R.I.P. Facebook – The End of the World as We Know It?
Okay, don’t freak out that this is some sort of manifesto and please don’t send the FBI to my door, I’m just trying to get your attention.
I hate making predictions. Actually I love making predictions but I hate making them in a public forum because well, I’m a guy and guy’s hate to be wrong. But for probably the first time in my life, I’m hoping I’m wrong.
I predict that in less than eighteen months, Facebook as we know it will cease to exist, victim of its own success.
First and foremost, let me say I like Facebook. In fact, my wife will tell you I like it too much. Facebook is a once in a lifetime phenomenon, a game changer along the lines of the Beatles and Hiroshima. Like Hiroshima, this one event has changed how we look at the world forever. Take into account that since its inception, small businesses and major international corporations have created entire teams of personnel to cater to the Facebook world and create strategies solely for this forum. But unlike the Beatles, Facebook’s demise will not be the result of a tumultuous love affair between Mark Zuckerberg and an avant-garde performance artist; it will be because of us, you and me, cashing in on it.
The moment Facebook goes public will be the beginning of the end of the single-most important player in the social media game. I know it because I’ve seen it happen before.
Here’s how I see it: Once Facebook went public, the handful of people responsible for creating it became gazillionaires. I don’t care how passionate you are about a cause or your life’s work, when somebody dumps a pile of millions of dollars at your feet, the immediate feeling is to kick back and enjoy the ride. The burning desire that drives people to be an overwhelming success is replaced with a “we got this” mentality. In short, the fire that raged and drove its creation drops to a memorial flame (thirteen billion dollars will do that.) We already know that one major player has renounced his American citizenship to bug out and duck a few million in taxes (news broke yesterday, in fact, that senators are now going after Facebook’s Severin for tax dodging). That tells me he’s not very interested in the overall continued quality and well being of what was once his life’s work.
Next, you’ll see the focus of Facebook drifting away from the consumer (you and me) and toward the shareholders (major investors, the guys who DON’T wear hoodies to corporate board meetings.) Innovating, creating and maintaining this little piece of genius will be cheapened for the sake of helping out the bottom line. Super-serving the customer will be replaced by maximizing profits for the shareholders as Job One. And really there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t mind the death of what made Facebook so unique and brilliant from its inception.
In short I guess what I’m saying is the bigger and more successful you become, the more likely the danger of the quality of your product diminishing. Think about it, whenever two airlines merge creating a ‘super-mega airline’ does the service get better? Hell no. For the most part it gets worse AND you get charged more.
In my world (radio), there are countless stories of small broadcasting groups who did great things, succeeding way beyond expectations only to be bought by a corporate entity and neutered into something benign and irrelevant. The business of radio killed the art of broadcasting. All of which was done for the sole purpose of improving a profit margin.
You cannot argue that these companies are not successful but you can argue that when they get bigger than imaginable, they lose their edge, their heart and the unique qualities that made them successful in the first place.
It seems as though I’m not alone in this train of thought. A recent AP poll shows that a majority of Americans now consider Facebook a fad (http://newsle.com/article/0/18927640/) and while a vast majority of us still use Facebook every day, it’s quickly becoming obvious that we’ve begun to look for the next big thing. Look at it this way, the moment your mother or grandmother gets hip to the technology, it becomes past tense.
So now you must ask the question: What’s in it for me? What can I do now to prepare myself or my client for the post-Facebook world?
- Prepare: This isn’t like the Mayan calendar. Nobody is predicting a cataclysmic end of the faceworld scenario, but ask the ‘what if’s’ and have solid solutions.
- Diversify: Don’t put all of your company or clients social media resources into one facebasket. Google is doing a fine job of keeping up and if my twenty-five year old daughter is any indication, jump on Pintrest NOW! The more bait you drop in the water, the better your chances to catch fish.
- Innovate: Take some of that brain power you’re wasting on Mafia Wars and see if your team can develop a new, unique social media outlet or strategy.
- Back-up: Remember oh-so long ago when there wasn’t Facebook? What ideas and strategies did you rely on to communicate or poke your clients? Can you adapt them to the post-Facebook world?
- Do Nothing: (also known as the “Congressional Solution”) Let somebody else do all the heavy lifting then you show up just in time for the beer and pretzels. *Not recommended for those who wish to stay in this business for any period of time.
And if all that fails, start hanging out at your neighborhood high school: Creepy as that may sound, chances are good that eleventh-grade techno-geek has already been working on the next big thing. Today’s locker room goober could very well be tomorrow’s Jobs, Gates or Zuckerberg.
Remember, this is a good thing. This is only evolution. If you don’t evolve, you stagnate. If you stagnate, you die.
Best of luck and hey, ‘friend’ me while we still can.
Skip Mahaffey in an award-winning broadcaster, media coach/consultant and author of “Adventures With My Father: Childhood Recollections of Divorce, Dysfunction and the Summer of Love.” Contact him here: firstname.lastname@example.org.