By: Justin Gonzalez
I signed up for a Facebook account after a Summer Program at Boston University. It was a great way for me to stay in touch with all the friends I had made, and would continue to make in my college career. In the beginning we shared photos, notes and even poked each other back and forth… Well, that was some time ago and we all know what has happened to Facebook since… restrictions were lifted and brands joined in on the fun.
When I first saw Judy Shapiro’s post on AdAge, Has Facebook Jumped the Shark?, I was thrilled to see someone voicing their opinion against the social media giant (you go girl!). I think she makes some really great points, especially her connection between Clay Shirky’s work and the potential implosion of Facebook.
My response to her article is this: Facebook has lost its roots in social networking and has allowed itself to become littered with advertisements, promotions and guerilla marketing tools disguised as features. Ultimately, I believe Facebook will be confronted with the same issue advertisers faced with the introduction of the DVR – consumers will soon become overwhelmed by the marketing promotions they are bombarded with on a platform that is supposed to be social, not promotional and seek ways to avoid interaction with them. I see features like Places and Deals becoming an annoyance to those who use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, not get a discount.
Clearly Facebook needs to raise funds to maintain its staff and servers, so growth is inevitable and essential. As Eric talked about in his post last month, Facebook has clearly, “had an eye on the rapid growth of geo-loco pioneer Foursquare”. Weighing in at over 500 million active users, versus FourSquare’s 4 million, it seems obvious that overlapping users will be more apt to utilizing the Facebook Places feature and pushing their locations out to a larger audience rather than signing onto Foursquare to check in – essentially making applications like Foursquare obsolete.
I should add that my experience with social sites relies heavily on my experience with Facebook. I’m so inclined to use Facebook that in spite of my initial enthusiasm behind other platforms like FourSquare, it’s the one app that I use religiously. I’ve tried getting into apps like FourSquare, anticipating check-in’s throughout San Francisco and eventually becoming the Mayor of the 38-Geary Bus – but it’s never happened. Why? Because I know 18 people on FourSquare and over 500 on Facebook. Including my mom. The expectation that I’m going to log onto multiple accounts to let (the same) people know where I’m at seems silly to me. I’d rather spend the extra time getting 3-Stars on all the levels of Angry Birds.
The difference between the two platforms is that FourSquare hasn’t lost the social aspect; you aspire to become a mayor, leave tips and earn badges whereas Facebook’s feature is about… checking in? Introducing features that seemingly have little to no interactive purpose on a platform that is meant to be social tangles the experience for the user. Facebook is supposed to be a social site, not the Penny Saver.
If Facebook has “jumped the shark,” it happened when it started introducing empty features that benefit the marketer, not the consumer. I don’t know that Facebook will ever “implode” on itself, but I think it will see a backlash from users once they realize that Places isn’t for their social engagement, but for promotional targeting. It’s all fine and dandy (and totally necessary) for Facebook to monetize itself, but introducing features that don’t even compete with applications like Foursquare seems a little premature.
I totally believe in Facebook’s ability to remain relevant, but would like to see it utilize its gargantuan power for the good of the user – is that too naïve?