Original Post Date: December 12, 2014
Why Facebook is Failing at Social Media
Recently, Pro Digital Owner Patrick Siewert attended a networking meeting with some local professionals. The luncheon conversation gravitated toward online/digital marketing, social media and the reach of different social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook for business purposes. It became painfully apparent through this conversation that Facebook, the Godfather of social media, is failing at social media. How could this be? How could the inventor of modern-day social media now be a fledgling entity in the digital age? We’ll explore some very basic reasons why…
Let me tell you a story…
Once upon a time, a couple of conscientious parents decided to let their 11 year-old son sign up for a Facebook account. They did so knowing full well this violated Facebook’s terms of service and indeed put many restrictions on the child’s use of Facebook. The parents told their child they must be able to access their child’s account fully whenever they wish to check his activity. He must use a pseudonym (now also against Facebook policy) to prevent unwanted contact. He must use an avatar as a profile picture and have his privacy settings set to the highest level of security. Finally, he was not allowed to become ‘friends’ with anyone he didn’t actually know in real life. These seemed to be very basic, very common-sense rules for a young child in the spirit of responsible parenting and internet safety.
Several months went by and the child was interested in connecting with friends and relatives on Facebook, but soon grew bored with it. He didn’t like that people could tag him in photographs. He didn’t like the drama his friends and relatives posted online. He didn’t care for the role Facebook played in his life. So after a couple of years living with Facebook, he informed his parents he was canceling and deleting his account. They were surprised, but not overly so.
Why did the now-13 year-old decide to cancel his account? He saw no value in it. Other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter provided him with instant, chronological access to the numerous topics he found interesting and that was good enough for him. Plus, he didn’t like how Facebook became a part of his identity. Simply put, he made an informed decision to abandon that online persona and he’s certainly not alone. Statistics have shown that the fastest growing segment of new Facebook users are women ages 45-55. Basically, those who have empty-nest syndrome and they want to keep tabs on their kids and grandkids activities online without being intrusive into their daily lives. Facebook has been failing and indeed may have totally failed to keep their new customers young and fresh. Eventually, this trend will cause there to be almost no new subscribers and that does not bode well for the company.
When I first signed up for Facebook, it was a great way to see what folks were up to during the day. It was a chronological listing of friends who wanted to share their daily activities with others and actually provided a welcome brain-break from a long work day. Unfortunately over time, Facebook screwed with that too. Now the Facebook feed has evolved into a socially-engineered mathematical computation. Facebook shows you what it thinks it wants you to see. Have you noticed that stories, comments and status updates, which may have been originally posted days earlier, keep popping to the top of your feed every time someone you know comments on it? Have you noticed that some Facebook friends who don’t post often almost never show up on your feed at all? This is because Facebook, in its failed attempt to stay “fresh”, has done the exact opposite. The bottom line for me (and indeed most users) is that we don’t care if Jenny, who checks her Facebook twice a week, commented on a photo or article that was posted 4 days ago. Its old news and we don’t need or want to see it. The rest of us have moved on, Facebook. Take the hint! … But they don’t. Like most organizations that get too big and have a lot of people doing the thinking and not a lot of the DOING, Facebook has over-thought this one. I can only imagine the amount of time, effort and money Facebook has put into this horrible algorithm to try and keep us “informed”, which actually does the exact opposite. And here’s the irony: That very algorithm that is supposed to keep Facebook new and fresh is killing one of their newer and bigger revenue streams… Businesses.
Bad For Business
I started out this article by stating that this subject came up during a business networking luncheon. Some of the folks at the meeting didn’t know about Facebook’s lame algorithm and some just don’t care about Facebook. But recently, I tried using Facebook for Business to promote Pro Digital Forensics. Guess what? Because their algorithm is so messed up, my little businesses page didn’t get much traffic at all! Think about it: Facebook has hundreds of millions of users, indeed at least tens of millions in the U.S. alone, which is where I targeted my ad. Do you know how many “likes” I got to my page? Maybe 10. Yes, I could have paid more and probably gotten more likes, but this was somewhat of an experiment to see how effective this tool could be. Guess what? I’m not going back for a second round of disappointment.
The bottom line is that Facebook is out-programming and over-thinking its way out of social media. They alienate their current customers by creeping into their mobile devices to suggest friends based upon the contact lists in the device and their mobile app is mediocre at best (when’s the last time you tried to play a video on the Facebook app?). Add to that the new Facebook trend of making everything cumbersome with a separate messaging app and perhaps a third Facebook-associated lingering out there somewhere for businesses, this all means that they’re pouring more resources into a fledgling entity that will one day fade away, just like it’s precursor MySpace and several others.
My advice to Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook brain trust: Get back to basics. Adhere to the K.I.S.S. principle. Start listening to your users and stop messing with what we want to see. Twitter is simple, chronological and hasn’t changed a whole lot since it’s inception. Guess what? It’s better too. The challenge is to create something better than Twitter, but different at the same time. There’s enough brain-power in Silicon Valley to figure it out, but you’d better get to work fast. The younger generation has all but bailed on you.
Patrick J. Siewert
Owner, Lead Forensic Examiner
Professional Digital Forensic Consulting, LLC
Based in Richmond, Virginia