Facebook’s Deceleration Offers Solemn Reminder About Control
Predictions about the eventual collapse of Facebook are nothing new, but the buzz has been reinvigorated over the past couple days with the news that Facebook’s membership has underperformed for the last two months. Specifically, Facebook has only grown by 25.7 million new members between April and May, instead of the 40 million+ prefigured by the past 3 years of continual growth. Only 25.7 million members. These are hard times, indeed.
The plateau, however small, has many people diagraming the death of Facebook, now affectionately referred to as “pulling a MySpace”. I’ve even seen one person declare that Facebook won’t pull a MySpace, but an AOL instead. Maybe I’ll pull a Picard over the dumb, alarmist nature of these discussions.
Snark aside, the slow-down in growth has left some people fearful for the Facebook-based communities they’ve been building for months, years or more. It all acts as a reminder of something very important: you have no control over Facebook. One day in the distant future, their numbers will stall so dramatically that an actual collapse is imminent. One day in the not-so-distant future, Facebook could decide that their users are underserved and make fundamental changes to their format or interface, rendering your carefully constructed presence irrelevant or incomplete. It’s already happened several times before.
Marketing plans are being built on top of someone else’s system, and the system can change whenever it wants. This is why it is critical that you, your company or your organization have ownership over your own small corner of the web.
Still, social media marketing budgets are increasing worldwide, and more and more attention is being directed towards amplifying social presences with less and less attention being directed towards maintaining a clear, meaningful website. Facebook pages now have priority over About pages – sometimes they even get sole-billing in traditional advertising.
At this point it may sound like I’m skeptical of the value of social media, and I assure you that isn’t the case. I believe whole-heartedly in the wonderful things it can accomplish for branding, awareness and trust, and I call foul on any strategic plan lacking active participation in the world’s now-preferred form of communication. But I also find the abandonment of websites as primary web presences disheartening and risky. If your organization’s Facebook page disappeared tomorrow, where would your patrons go? Once they got there, would they have access to everything they need to be inspired into action?
When it comes to identity and information, your website is your crown jewel. It’s home base. It’s the mothership. If you’ve invested properly in its design, content and visibility, you needn’t worry about projections of Facebook’s decline. You needn’t worry about trends, buzz words or the next big thing. All you do need is an open mind and some room to experiment as media continues to evolve.
…And maybe your own data center.