incorporating the marketing into the overall experience (ads for things I like anyway). With a really useful free online service, I've come to expect and accept a certain level of marketing intrusion. To me, Facebook falls well within the acceptable levels.

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