The social networking space is a dynamic one, and several players have lived and lost their hour of glory in this highly competitive arena. While some like My Space and Orkut still manage to survive with their limited and continuously decreasing traffic of visitors, others like Friendster, Xanga etc. which are almost dead in the US (the largest market for SNS) are struggling to start a second innings trying to fix the mistakes they made in the first. In brief, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to label Facebook as the only “universal” Social networking platform that has managed to keep users hooked. However the future is not all that rosy for the networking giant that recorded US$5.1 billion in revenue in 2012.
Recent reports from the analysis firm Social Bakers state that the networking giant has lost 6m US visitors in the last one month. A recently published article in the “Guardian” suggests that the number of users in US, Europe and UK has almost reached its peak. Growing privacy concerns, felt need for niche networking, increasing dependence on third parties like Zynga (which accounts for 12% of the total revenue), and patent lawsuits are some of the many hindrances that the company foresees. To add to the fears the Facebook stock was trading at as low as $18 some months back. However this is not to say that Facebook in 2020 will be non-existent or would be in dire straits, it is to suggest that though the turnaround and the struggle for survival might need “herculean” efforts but is not an impossible task and evidently the organisation has already started making efforts in this direction.
The article seeks to explore the possible transformations that Facebook might undergo by 2020, the shape that it would take given the premises of its current endeavors.
Change The Way We “Connect”- Facebook profiles have become a virtual identity for most of the world’s population and it this fact that gives the organisation a jump-start over its other competitors. However Facebook is getting aware of the fact that people might want some innovation in the way they connect. It has already introduced hash-tags, verified pages on Facebook and a smarter news-feed; however that is not the end they are continuously making efforts to connect people in innovative ways.
Given the current trends, we may expect the “community” culture on Facebook to gain prominence as people will seek more and more niche network. While the initial attraction of Facebook because of its promise to help us connect with people far and distant, however as years move by the desire to connect on a more intimate and contextual level will grow and as an organisation that daily makes efforts to move with the pulse of its consumers, Facebook would provide its users with several innovative options to connect.
The “Mobile” Facebook: - A growing number of users are now accessing Facebook via mobile. Concerns have been raised that Facebook is quite a heavy website unlike the regular mobile phone Applications and the growth of “mobile” consumers might be a potential stumbling factor, however the organisation as it mentioned in its Pre-IPO disclosure is aware of the risks and has started taking measures. Facebook recently took over “Onavo”, a mobile analytics company based in Israel. Onavos’s technology currently helps users to track the performance of their device, and Facebook could use its data compression technology it to optimise what it offers its users. Besides Onavo, in 2011 Facebook also purchased “Snaptu” which develops interface for feature phones.
The company is also focusing heavily on its mobile advertising plan; according to a Times of India report dated April 16, 2013 it will soon release software that will allow businesses to send advertisements to users’ smartphones even if the home screen is locked. Although this might seem a little annoying hopefully in the next seven years Facebook will find a smarter and smooth way of pushing the advertisements without disrupting the user experience.
Facebook-The Next LinkedIn: - Recruiting via social media is a trend that is rapidly picking up and very soon what your Facebook profile says about you would be something that your coveted recruiters might be interested in. Although the professionalism of Linked In would remain unique to it, Facebook might emerge as it cooler counterpart which would provide greater insight into the persona of an individual besides the monotonous work related details. Also the next few years would even see Facebook becoming a more secure website that raises no privacy concerns.
Facebook- The New Psychoanalytic Tool: - By the end of this decade Facebook will not just be a medium to connect, entertain or distract, this new scrapbook of human minds can be a subject of study that would provide tremendous insights into the 21st century human minds and help develop new principles of psychology. The diversity made available on Facebook is huge and precious.
Facebook- The New Platform For B2B Marketing: - Facebook is a warehouse of data from across the globe and to an intelligent marketer it is valuable customer related information. Facebook is already a must for any for an organisation that is continuously seeking ways to reap more and more revenue. However Facebook needs to add more to its current offering for businesses to see it as more than just an advertising platform but also as a comprehensive marketing tool.
For a dynamic organisation, predicting its shape in 2020 is a difficult task, however I would like to conclude by saying that it would be wrong to write off this innovative organisation altogether. In all probabilities Facebook will continue to be the “face” of social media even in 2020.