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Facebook: A Bright Future or Necessary Evil?

I'm always fascinated to hear a person's take on {complink 10867|Facebook}. I mean, it's a Website — a system of interconnected pages on a server somewhere in California. It has no weight or height; no guarantees even that it will exist in the morning. And yet, this entity holds so much fascination for people.

They love it or they hate it. They search for mates and old friends and even hire killers on it. They freely give it information with little return on that intellectual investment. It has become sewn into the fabric of our media and our conversations, as {complink 2294|Google} did some years back.

Facebook is so big in our collective conscience, in fact, that other social sites, new and old, are no longer allowed to exist on their own merit. If you say you love Pinterest, invariably there is another person in the room who asks why you use Pinterest and why not just Facebook? Forget that they are totally different sites with vastly different intents. The same is true for Twitter and for LinkedIn.

What happened to our love of differentiation? Perhaps the overwhelming nature of social media, and the proliferation of sites, logins, profiles, and ways to interact, has driven people from demanding choice to craving simplicity. But is that a good thing?

I hear people refer to Facebook as “theirs” and that they don't know what they would do without it. But Facebook isn't ours: it does not belong to the people. If it did, we would have a Dislike button, and Timeline would just have been an idea that we happily left on the cutting room floor.

And Facebook Ads? Sure, we can put up with them, as long as we don't have to pay. But what happens when the ads become more annoying, as they did on MySpace? What would you pay to not see them? What is your Facebook experience worth? If you have poured your heart and soul and pictures into it for years, then that price can be quite high.

Now that Facebook is public, I foresee the introduction of new revenue streams. The heat is on for the FB cronies to expand beyond ad revenue that amounted to a little over $4 dollars per user globally in 2011. Granted, Facebook is the world's largest social network, with over 845 million monthly active users, so doing the math nets you a solid chunk of change, but that won't be enough.

Hurdles are in Facebook's future around regulatory and privacy issues that it has no immediate answer for. Couple that with a newer generation that may not be as interested in the social network their parents are on, and you can see a recipe beginning to form. A recent article in the LA Times wrote about the challenges Facebook faces with the younger generation:

    When Facebook got started, Paris Hilton was wearing a velour tracksuit. At some point Facebook will become the velour tracksuit.

I know. Can of worms, right? So let me have it. What are your thoughts on the future of Facebook, its importance to the next generation, and even the possibility of a world without it?

48 comments on “Facebook: A Bright Future or Necessary Evil?

  1. bolaji ojo
    July 11, 2012

    Andy, You raised some important questions in this blog. I noticed, however, the main thrust of the article was about individuals. As you are aware, many businesses also use Facebook and it's almost like many of them can't do without the site. Will they be able to do without Facebook? Yes. They did without Facebook once. But how about the investments that's gone into establishing a Facebook presence and will it be as easy to find a replacement; is a replacement needed?

  2. alawson
    July 11, 2012

    Thanks for the comment and question, Bolaji. Its an important–perhaps one of THE most important questions there is. People bring business. Business brings advertising. Advertising brings money to stay in operation. Business involvement on Facebook is a slippery slope. One of the reasons why MySpace is only talked about as a memory is the proliferation of ads that ruined user experience and forced members to seek more open pastures. Someday maybe the same will happen on Facebook. Only time will tell.

    As for the investment of the business, I view dollars and time spent creating a presence and engaging with fans as a necessary part of a company's branding budget. Obviously, the question of 'is it worth it?' had been answered or they would not have moved forward. We face that decision with every new network and opportunity–the same as if we were designing ads for a magazine or a billboard. The only thing that changes is the medium.

  3. Anand
    July 12, 2012

    What are your thoughts on the future of Facebook

    @Andy, thanks for the post. I am not so optimistic about the future of Facebook. More and more people are using smartphones to access the Internet. And I am not sure how will social networking sites raise their revenues because the ad-space is so small on the smartphones. 

  4. Cryptoman
    July 12, 2012

    I think the future of Facebook depends on how long it can remain to be free without having annoyingly high number of adverts. This of course depends on Facebook's  appetite for more cash.

    Increasing the volume of adverts on a website definitely has an adverse effect on user experience to the extent that users start to drop out. Once the users start to leave a website for good, this has an avalanche effect and often many others follow. Once other hungry application developers notice that Facebook is losing ground, they will come up with alternatives very quickly and the users will find a new 'book' for themselves to share, exchange and to enjoy. That will mark the end of the Facebook era.

