I'm a fan of Facebook. Obvi.
As a platform, it offers small businesses the most targeted, effective, affordable marketing it has EVER known. Today, SO many businesses - certainly mine! - depend upon Facebook that it's become difficult, frightening even, to imagine what we'd possibly do without it.
It's a question I'll admit has kept me up longer than my bedtime on more than one occasion. When that happens, I tend to focus my energy on the thought all Scarlet O'Hara-Style. As in, I'll think about that tomorrow.
But no amount of fiddle-dee-dee would help me if Facebook took an unexpected dive. Might as well look at the possibility straight in the face, as it were.
OK. So, could Facebook live forever? Could it die ... or, barring that, simply lose some of its influence? And what would happen to your business if it did?
Social Dystopia? Not Likely.
First, let's acknowledge what parts of the question are by necessity conjecture. I leave hard predictions about Facebook's future to the psychics, data analysts above my pay grade, and click-bait alarmists.
Those who revel in heralding the ever-imminent demise of Facebook LOVE to kick off the impending apocalypse with the 'every civilization falls' maxim - reminding us of Troy, of Rome, and y'know, MySpace.
A recent WP article takes a more interesting approach, though, pointing out that if Facebook were a religion, it would be the second largest in the world. And it's a clever analogy. Certainly not one I'm about to dismiss :
"Two decades ago, the notion that billions of humans would be
connected by a single product would have been seen as absurd.
But now Facebook has more adherents than any religion in the world,
with the exception of Christianity – which it’s poised to overtake in just a few years."
Given that religions tend to outlast any single community, things do look rather promising for the glass-half-full folk!
The Whole Freakin' World Speaks Facebook:
There are more Facebook users than speakers of ANY of the world’s languages, passing up Mandarin's 1.3 billion speakers by a whopping 700 million.
66% of Facebook's monthly users log in EVERY SINGLE DAY.
That's UP from 55% when it had just 1 billion users.
What I'm interested in imagining is OUR future as businesses, independent of what happens to any individual platform.
So, let's look first at the things we DO know for sure.
1. Change Is Inevitable.
Luckily, Facebook clearly gets that better than anyone else.
Think YOU complain a lot about the constant changes to the platform in blue? As a digital marketer, I can spend the first 1 - 2 hours of each work day adjusting to what got changed the night before.
But it is PRECISELY this malleability - and constant, constant testing - on FB's part that I credit with its longevity so far. Zuck-and-team's record for anticipating user preferences well before we adopt them is impeccable ... and yeah, kinda creepy sometimes.
Bottom Line: As long as Facebook sustains its relentless internal culture of asking 'What's Next?' it's gonna be fine.
In 2014, Princeton researchers predicted Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017.
In response, Facebook data scientists hilariously mocked the specious methods used by that study to conclude that Princeton would lose all its students by 2021!
2. Still ... Anything Can Happen.
Luckily, even if we lose Facebook, we won't lose what we've learned from it.
But ... WHAT IF .... you say? Okay, my pragmatic friend, let's take that question head on. Could Facebook take a wrong turn? Make a mistake from which it couldn't recover fast enough?
Of course it could. Anything is possible.
Alright. So what might happen to our businesses if it did?
If Facebook has taught us anything about marketing in an evolving digital world, it's the value and effectiveness of micro-targeting. The level of sophistication its database and algorithms have achieved makes personalization possible on a massive scale and in a way that no successive platform would be eager to do without.
In other words, Zuck created more than a digital space WHERE we can reach our customers, he taught us HOW to reach them - individually, personally, and in the noisiest, most globalized space we've ever known.
It perfected - is perfecting - the art & science of (post-)modern advertising.
Facebook didn't just kill MySpace. Along with Google's, its marketing algorithms poured dirt on the grave of The Yellow Pages and all broadcast-type, gee-I-hope-the-right-people-see-this marketing.
It's prompted an era of data sharing and specificity in targeting that, put simply, no advertising platform can do without any longer.
In short, even if another platform managed to beat out Facebook, the micro-targeting that has empowered ALL business (from us little guys to the giants) to speak directly to "our" people is now a required amenity.
If the now 2 billion Facebook users ever do migrate elsewhere, the precision targeting we have come to depend on will come with us.
3. The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.
Luckily, y'know .... that /\ /\.
Look, no matter what happens online, it's gonna play out the way it always does. There will be those who whine about it - sitting on a lawn chair in their front yard yelling at the kids trampling on their back-in-my-day, greener grass.
And there will be those who adapt and survive. Every change on Facebook -and literally anywhere else - does the hard, evolutionary work of continually separating the innovative and creative wheat from the chaff.
If there's a fire, you don't stand there shaking your head at it in disapproval, for cryin' out loud. You stop, drop and ROLL.
Change is not something that is IMPOSED upon us. It is something that is GENERATED BY us. We are rarely the unwitting victims of change. Rather, we are its very source.
Which may be a hard thing for some folk to reconcile themselves with. But, in the end, it's nothing to lose sleep over.
Speak Human, Win The Internet.
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