Should Facebook Be Worried? – The Start Of An End For The Social Giant
Its 2014, and despite the introduction of several new apps and social networking services that provide new ways for us to talk and share with friends, the majority are no doubt still chained to their social backbone – Facebook.
Facebook is, for the time being, still the king of social media, despite what opinions some may have of its all-encompassing corporate power. It announced a 38% revenue increase at the start of 2013, and boasts a user base of over 1.1 billion users, so far unrivaled by any other network. It’s integration with applications and services like Spotify, Klik and Instagram have only added to the seamless nature of the platform, encouraging commercial dependency on what some would call a risky level and forcing more users to flood to its pages.
Indeed, the idea that we may already be witnessing the first signs of Facebook’s slow demise may seem a preposterous one to some. Yet one only need take a closer look at Facebook’s user engagement patterns, its complex and controversial legalities, and its contribution to the circulation of information in comparison to rival social networks. In fact, over 11 million teen users have left the site since 2011. So all is as rosy as it seems.
Time To Abandon Ship?
During May 2011, around 100,000 British Facebook users admitted to closing their accounts in what was later coined as ‘Facebook suicide’, along with 6 million US users who logged off for good in this same period. Research has showed that whilst a large number of preteen and teenage adolescents are still reliant on the social network for catching up with friends, those of us who are twentysomething and above have begun to see it as an online address book of sorts; a mere back-up to our phones.
A large number of waning Facebook users when questioned name ‘boredom’ as their reason for opting out of the social addiction that saps so many hours of our lives. It’s an opaque term, sure, but perhaps that’s just it…Facebook users are wanting something new, and aren’t about to sit on their laurels and wait for it. The indifference, as once described on The Guardian Blog, is like a social epidemic in reverse.
That said, our patterns of use regards Facebook are undoubtedly changing. Many of us are visiting Facebook to maintain rather than actively engage, or simply using the Facebook Messenger feature in isolation via our mobile phones. Whereas user engagement was once frequent and lingering, it’s now being reduced to short and sporadic, which is not what Facebook wants. It suggests that every user has their own sell-by date; a grace period after which the same things just won’t cut it for them anymore. One popular and extremely plausible explanation is that as each person’s network grows larger over time, the quality of content filling up their news feed naturally decreases, and this certainly seems to be the case judging by anecdotal evidence.
Enter The Big Guns
Facebook’s 1.1 billion-strong user base, alas, will be of little value if half of the accounts are lying dormant. One major reason for users’ declining loyalty may have a little something to do with the arrival of several other social media platforms…all of which tend to focus more on specifics than attempting to do everything at once; much like a ‘less is more’ approach. This is in contrast to Facebook’s ‘do-it-all’ method of drawing in users and as a result, many rivals are doing these ‘specifics’ a lot better.
Pinterest, for example, focuses on images and photos as a way for users to communicate and circulate information around the web, whilst Twitter’s minimal, 120 character-limited update function brought a welcome break from likes, comments, pokes, and unnecessary apps. Meanwhile, LinkedIn and more recently Google+ are in their own league when it comes to delivering industry news and facilitating business-centered relationships, a market Facebook has sorely missed out on. And a renewed interest in instant messaging services thanks to their mobile usability has led to WhatsApp, SnapChat and Line taking the lead over Facebook Messenger.
Speaking of Facebook Messenger, its clear that Facebook’s attempts to retain some governance over online communication channels have fallen flat. Along with Messenger, there has been Facebook Home – something between an app and an operating system for your mobile phone that turns your handset into a full-on Facebook mediation hub (scary thought, I know). And Facebook Poke can only be described as a poor man’s SnapChat, allowing users to decide how long messages, photos and videos can be available before being deleted from the app entirely.
It’s not surprising that these sorts of additional features are failing, especially when they follow the launch of far superior applications that run on more robust platforms and flaunt more appealing interfaces. One only needs to compare Facebook’s video chat feature to Skype to see this logic in motion. Perhaps multi-tasking isn’t quite Facebook’s forte.
Will Facebook Be Missed?
Some people may feel that they wouldn’t be able to function if Facebook were to vanish from our lives. But if word on the street is anything to go by, Facebook is starting to have that same presence as a friend you once found funny but whose regurgitated jokes you are now growing tired of.
The social giant has come under trouble on numerous occasions for its annoying habit of reverting or changing privacy settings without the explicit consent of its users and exposing their private data to new audiences. Its latest run-in with the FTC was due to a class-action suit brought up by users who were upset at their identities being used to promote products using Facebook ads.
And what about all of those other annoying Facebook features we do nothing but complain about? Constant invitations to play Farmville, Roller Coaster Kingdom, or (the latest in a long line of wasteful fads) Candy Crush. People ‘poking’ you. An over-integration with other software like Spotify, Yahoo News and bookmarking sites, so that everybody knows what you’re reading or sharing whether you like it or not. ‘People you may know’ friend suggestions. The constantly changing ‘timeline’ layout. The confusing synchronization of the messaging feature and instant chat windows, causing you to flit needlessly from one to the other.
And the latest addition: invitations to pay Facebook to ensure that more people see your updates. This is great for businesses and organised groups certainly, but let’s face it, popularity should not be bought.
And perhaps it is this very realisation – the growing knowledge that happiness isn’t based around how many Facebook ‘friends’ you have or how many likes you can get with a status – that may spark the death of Zuckerberg’s greatest creation.