    Facebook has highlighted a strong social need and trend with its huge success. It has unveiled the presence of a massive market. There is no guarantee for Facebook to remain the leader in that market but the market's existence is almost certainly guaranteed, which ensures that Facebook or not, we will remain connected via a book or two in the future.

  5. Adeniji Kayode
    July 12, 2012

    @ Cryptoman.

    I agree with you on that, Its most likely FB may not know it worth until money is involved.

  6. Daniel
    July 12, 2012

    Andy, I think the survey reflects in right proportion. Facebook and other social medias are the places we are hang around, but gadgets are a part of our life and without gadgets we can't access anything. So far I hadn't a Facebook or LinkedIn or Google + account, but am using almost all new gadgets (Tablets, Smartphone, Laptops etc) as a part of routine work and accessing internet.

  7. prabhakar_deosthali
    July 12, 2012

    Recently one my friends sent an artcile which says that a bank relies soles on its Facebook “likes” to fix the interest rate for that period.

    “The Fidor Bank is the first bank in the world where you can help shape the interest of FidorPay. The rule is simple: The more Facebook Likes, the higher the interest rate. The minimum interest rate of your FidorPay account is 0.5% pa. By the 25th of each month, if the bank achieves a certain number of Likes, then a higher interest is paid and calculated, starting in the month at the rate achieved in each case. From 22,000 Likes FidorPay will offer 1.5% interest per annum for the remainder of the year. At the end of 2012, the interest rate resets again to 0.5% pa.”

     

    If such trends continue in the businesses then sure Facebook will have a very bright future

  8. bolaji ojo
    July 12, 2012

    Well put Jacob. What's Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace without the gadget to access the sites or send your message. It's like preferring an airconditioning system to having a house. It's hot right now but a house is the first necessity.

  9. bolaji ojo
    July 12, 2012

    @Prabhakar, I assume the bank is operating on the assumption that the more “likes” it gets, the greater the likelihood some of these people will check out its loan services, take loans, make deposits, etc., and the more money it will make.  Many of the people who may “like” this bank may not be creditworthy, which defeats the goal.

  10. Anand
    July 12, 2012

    The more Facebook Likes, the higher the interest rate. 

    @Prabhakar_deosthali, I think the logic doesnt work because its so easy to get fake Facebook likes. If you check any freelancing site you will see people trade “Facebook likes”. Customers pay some nominal amount for 1k Facebook likes. Differentiating between geniune and fake Facebook likes is a big task.

  11. bolaji ojo
    July 12, 2012

    Anandvy, The bank knows many of the “likes” it will get will have funny motives but I think it is counting on increased visibility, which it is already getting, and the possibility of turning some Facebook “likers” into customers. It's a headscratcher!

  12. FLYINGSCOT
    July 12, 2012

    I know am a in the small minority of folks without FB.  I know I should have it but resist it as a stand against “the machine”.   I liked your point about kids not wanting to be on the same “machine” as their parents so it could be a single gnerational thing.  It is amazing what FB has achieved but I am not sure of its long term viability.  Mind you….I know I am the odd one out here.

  13. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 12, 2012

    Hi Andy: I agree that like everything else, the preference for Facebook, Google+ etc. is a choice, not a right, and it is all still open for debate. I have a number of opinions on fb (shocking, I know) but fundamentally, it is like everything else: it can be a tool or it can be very dangerous. The key is being informed and having judgment. Unfortunately, like so many things, it looks like the law or the government is going to end up dictating to people good or bad judgment regarding fb.

    Barb's rulebook for Facebook:

    1. Treat all posts as if your mother was watching/reading.

    2. Treat all posts as if you were face to face with the person, place or thing you are discussing.

    3. Facebook is not private, do not kid yourself.

    4. Facebook is a publicly-traded business and as such now answers to shareholders, not users or customers. It is going to change big time. It is not your friend and does not care about you, no matter what the user rights/privacy notices say. Keep this in mind and you might end up using your best judgment in spite of yourself.

  14. Adeniji Kayode
    July 12, 2012

    @jacob, You are right, our generation the the generation of gadgets, we can never go back on that, we will keep seeing more gadgets day by day.

    I also believe thst the social websites also is a reason why we will keep having those gadgets

  15. SunitaT
    July 12, 2012

    Facebook is not private, do not kid yourself.

    Barbara, very true. I wish all the FB users especially the kids understands about the risks involved. I really hope schools/parents take up this task of educating the kids about these security risks.

  16. SunitaT
    July 12, 2012

    I know am a in the small minority of folks without FB.

    Flyingscot, you are not alone even I dont use FB. I felt I was spending  lot of time on FB and thus couldnt concentrate properly on other important works. I feel social networking sites always eats-up your time and thus reduces productivity.  

