There was a study a month ago that predicted the demise of Facebook by 2017. This caused a stir or two among the chattering classes of social media. It looked very much a dubious theory, as was highlighted in a very humourous manner by Facebook.
I am not fond of Facebook to put it mildly, and as such would not be overly displeased or dismayed by its demise, but I for one do not think Facebook will be gone by 2017. The social market is well-established now, and Facebook has become too entrenched and very much ingrained in many people’s lives. Facebook might not have been the first mover – in an alternate universe somewhere MySpace is the dominant social media platform – but it managed to get things right and grow at a phenomenal rate in a less competitive environment. For many people, Facebook is their digital archive, and it is where their personal lives and memories are stored. In my view, unless the data become portable from one social media platform to another, I cannot see a massive shift away from Facebook any time soon. The likelihood of Facebook making the data it holds portable is very small, since the data are its main assets. Not only have people invested their personal and emotional capital into Facebook, businesses and organizations have also developed presence and strategy on Facebook because of the rich, personal data that Facebook possesses. Facebook is a big and busy landscape, catering for different people with different purposes.
In a rather simplistic mind of mine, Facebook will attempt to grow even more, but it will also try to keep the current users within its walls. The more Facebook users post or engage on Facebook, the more data Facebook gathers, the better for Facebook. This observation naturally applies to other social media platforms, such as Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. Having accumulated a huge amount of personal data, as well as information on personal relationships and social nexuses, more than its rivals, Facebook needs to come up with a better way to make money, whether by advertising or commodifying actions within or related to Facebook. So far, at least anecdotally, it has not been able to make the most of the data. Its advertisements are very badly targeted: whenever I log into my skeletal Facebook account, I see advertisements for steroids, credit cards, and dating sites, presumably based on my sex and age.
Facebook will be around for a while at least, but its success will depend on retaining its users, and convert its users into more frequent and more engaged users, as well as making more money per user or per interaction. Will it succeed? The answer to that question depends partly on what Facebook does, but also partly on how other social media platforms perform: could there be a new entrant to the already busy landscape inhabited by the likes of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, etc? It will be interesting how many social media platforms will be around in 10 years’ time. Will all of them still be around, or perhaps none of them? It would take a brave soul or a foolish mind to predict one way or the other.