Today’s meditation on this concerns Facebook, or rather an interesting bit of research that came out from the AP and CNBC concerning Facebook’s future. They conducted the poll in anticipation of Facebook going public and my immediate reaction was AOL‘s trajectory morphing to MySpace‘s morphing to…??? The AP piece summed it up with this question:
Is Facebook A Fad?
You’re laughing? 46% of the poll respondents believe Facebook will fade away as new companies come along, and it’s not just the old farts - younger adults are no more apt than their older counterparts to expect Facebook’s long-term success; 51 percent think it will fade.
For those of us who have been in digital since the start of the commercial era, it’s not a weird question. Fifteen years ago, one would have asked the same of AOL and could not have imagined that it would pretty much be a blip. The rise and fall of MySpace is much more recent but illustrative. So quit your laughing and think about how the nature of the beast is changing. Facebook is going from a company built to attract and service folks like you and me to a company that’s built to attract and service marketers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except that Facebook seem to be bad at it.
You might have read that General Motors is pulling its advertising from Facebook. That’s a $10 million deal — not massive in terms of value — but very embarrassing for the social network because apparently it was too hard for GM to quantify their ROI. The poll data supports that thinking - 57% of users say they never click on ads or sponsored content, while 26 percent “hardly ever” click on them.
Like AOL long ago, there are some other underlying factors that might portend bad things.
- Just 13 percent say they trust Facebook completely or a lot to keep their personal information private.
- A large majority (59 percent) say they have little or no faith in the company to protect their privacy.
- Even among the site’s most frequent users — those who use it multiple times a day —half say they would not feel safe making purchases through the site.
There’s another great analysis from Forrester here and I’m sure more will be written as Facebook’s IPO happens later this week. So is Facebook a fad? I’ll let you respond via the comments, but my thinking is that while “fad” might not be the right term, it’s definitely not invulnerable. Given the underlying concerns from users and marketers, someone ought to spend an hour reviewing the history of AOL and recall that MySpace went from “the most popular site in the US” in 2006 to losing half its traffic between 2009 and 2010. What’s your thinking?