Over the past 6 months, Facebook has released a seemingly unending flow of upgrades for its Ad platform. These have ranged from promoted posts, mobile/desktop segmentation, inline ad manager notifications and most recently, a simpler user-interface so that small businesses can better self-serve ad types. During this now post-IPO period, there has been next to no news or updates around privacy and control. While Facebook may be making businesses and brands happy – is it doing anything to prevent what could soon be a massive exodus from the platform?
Massive exodus you say? That might be a little harsh – but there is a bit of a storm brewing and if a combination of factors line-up, we could well see Facebook dethroned. I’ve described these 3 factors as ‘straws’ that if all piled together could ultimately break the Facebook (Camel’s) back.
Straw #1: Ridiculously complicated messaging control & privacy
As owner of social media agency, I consider myself to have a better understanding of Facebook than the average person. That being said, when I tried to update my personal privacy settings to create unique messaging groups (like in Google+) – I fumbled around for ages before figuring out how to do it. Even after I did, I still wasn’t sure if I actually did it correctly! Furthermore, now that I’ve set groups for close close friends/family and acquaintances – the only thing that Facebook has put on the screen to remind of that is a little ‘gear’ icon (see below).
The following is a snapshot of how Google+ approaches messaging control. I don’t think they do it perfectly either, but the point is that you should know, without a doubt, where every post you send out goes. There should be NO confusion. It shouldn’t just be ‘possible’ to control, it should be mindless! While this ultimately won’t make people leave the platform, it could certainly lead to less usage and engagement.
Straw #2: Social Cam and frictionless sharing
I’m pretty sure there isn’t a person on Facebook these days who hasn’t felt duped by the latest news apps. Firstly, the majority of articles/videos that trend in apps like Yahoo! News and Social Cam have images of scantally clad women, disgusting zits being popped or toilet humour. Naturally, this leads to people clicking on them.
They are then faced with a ridiculously confusing screen that talks to you about this app having access to different parts of your profile (again, our friend the ‘gear’ appears). Most click it because they just want to read the article or view the video, not read through this jargon. Little do they know that they are now agreeing to broadcasting their activity to everyone else in their network. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some definite benefits to frictionless sharing, but I would imagine that there are very few people on Facebook who wants their 300-500 friends to know that they just watched a video called “I heart bOObies.” This confusion and invasion of privacy could be just what it takes to push people away from Facebook, especially if they don’t know how to turn it off.
Straw #3: Over-advertising clutter
Finally, a pure over-barrage of advertising within Facebook could be another contributor to its decline. Amongst the 3 ‘Straws’ that could break Facebook’s back – this is the least likely, as people have become very accustomed to being surrounded by advertising. Whether that be walking in a downtown urban centres such as Times Square, reading magazines or watching TV. While people learn to ignore ads, it has never been something that will drive people completely away from a platform, as long as they are still getting value from it. That being said, if ads and promoted posts hit a critical mass in our newsfeeds, it will ultimately diminish the usefulness of looking at the newsfeed, eventually leading to less use of the platform itself.
Facebook is certainly not going anywhere soon and I’m confident that it will continue to be the leading social platform for years to come. What will happen though, is a gradual chipping away of members and a slow migration of users to more intimate networks. If you don’t believe me, download the latest PATH iOS update and tell me it doesn’t feel like you’re really sharing with your friends again, instead of broadcasting through a sea of spam.