There has been a lot of speculation recently about whether the era of Facebook is coming to an end. Apparently 100,000 UK users ditched the site last month and 6m users in the US.
The reason for this? One possible explanation is the uprising of smaller, tailor-made sites which many claim to be the future of social networking. Sites such as Instagram, a rival to Facebook’s photo sharing service that is both a camera app and blog site; Diaspora, a more open, yet simplified alternative to Facebook allowing users to create different groups of friends offering them control over what they share with each group (yet to officially launch); Path, a more personal social network that limits users to 50 followers so it is only their closest friends and family who have access to their posts and photos. Of course some sites are possibly too niche: Petstatus, effectively Twitter for pets, might be taking things bit too far… then who am I to judge.
Interestingly, it’s the early adopters, those who were there when Facebook started, that pose the biggest concern. Rather than having a loyal “we were here first” attitude, they are apparently shying away, claiming that it’s now too mainstream and commercial.
I started university in 2005 and can definitely be classed as an early adopter. I remember the excitement amongst fellow students over this new social network that allowed you to chat to friends and most importantly, look at each other’s pictures. It was definitely a step up from MSN Messenger! Gradually more and more universities started to join the network, until all my school friends, in universities all over the country, were on it. It seemed silly not to join, so of course I did.
I’ve now been a user for six years and it has been interesting to experience the Facebook journey. What was originally intended to be a site that enabled US college members to network with each other is now regarded as a powerful marketing tool and is used by brands the world over to connect with and engage their customers.
Brand Facebook pages are now the “go-to sites” for consumers, in many instances more so than the company website. Consumers can gain real-time brand information, connect with like- minded people and instantly communicate with a member of the marketing or customer services team running the Facebook page. Many PR and marketing companies have used Facebook to great success and the savvy communications expert will be keeping an eye not only on this recent decline in users, but also on the new boutique sites, deciding how they can also leverage these to further connect with their audience.
All this aside, if you had told me six years ago that there would be jobs specifically for people to run a company’s Facebook page, I would never have believed you!
So should Facebook be concerned about the decline in early adopters? Maybe so, but truthfully, as an early adopter myself, I have no current plans to ditch my Facebook account and swap to a niche network. I may not use Facebook as much as I used to, but that’s where my friends are and will continue to be. Admittedly my main use is to share photos, so even though it would make sense to swap to a boutique photo-sharing site, there really isn’t much point when none of my friends are on it.
When you look at things this way, surely it’s the new joiners who should pose the biggest concern. They have so many social networks at their finger tips to choose from, why would they join Facebook, a “one size fits all” network, when they could join a trendier site tailored to their needs?
Perhaps brands need to re-direct their focus to these consumers, encouraging them to join Facebook and become “fans” of their pages rather than worrying about those who are already there. But then you have to ask the question, who isn’t already on Facebook?