How the end of Facebook will come

Facebook looks like a titan. Its empire is big enough now that its end won’t come quickly. But all the ingredients for the fall of Facebook are there already.

Facebook has 13.4 million users in Australia. About 9 million use it every day. Out of a population of 23 million, that’s almost complete saturation. At the moment many families have two generations on facebook. Before long it will be three.

You hear stories that the youth are “using snapchat instead” but I suspect most kids will have a facebook account, even if it is unfashionable to use it. It probably just takes one missed party invitation to crack and sign up.

Globally, 1.23 billion people use Facebook. That’s one in six of the world’s population.

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So at the moment Facebook is everywhere. It’s the Coca-Cola of online communities – it’s everything to everyone. How can it ever be usurped?

The idea humans will only ever need one social network is wrong.

Most people are already on more than one, even if they don’t necessarily see it like that. Twitter and LinkedIn and Ello are obvious ones to mention. But online games and forums are somewhat-competitors to Facebook. So is any site on which you can make an account and leave a comment or ‘like’ an article.

As Facebook becomes the mainstream backbone of our social networking, lots of little social networks to meet specific needs will come up.

Why can’t Facebook just meet all those specific needs?

Whenever someone talks about the one big solution that will replace all the other kludges in our life – in any field – I think about the kitchen.

This is perhaps the most intensively used, tried and tested set of “apps” in human endeavour.

Mostly we need to apply heat to food. Do we have just one big heat source that does everything? Hell no. My kitchen has at least seven different ways of warming food and drink: an oven, a microwave, four gas burners of different sizes, a kettle, a coffee machine, a sandwich press, and a toaster.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Mature markets don’t offer a Swiss Army Knife solution. ‘All-in-one’ is really a synonym for ‘not very functional at anything.’ If this wasn’t true, we’d all wear those pants that zip off to become shorts.

Facebook will be the backbone of our social networking. In kitchen terms it is our stove – the one thing everyone has. But that does not mean it will be the only network we need. Everyone will experiment with a few other networks for their own preferences.

One day, one of those social media that meets some people’s needs will have a cool feature that means it suddenly has almost as many users as Facebook.

Then, the owners of that network will have a choice – do they try to become the new backbone, or do they try to remain a niche app? The rewards are probably highest in becoming the new backbone app, so they will try to knock Facebook off its perch.

Facebook’s purchases of Instagram for $1 billion and What’sApp for $19 billion make a lot more sense from this perspective.

Facebook was once just a little app for college kids to find each other. It recognises the potential for a simple and effective app to become global fast. It knows it has to prevent a competitor from rising. The easiest solution is to make your competitors your employees.

But with the payoffs to being a Facebook competitor rising, many more social networks – including things that don’t look exactly like social networks – will enter the fray. Many will end up big enough to get buy-out offers from Zuckerberg.

But eventually one of those will be owned by a young entrepreneur with a Napoleon complex who’ll turn down the offers in order to take a shot at the throne. I give Facebook ten years.

FOMO. The acronym that explains why you’re on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is rubbish, we all know it. But we can’t stop using it.

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We fear there are benefits of using LinkedIn that we’ll miss out on.  Prospect theory calls it loss aversion, but the kids call it FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

Humans are wired to hate losses more than they enjoy gains. This is not strictly rational, and it means we make some bad choices.

Haunting LinkedIn might be among them.

LinkedIn is
At some level, we know LinkedIn is not worth it

I mainly visit LinkedIn when I get a reminder from the website. Maybe someone has looked at my profile, or maybe someone wants to be a connection.

I hover there for a few minutes, wondering what it all means. Sometimes I do get a phone call from a person that LinkedIn said was looking at my account. But would they have called me anyway?

LinkedIn has to taunt you to get you to network.

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Congratulating people on work anniversaries is an alien concept, but the idea other people are doing it means we wonder if we should too.

LinkedIn plays on our fears that other people are getting ahead of us professionally.

It taps not into our desire to be better people, but our much more powerful fear that we will lose our rank and status.

We also imagine it will cushion our fall should we lose our jobs. In the newspaper industry, redundancy rounds were strongly correlated with LinkedIn connection requests.

It doesn’t hurt that making a LinkedIn account is quick and easy. People probably maintain their LinkedIn like an insurance policy. It’s not costly to have, but it helps manage the anxiety that might come with losing your job.

LinkedIn is the facebook of work. We know facebook doesn’t really help us make friends. So does LinkedIn work as a resumé?

I wrote, a few weeks ago, about how to get a job, and LinkedIn was not the top priority, and – this is important – it was not a substitute for actual networking..

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.44.23 amMaybe LinkedIn is not good for the average guy, but if you’re trying to build a brand, it is awesome. Maybe?

I doubt it. (n=1). For example, LinkedIn scores below even Google+ as a referrer of visitors to my blog.

Of course, there are experts out there shilling for the many powerful strategies you can deploy to make LinkedIn work for you. I don’t doubt that there are ways that work brilliantly for a small percentage of people and firms, but they rely on LinkedIn maintaining a base of slightly nervous users checking in to make sure they’re not missing out.

But this emperor’s new clothes situation is not going to resolve itself with LinkedIn shivering nude and all of us turning away. We’d be too worried that even a nude emperor might be worth our attention.

I may be a LinkedIn skeptic, but I still like to make a new connection as much as the next person. Connect with me here!