Facebook May Lose Half Its Membership Base (and change Social Marketing forever)

David Amerland
David Amerland owner/founder, DavidAmerland.com

Posted on July 27th 2011

Informal polls are a little like taking headcount back at school, you think you counted in everybody but you are not completely sure and some may have been counted at least twice as they moved in and out of your field of vision.

A poll taken by a computer mag indicated that customer dissatisfaction with Facebook is at such an all-time high that up to 50% might be willing to abandon the world’s favourite social network. Now, I don’t think that will happen. For a start Google+ is still in Beta and by invitation only so its growth is still controlled. Second, responders to the poll were readers of a computer magazine and therefore a little more techno-versed than average which makes them ideal early adopters of Google+.

Still the fact remains that Facebook has consistently been taking potshots at its own foot refusing to learn from its mistakes and is still locked in reaction mode to Google’s launch of Google+. So it is not inconceivable that it might go the way of MySpace and become another footnote in the history of online communities which fell out of favour with the public.

Social media marketing is still new enough for us to be working things out as we go along and social media marketers are learning lessons on the fly, operating in an arena with the stability of a tripod:

1. Popularity is no guarantee of performance
. Facebook may be the world’s current most popular social hangout but it is still proving a challenging market to crack in terms of consistency of results.

2. Loyalty is a myth. Like banks and supermarket chains discovered in real life, the public is notoriously fickle, using whichever service gives them the most of what they want in a particular moment in time.

3. Competition is good. Facebook, Twitter and now Google+ create a three-way dynamic which offers constant updates in functionality and provides an attractive forum for potentially engaging the online social media crowd through innovations in the medium.

Should any of these three forces change like they would should Facebook suddenly fall out of favour, Twitter disappears or Google+ ‘wins’ the war and becomes the centre of the social media universe, then social media will suffer as a result and social media marketing will become an entirely different ball game.

Facebook, very recently, reached the 750 million mark in its membership which, representing a tenth of the world’s population - a milestone of sorts. When you are that big you certainly do not give up without a fight but Google is neither a fresh upstart nor a company that does not get the web. It understands core user concerns, learns fast from every mistake it makes and does nothing without a plan. If Facebook is serious about turning back the tide of its fortune it will have to do a lot better than rely upon customer loyalty and size.  

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

Posted on July 28th 2011 at 2:01AM

Maybe not. There is Facebook for companies right now ... Facebook tried to survive

David Amerland
Posted on July 28th 2011 at 3:00PM

CMF, I totally agree. Just to make the point just this week Facebook launched a Facebook Pages for Business Page intended, exactly for those who try to use the social network to promote their brand. Like you I prefer to have a choice in how I market than be forced to use a single channel.

kissss
Posted on July 28th 2011 at 2:44AM

disappears or Google+ ‘wins’ the war and becomes the centre of the social media universe, then social media will suffer as a result and social media marketing will become an entirely different ball game.

David Amerland
Posted on July 28th 2011 at 3:02PM

kissss well said. When competition vanishes it we, the end-users, who ultimately suffer. We can successfully argue that through its popularity and size Facebook enjoyed a monopoly of sorts and, as a result, felt it could do as it pleased with its membership base. Things now have changed and I sincerely hope that it does not go away any time soon.

Posted on July 28th 2011 at 2:32PM

I think that when Google+ opens up to the public and begins offering Google+ for Businesses, it's going to knock Facebook out of the water. It won't happen right away, but I imagine it happening sort of like when MySpace began losing its popularity—who wants to have to update two social media accounts? What will keep users holding on to Facebook, I believe, will be the game apps people have come to love (Farmville). But I'm sure Google is developing something to compete with that as I write this. 

I think people will continue to use Twitter because it offers an entirely different service and experience than what Google+ and Facebook pitch. 

As for Facebook reaching its 750 million mark, does that number take into consideration all of the fake/spam accounts that exist? I know a lot of crappy digital marketing agencies that create hundreds of dummy Facebook accounts that they use to like their fan pages to make it seem like they have more fans than they really do.

David Amerland
Posted on July 28th 2011 at 4:50PM

Bruna, what a nice can of worms you have opened. Fake accounts have been a Facebook bugbear for some time now and even though recently Facebook reported that it deletes as many as 30,000 accounts a day the issue does not seem to have been solved. Essentially they are to Facebook EdgeRank what Black Hat SEPO is to Google search. 

You are also right about gaming. Google already has a gaming platform in the wings and there are strong hints that it will be available soon. Probably, I imagine, in an orchestrated move with its opening up to the public. 

Thank you for taking the time to comment here.

Posted on July 28th 2011 at 11:14PM

My pleasure David, thanks for the awesome article!

Posted on July 28th 2011 at 4:37PM
Re: "2. Loyalty is a myth. Like banks and supermarket chains discovered in real life, the public is notoriously fickle, using whichever service gives them the most of what they want in a particular moment in time." While loyalty to brands is more tenuous, loyalty to a social network is fickle. Granted, Facebook is a brand, but in a different way than Crest or Tiffany is. If anything, the high disapproval ratings of Facebook for its privacy policy and other flaws suggest that people use it because it has a monopoly, it's all they know, and it's a force of habit and convenience since everyone else is there. That's a recipe for losing market share. I don't see Facebook going away, but Google+ will absolutely infiltrate the social network market share.
David Amerland
Posted on July 28th 2011 at 4:52PM

Emily, you are right on. I wish Facebook execs could actually read what you wrote, It might shake them out of their stupour. 

Posted on July 28th 2011 at 7:24PM

I like your article and perspective.... they claim 50% may leave....

"50% might be willing to abandon the world’s favourite social network"

 

how accurate is this?

 

might be willing is a pretty broad statement and what will people do is the question?

 

thanks!

 

Self Esteem

 

 

 

Posted on July 28th 2011 at 9:56PM

FB is the Microsoft of social networks. I think that really says it all.

Posted on July 31st 2011 at 5:53AM

I totally agree with your point about everyone losing if Google+ gains a monopoly.  I hear people closing their Facebook accounts and moving to G+, and that worries me.  I hope we are not moving in the direction of dismantlng a monopoly (Facebook) to create another one (G+).