Keith Errington

marketing strategy
07860 267155

Is Facebook determined to fail?

I want to share some family photos – on the beach with the kids, you know, images to show their Gran - I want to let my friends know I’m okay when I am off work, I want to send messages to ex girlfriends, support a charity and join an active political group.

I want to do all this online – where can I go?

Of course – I'll use Facebook – the network that was set up precisely to make it easy to do all these things.

I want to share these activities without publicising them to the world – I don’t want everyone seeing pictures of my kids, I don’t want my boss to know that I am not totally incapacitated and therefore able to drag myself into work, I don’t want my wife to know I am talking to an old ex of mine, I don’t want charities to see I am a soft touch for donations and I don’t want the government or work to know I’m supporting Greenpeace.

Note that none of these activities are illegal, or even particularly anti-social, but they all require a level of privacy that Facebook was originally designed for.

Now the owner of Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg – has declared that privacy is old fashioned and total openness is the new norm. This reminds me of Gerald Ratner – he ran a cut price jewellery business in the UK which was very successful until he publicly described the products as rubbish (well, actually he used a stronger word than that) and the company nearly collapsed.

But where does that leave Facebook? Surely its one unique selling point is its privacy? Without that it’s just a web publisher. Without that, there is no compelling reason to use Facebook – in fact there is every reason to leave Facebook.

There is now a huge opportunity out there for a social network that does what Facebook used to do. The first major player to offer that combination of sharing and privacy will become phenomenally successful – after all, that’s exactly how Facebook became the size it is.

And anyone will be able to create a Facebook killer – since there will be nothing unique about it anymore.

But don’t you have to be on Facebook because everyone else is? Well, that’s only true whilst Facebook is a closed network – once it opens everything up there is no great need to actually be on it anymore. Your’ll be able to connect and find Facebook users from any search engine or piece of software.

And in the past year Facebook has also strived to be more like Twitter – a service built around a simple capability and which is no competitor to Facebook in terms of functionality or numbers. Why would Facebook do that? It is never going to beat Twitter at what it does unless it matches its simplicity. It’s as if Ford decided that cycles were a serious competitor and started removing the engines, the body work and half the wheels from its cars.

So Facebook is gradually throwing out all the features and capabilities that made it so attractive and unique. What kind of business plan is that?

There’s an old saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and whilst in the online world that can be a dangerous recipe for complacency – here it applies perfectly to Facebook – why change a winning formula?

Whether Facebook succeeds by selling its users information to the highest bidder is debatable – but without a unique selling point Facebook will fail.

Anyone know of a social network that works like Facebook used to and has privacy as a core value?

Let me know...

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