I joined Facebook in 2007 when it was essentially a brand new concept. It was a small club and most users updated their profiles almost constantly, and frequently posted status updates and photos. When I logged on then, my news feed was filled with updates from my actual friends, people I knew in real life, who were generally my age and shared interests.
In the six years since that time things have changed dramatically. Facebook altered their algorithms for the news feed, essentially did away with photo tagging notifications, and introduced ads and sponsored posts. My news feed is now filled with older acquaintances and relatives spouting political ideological BS or the latest on what version of the flu their three kids have. As a result, though I still login to Facebook at least once a day, I haven’t posted anything in nearly a year. My wife deactivated her account in August and hasn’t looked back. I’m almost there – I now Facebook out of inertia and force of habit. I find myself using Instagram in the active fashion in which I used to utilize Facebook.
I’m not alone in these feelings, as Princeton researchers conducted a study about the lifespan of Facebook and compared its growth curve to that of an infectious disease like bubonic plague. They predict that by 2017 Facebook will lose 80% of its user base – thus signaling the death of the Facebook we know in 5 short years.
Herein lies the catch-22 for social media and marketing. Companies and marketers are aggressively striving to utilize such platforms to drive sales. However, I believe that a huge component of what initially led users to places like Facebook was the lack of artifice and the presence of advertising. Facebook has lost sight of its original value proposition. The change to try to monetize the experience may be producing revenues for advertisers and Facebook itself, but this is going to assist in driving users away. As author Douglas Rushkoff says in his recent CNN article, Why I’m quitting Facebook:
“Through a new variation of the Sponsored Stories feature called Related Posts, users who “like” something can be unwittingly associated with pretty much anything an advertiser pays for. Like e-mail spam with a spoofed identity, the Related Post shows up in a newsfeed right under the user’s name and picture. If you like me, you can be shown implicitly recommending me or something I like — something you’ve never heard of — to others without your consent.”
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but maybe Facebook was just a fad. The younger generation wants nothing to do with it and I’m over it. Aside from making acquisitions (Instagram, What’s App, etc.) what moves does Facebook have left for relevance?