  17. alawson
    July 12, 2012

    @anandvy – Nice point about smartphone use. A big part of Facebook's purchase of Instagram was driven by Instagram's grasp of Mobile and viral sharing. Facebook has a lot to learn there and supposedly, they are learning from their new acquisition.

  18. alawson
    July 12, 2012

    @Cryptoman – The success or failure of ads and business on a social network is about relevance. I don't mind the ads I see that are somewhat relevant to me. The annoyance comes from those that are of little interest or seem suspicious. I think a person's tipping point for what 'price' they pay to be on a network, be that monetary, intellectual, or something else, varies considerably. And true to what you said about alternatives, it will be a fine line for FB to walk. Thanks for the comment.

  19. alawson
    July 12, 2012

    @prabhakar_deosthali – Very interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing. Love to see the results of that experiment. Though I am sure there is a cap and the bank is perfectly willing to pay the cap. Quite a nice plan though.

  20. alawson
    July 12, 2012

    @FLYINGSCOT – You would be surprised. I have met many people who resisted Facebook and most have no issue with that decision. Like most sites, it is not for everyone, which is why I get a bit annoyed whenever I hear someone say everyone should use it as the only social site. The social move began with the goal of connection and the benefit of choice. We would all do good to remember those things when evaluating these tools. Thanks for speaking up.

  21. alawson
    July 12, 2012

    @Barb — Well put. I 'LIKE' Barb's Facebook rules! Just a few notes:

    1.  My mother is watching (on Facebook and even Twitter) 🙂

    2. I think one thing that gets overlooked here is who can see posts. The 'friends of friends' rule can be quite far-reaching, when you think about it.

    3. I went to a meeting of the SMCFW (Social Media Club Fort Worth) to hear a recently retired Secret Service agent talk about Social sites and the 'promise' of anonymity and privacy.  My take on his basic line was this: they really don't exist.

    4. Couldn't have said it better. You need to know the rules and make informed decisions. Facebook won't do you any favors in this area.

    Thanks for the comment.

  22. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 12, 2012

    Andy: There's another drawback that I need to add to the list after I have figured out a better way to describe it: Someone may tag you in a photo without your permission and/or knowledge and that can come back to haunt you. Case in point: a teacher that was on vacation with friends, drinking a glass of wine. Her friend posted a photo and tagged it on the teacher's fb page. That violated the rules of her employment. She was either suspended or fired.

    I got it! “The danger of second-hand posts!”

  23. SunitaT
    July 13, 2012

    Someone may tag you in a photo without your permission and/or knowledge and that can come back to haunt you.

    @Barbara, there is a tag-review option in FB. By using this feature you'll be able to check the pictures before they're posted on your wall and available for others to view.

  24. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 13, 2012

    @tirla: Thanks. I still haven't mastered all the functions of fb…or twitter…or…

  25. Wale Bakare
    July 13, 2012

    @Adeniji, we shall continue to witness effect of these technologies on us. One notable area shift in cultural attitude and behaviours, this is going to be generationally inclined.

  26. Wale Bakare
    July 13, 2012

    Meanwhile, those kids dont see anything bad in wasting away their energy at FB site. Even some adults are too busy with that thing – addiction!

  27. t.alex
    July 14, 2012

    Yes you can enable review of tags somewhere in the privacy settings. I was surprised some of my photos added by friend were public, which is not a good thing for your employer to see. One must master all the privacy settings in Facebook 🙂

  28. Adeniji Kayode
    July 14, 2012

    @Wale,

    You are right on that, do you know that FB is one of the major reasons why Blackberry sell like hot cake in my area.

  29. Wale Bakare
    July 14, 2012

    Absolutely, i agree with you. Everyone wants to stay in touch with both old and new friends – far and near Facebook has made that possible.

  30. Adeniji Kayode
    July 14, 2012

    @wale,

    you are right and not ony that, they also want to feel among and be among too.

  31. Eldredge
    July 15, 2012

    Somehow it doesn't seem fair to rate iPhone wersus fb head-to-head. You don't need another device to use the iPhone, but you can't access fb absent another device.

  32. SunitaT
    July 16, 2012

    Everyone wants to stay in touch with both old and new friends – far and near Facebook has made that possible.

    @Wale, I agree with you that FB has made it possible for us to be in touch with our friends but then people are overusing FB because of which there is sharp decline in the productivity of the employees. I think companies are worried about the overusage of FB by their employees.

  33. Cryptoman
    July 16, 2012

    Hi Adeniji.

