"O, woe is me, to have seen what I have seen, see what I see."
... The prophets have spoken, the returns are in, turnover and profits are down and Facebook, my friend, is dying. At least that would be the future from extrapolated trends from the first public Facebook report showing a drop of $157 million from April to June. Trading last week showed a fall of more than 37% from initial listing price and the talk is of bursting bubbles and crows lining up to hover over the fragile remnants of this once gargantuan beast. What is clear is that social media or rather that those that talk about the potential of the business of social media have lost none of their flair for the dramatic and none of the want to embrace hubris in all its forms, even if they lead to tragedy as per Hamlet and cast.
Technology and Finance have always made uncomfortable bedfellows; from bean counters to propeller heads only a few select people have had a foot in each camp and for the most part that has only produced minor discord, it has never been important enough to cause major effect. The trouble is that technology, especially in the guise of social media is now capable of making waves rather than ripples on a scale that we haven't seen before. The term Information Economy of course has been bandied around for quite some time (although still not agreed on), but a name does not make the entity and even with the disruption that it can bring we are still in the early days of an information economy and there are many questions to be asked and more answers that we are waiting for.
What is Facebook worth?
I've chosen the term worth rather than value specifically, they are not dichotomously opposed, but neither are they interchangeable or the same; it is a differential that contains a valuable lesson. The value of Facebook can be determined by the reported balances, the hard facts and figures that hit the bottom line. The worth of Facebook is a separate consideration, neither you nor I factor our total worth as the size of our monthly pay cheque, the size of our houses or funds sequestered in various banks; we would be wrong to consider Facebook purely by these metrics. The worth of an entity is as unique as the qualities of that entity, worth and quality are tied as twins far more closely than worth and value. The question then morphs to what are the worthy qualities of Facebook, or those a few are:
There are many more qualities and areas of worth that Facebook drops into, far too many to put in a simple post, but even considering just these three the carrion are a little premature.
The number of people that Facebook touches upon has become so routed in the consciousness of those that work in social media that it has almost waned in its ability to become newsworthy; is it one billion today, or 1.1 billion, the numbers are now so vast that they are no longer comprehendible as appreciations of scale as just a way to keep score - they are but grains of sand on a beach that is Facebook. The numbers apart from minor classification as to what constitutes a user are undeniable, when Pompey stated that: "I have only to stamp my foot and legions will spring up round me", could either he or his veterans appreciate the sheer monumental gulf in numerical disadvantage to those clients, consumers and ultimately people of vested interest that are open to Facebook? The reach into our lives, and the number of lives that are reached into maybe considered by some insidious, by wider audience thankfully not total, but it is formidable and undeniable.
The 'insidiousness' of Facebook is reflected in the incentive of the platform. Facebook is the catalyst behind so much of our interaction that it has become a portal into our social selves. Forget the business element of how we work with the platform, how do we use it socially? Without arguing across semantics for me I do not interact so much with Facebook as to use it to:
- Keep in touch with friends and family; my first sight of those newly born to the world is invariably now across Facebook - it strengthens existing relationships and those that I look forward to beginning
- Plan my time - Facebook is now my personal assistant, gone are birthday books, diaries to be synchronised and invitations to be sent I plan with my friends where my friends are best able to plan
- Remember the fun I've had; in pictures, posts, video and conversations I've had, are now part of Facebook record.
And those are only a snapshot. I / We do not live our lives through Facebook (thank goodness), but a good part of our lives still find our way onto Facebook. That is the incentive of the platform and of social, those that we connect with. As a statement of worth to deride Facebook now derides the social circles, actions and effects of our interaction with the platform; in short the engagement that we hunt for when we use the platform for business.
The third selected quality is ubiquity, Facebook is seamlessly everywhere. More impressive than the reach are the one billion daily open graph shares, being connected is one thing, being engaged is another altogether. Open graph and open technologies have moved Facebook from being a middle-man in our social world to being an enabler with our engagement with the digital world, with the growth and availability of connecting mobile technologies I cannot see this trend slowing and soon this will expand into our physical world. Ubiquity and utility have already been identified for longer term success (something that other platforms have failed to address), Facebook has broken through Maslow's self-actualisation with needs, passed amplification and is now seeks to establish itself in the lowest reaches of necessity: I need air, food, drink, shelter, sex and Facebook (and not necessarily in that order).
All hail our benevolent overlord
Tails of the demise of Facebook are premature, the bottom line value does not equate to the worth, or potential worth. Equally untrue are stories of the platforms immortality, as to Google in its paramount position there are Yahoo!, AltaVista, Bing as once and future kings, so Facebook has its MySpace and a plethora of challengers both historic and waiting to rise. The true models of value and worth in an information economy have yet to be established so before nay saying prophets make pronouncement from their crystal balls they should remember: Nothing is as certain in digital as change and the lack of true certainty beyond what has just passed and not really even then!