Is Facebook Becoming Irrelevant?

David Amerland
David Amerland owner/founder, DavidAmerland.com

Posted on December 2nd 2012

Is Facebook Becoming Irrelevant?

Remember those spam emails that used to annoy us? The ones that gave us the heads up that Facebook was going to ask us to pay and the only way to avoid it was to post some nonsensical message on our Wall? Yep, that’s the one Facebook felt obliged to debunk saying that it was free and would always be so. Well, they really are so last year.

Facebook, the world’s ‘favorite’ social network, these days seems intent on doing a couple of things exceedingly well: reneging on its promises and annoying the hell out of its membership.

Now on the face of it Facebook is not really doing anything that any other online business should not or would not do: it’s trying to use its substantial global membership to create several commercial income streams. But that’s as far as my understanding nature is prepared to go. The reason I’m not cutting the social network much slack is because when you get to that size and believe you have that much clout you need to also be able to understand that the only way to translate it into cold, hard cash is by remaining relevant.

Relevancy is turning out to be an online quantity that resides at the very heart of online monetization and the reason for that lies in the simple fact that by being relevant you also become able to best use that other incredibly important digital marketing quality: context.

Consider this simple example for a moment: You’re walking down the street looking for a hardware store in a new neighborhood. Suddenly, in front of you, you see a guy handing out leaflets touting hardware tools. Unable to believe the serendipity of this you grab one. Not only do you find that the store is near you but it also has a special offer on, limited to the very same day! You’re in luck. It would take an immediate act of God akin to the Earth opening up and swallowing you whole to stop you from traipsing down to that hardware store and giving them your cold, hard cash.

By appearing the moment it did, as if by magic, that particular ad not only made the hardware store relevant to what you were doing at that particular moment in time but its context was also spot on. You were actively looking to spend on hardware tools and it suddenly became imperative you did so, in order to take advantage of the offer.

Relevancy and context are frequently mistaken for targeting and personalization but they are not the same thing at all.

To prove it consider this example: You’re lounging down the pub shooting the wind with your besties. You’re right in the middle of some story about a party when in comes a guy with a bunch of leaflets. It’s the same hardware store with the very same tools and the very same offer as before. I am giving away no prizes for anyone guessing just how effective that kind of marketing really is.

Yet, that is the kind of marketing Facebook is betting its future on, at present.

The danger of that approach is that Facebook, that began life as the place to hangout on, is beginning to piss off its membership base sufficiently for them to look for alternatives. And the moment the membership base begins to dissipate, businesses and their advertising dollars will not be far behind.

Right now this is not yet happening in sufficient numbers to worry anyone. Given the built-in latency in online trends however the chances are that by the time it becomes apparent and Facebook responds, it’ll be too late. The world’s favorite social network will have truly become irrelevant.

David Amerland

David Amerland

owner/founder, DavidAmerland.com

David Amerland is the author of seven best-selling books including "Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Gets Your Company More Traffic, Increases Brand Impact and Amplifies Your Online Presence" and "Google+ Hangouts for Business: How to use Google+ Hangouts to Improve Brand Impact, Build Business and Communicate in Real-Time."

He helps multi-national clients and start-ups to organize their SEO and Social Media strategies. He is a business journalist, author and international speaker. He blogs about social media and search engine optimization, writes for a number of prominent websites including Forbes, and advises a handful of corporations on their social media crisis management techniques.

His books on SEO and Social Media demystify the complexity of the subjects they cover for readers around the world providing an accessible blueprint to better understand and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the connected economy. Follow him on @DavidAmerland. or find him on G+

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Comments

This is very good information.  I've been hearing about it for a while and many companies are now discussing if Facebook is even worth donating the time and money.  Also, Facebook is more about keeping in touch with far away friends and family not about seeing what your brands are doing. 

DeOren you are quite right that it's the first place we go to for personal/family reasons and that makes it even harder for marketers to market to us. This is a challenge Facebook has to successfully solve if it is to remain a viable force. 

Good article David! Thanks.

Sue, thank you very much and I am glad you liked it. 

It’s a great article David thanks for posting it, human relations become mechanical in this fast generation that’s what the reason most of the people hangover with social networks especially Facebook and most of the Brands want to utilize it but it’s becoming more irrelevant.

Mahendra, that's an excellent point! One of the greatest challenges marketers and brands face in social media is how to humanize it to the degree that it becomes a real conversation rather than top-down mass marketing. It is admittedly not easy. It is however far from undoable and in this current level of experimentation I expect we shall see some very brave examples. 

Really interesting article David.

The example shows just how frought Facebooks marketing approach is. In these days of information overload peoples attention span and patience can be very thin. The goal for any business using Facebook is to cultivate members. Share your interests and develop a human image. Create an image that your just like them. It is the image you create that is the most important aspect of Facebook.

 

From a personal experience I totally ignore most ads on Facebook and I only pay attention to the ones where I know the people involved. Developing and nurturing a core of followers is vital. The more human you appear the better

Dan, thank your a very insightful comment. Indeed, the only social media marketing that matters these days is one that enables those involved to create a closer relationship that's based on common principals and shared interests. 

You are right to highlight the magnitude of the challenge and yes, Facebook in particular falls short there with its ads. How to scale traditional marketing to a personal touch that has the desired effect is, quite literally in some cases, the million dollar question. 

From my own (brief!!) experience the goal is to give and take. Outside of direct transactions contribute is a way whether its talking about a current events or sports. As funny as it sounds sports opens up channels of communication and can help you stand out and create a distinct image. The more human you appear the better. Even sharing interests such as movies and book can develop a unique image.

This is not only Facebook but other social networking sites as well. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, etc have the same problem - "many to many".  It is not targeted. A great social networking sites should have a theme to make it very highly targeted. Since all of them are not targeted, it attracted a lot of spam and we need to waste our time to deal with spammers.

Kent, you raise an important issue here and that is the different perception of social networks and the way each does, largely the same thing, differently. Twitter, with its 140-character limit the the inherent difficulties of carrying out any kind of conversation in the stream has a largely passive audience in ways that LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, do not. 

LinkedIn has a very specific target audience that does not go there to hangout the way the Facebook crowd does. Google+ does not have ads of any kind so here I totally fail to see the point of brining it up, plus its anti-spam team is probably the most effective one of any social network. 

The spam issue is, indeed, a problem in any kind of social interaction and again, Facebook, unfortunately falls short here not just in terms of spam posts (there has been some improvement) but also many fake profiles. 

As social media increases, be aware of the types of advertisements that you are placing.  Make sure that they are relevant to your target audience.

What an excellent and refreshing conversation.  I feel like I have found my new home on the web again, I have felt a bit nomadic for the past 12-18 months.  Thanks everyone

Kay, you just made the best statement anyone could wish to start 2013 with! Glad to see you join us here. SMT produces some excellent discussion which frequently adds fresh insights and value tot he origial piece. Here's to a great year ahead!