    I must also add that the future of FB also relies on how well it keeps on serving the companies that use it for advertisements and the confidence it provides to its users.

    Recent news on fake identities and inflated “Like” hits on facebook has caused serious concerns as I have outlined in my recent board post here.

  34. Wale Bakare
    July 16, 2012

    @tirlapur, the culture is getting entrenched into many employees — i do think, that would soon disappear once employers begin to show  and take tough stance on such attitude.

  35. Nemos
    July 16, 2012

    and even the possibility of a world without it?” I will simply answer to your question with a question even if I do not like to answer with questions. So can you imagine a world without email ?

     

  36. Adeniji Kayode
    July 16, 2012

    @NEmos,

    Are you suggesting that employers will have a tough time checking their employees on the use of Fb.

    Truly, our world can not do without Email any more, we have come this far and there is no going back, the post office is no more as busy as it used to be.

  37. bolaji ojo
    July 16, 2012

    @Nemos, Yes. I can conceive of a world without email, mobile phones and texting. I can imagine a world without tablet PCs, computers, smartphones and ereaders. It isn't hard for me to imagine a life without a printer (wireless or not), the internet, flat screen TVs and answering machines.

    It isn't difficult for me to imagine doing without all of these rather interesting gadgets because I am old enough to remember not having any of these. I am sure I would miss them but believe me I can do without them and won't regret it either.

  38. bolaji ojo
    July 16, 2012

    @Adeniji, It's always possible to go back. It's not always our preferred choice but to swap the new for the old isn't as negative as you and I may imagine. Emails make things go faster but zoom is not necessarily the best for many people.

  39. Nemos
    July 16, 2012

    As you said “we have come this far and there is no going back,” and I believe that it is the same for Facebook also , in the coming years we will use Facebook more as a tool (communication) than as a “game”. 

     

  40. Nemos
    July 16, 2012

     @Bolaji Really ? ,  but have in mind that we can't go back now , the only way is straight ahead , it is the only option. I can live also without technology but I don't know if I really want it. 

     

  41. Taimoor Zubar
    July 17, 2012

    “I am sure I would miss them but believe me I can do without them and won't regret it either”

    @Bolaji: As an individual we might learn to accept the loss of technology and deal with it but corporations these days rely more on systems than humans. What about that aspect? Do you think companies can work in the same way without any technology?

  42. alawson
    July 19, 2012

    @Wale Bakare & @tirlapur — Its true, the issue of social networking taking employee time and reducing productivity is a big one. But is it really a Facebook issue? Or even a Social Media issue? I think we are describing a people and a management issue there. An employee who gets distracted to the point of disruption by Facebook could just as easily have been distracted by Yahoo or Wikipedia. I think we jump to blame Social too often for this phenomenon, when the real issue is trust and boundaries set by employers.

    Thanks as always for continuing the conversation guys!

  43. alawson
    July 19, 2012

    @Bolaji & @Nemos & @Adeniji — Fascinating convo between you guys. The possibility of a world without email and Facebook is actually pretty probable. New and better things replace their older counterparts…that's just the cycle. And if for some reason we stall and do not move forward, monetary and legal challenges will encourage more Facebook competition for eyes, and the collective concience will eventually shift to other things. It has happened before and will do so again It's isn't really a question of 'if' but a question of 'when'.

  44. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 19, 2012

    Andy: I agree, good conversation and to your point: of course it is a management problem. But what ever happened to judgment? For example, your typical professional should realize when Facebook becomes a distraction at work. But then, we have companies that block it just to avoid that issue. I see this as a symptom of a bigger problem: the nanny state (or nanny employer). New York state wants to tell us what to eat and drink, our companies decide if Facebook is bad or good. People determined to be distracted will find a distraction no matter what form it takes.

  45. Ariella
    July 19, 2012

    @Barbara you're right that employees can find many ways to be distracted at work — even without computers to help them. But I believe that the companies that block FB do it not just because of distraction but because of liability for what goes through their computers. Emails also get monitored at some places.

  46. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 19, 2012

    Ariella: Absolutely. I know several people that have that situation for that very reason.

  47. Wale Bakare
    July 19, 2012

    What benefits could you get in either visit Wikipedia databased with over 4millions educative articles in many languages or a website stored with 1/2billion+ people's digital photographs?

  48. robbie22
    July 24, 2014

    Facebook might suffer a fall-out some day, but until that day comes we can all take advantage of it. It can be very useful if you want to promote your business, you can connect it to your website and gain new clients through it. Combine it with the services you find on DrivingTraffic.com and you'll get a strong marketing strategy.

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