Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Facebook Has Jumped the Shark


I am not one for "I told you so" but I called this late last year, and the data is now beginning to support it - Facebook has reached its peak and may be on the downhill run of its success. I remember when The Social Network came out last fall, I was thinking that it might be the beginning of the end for Facebook. There is only so much that one social media site can do, and I thought that we might have reached the saturation point with the site. But then, when the movie won the Academy Award for best picture I said, "that's it! That is the kiss of death for Facebook."

Nothing against Facebook, mind you,I still check it every day. I still chat with friends and post my photos on there the same way I have for years now. It is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch with people that I have just met or known for years and I have, like most people, found long-lost classmates and old girlfriends on there, which has been a real pleasure for me. But, even with all of its Zynga games and social causes, Facebook has reached the tipping point.

Time magazine ran a story yesterday which stated that Americans are fleeing Facebook in droves, while its overseas fan base is still ramping up. Time is citing a blog titled Inside Facebook which tells of how "overall growth has been lower than usual for the second straight month, which is unusual." The blog goes on to say that Facebook lost 6 million users in the U.S. in the month of May, "falling from 155.2 million at the start of May to 149.4 million at the end of it." That is a signifciant drop, for a single month. But, its not just the U.S. who is losing interest. "the United Kingdom, Norway and Russia all posted losses of more than 100,000." So what gives?

Inside Facebook isn't saying, and you can be sure that the Facebook brass is trying to downplay its dumping of users. I have three thoughts as to why this is happening...

1. Everertt Rogers Knows... My Dad got a Facebook account about a year ago. He is not an overly social person and at the time it seemed more of a curiosity than someone who would be considered a likely candidate for long-term Facebook usage. By the Diffusion of Innovation theory, by Everett Rogers, my dad would be considered a "late majority." According to the profile from Dr. Rogers theory, my dad would qualify as someone who came in late, way after his children, grandchildren, co-workers and friends has joined facebook. According the Late Majority profile definition:

Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation..."

And by this same theory, I would be considered an Early Adopter, by the communication theory. My "adaption profile" would read this way:

This is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position."

That is all to say that Facebook has been around for quite a while now and is probably playing out its product lifecycle. And, as Everett Rogers would point out, it's not personal, its just the way things go when humans use them.

We hear about it - a few people try it - it works out - gets more buzz- a lot more people try it -
OMG - this is the best thing ever - everybody and their brother now tries it - it's just okay
(because now everyone is doing it, lame!) - and then people who live in a
West Virginia "holler" who are on dial-up sign on and....it's over.

2. We are all more than a little bit creeped out by Facebook. The Wall Street Journal wrote, just this morning that Facial Recognition Software is going to be a permanent part of the Facebook experience. In spite of the software really freaking out online privacy advocates, the company seems to not be deterred, to the point that the FTC has been asked to look into the matter.

Its also the ads that are matched up to your profile based on what Facebook "thinks" that you like, and sometimes they are right and sometimes they are way off. But you can't really complain because the whole thing is free! I have never paid a cent for the wasted time (one minute at a time) playing Bejewled on FB or chatting with friends and clasmates.

3. Facebook is so over. It is impossible for Facebook to keep up the buzz. Remember MySpace? Remember chat rooms? Remember Napster? Technology is moving very, very fast and it seems nearly impossible to keep up with what will soon be the "next big thing." I am sure that Facebook is aware of Web 3.0 coming down the pike in whatever form it will take, but it isn't likely that Zuckerberg and company will be able to harnes it. Companies like Google and Apple have been able to stay on top of the market with their lines of iPhone and Android models, but even they cannot dodge in inevitable bullet of a couple of guys in a garage with an agorithum. Since the inception of the PC with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to the Google founders, it is the way of technology and innovation.

On the internet, there is no reining dynastic power. You can be on top today, and at the bottom tomorrow. Sorry Facebook, it has been a good run. Friend me!

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