Imagine that tomorrow, all of a sudden, Facebook is completely gone. Maybe someone wished upon a star, a competitor visited Vito Corleone on the day of his daughter's wedding, or a group of scary hacktivists had enough of the privacy violations and somehow managed to permanently take Facebook offline. Whatever the cause of death, the infamous social platform is gone, and it isn't coming back.
What comes next?
While the average user, after grieving the loss of Facebook, will eventually move on, the loss of Facebook would have serious implications for businesses that use it to market. But let's not get ahead of ourselves - if Facebook disappeared tomorrow, first the mass migration would begin.
Users would find new homes, and businesses would follow.
Facebook had 1.5 billion active users as of October, a 23% increase since March 2013. If Facebook fell, the torch would be passed - perhaps to Google+, or maybe an up-and-coming social site. Businesses that market on Facebook aren't going to let 1.5 billion potential customers walk out the door without following them. However, it took Facebook a couple of years before it finally introduced the business-friendly Facebook Pages feature in 2007. Google+ has a business page option, but a huge influx in users would require some serious tweaks. If people, especially those running businesses, start to move to a new site en masse, that opens up a whole host of issues like how best to feature businesses, and whether companies should even be allowed to use the service. For a time, businesses would have to start depending on their own websites and blogs to relay news and stay connected with fans.
Businesses would turn inwards.
Back in July, an annual study on consumer habits found that 81% of shoppers researched companies and products before making a major purchase. Most businesses treat Facebook as their central hub of information. They post positive reviews, discounts, news - it all gets put up onto the wall. Facebook's untimely end would mean they'd lose that hub, and savvy shoppers would have to go somewhere else to check out the company. Twitter is a good back-up, but that 140 character count maximum seriously limits what you can post, and the UI isn't very conducive to marketing. Businesses, however, can control the content that goes up on their own blog, so that's probably what they'd use for their new hub.
Marketing would change.
Small businesses rarely optimize their marketing message for each individual social site. Instead, they aim for the big one - Facebook - and just copy and paste some form of that marketing on other sites. After Facebook's finale, that would have to change. If users don't all congregate on one site like they did with Facebook, amateur and professional social marketers will have to re-examine how they post content and grab user attention. Marketing may become as much about finding and following the right users as it is about posting eye-catching content and getting a better EdgeRank.
Of course, Facebook is not going to disappear overnight, but this "what if?" scenario is a good one to consider and certainly does hold a candle to some serious problems in social marketing. Some social marketers and businesses are too focused on Facebook. As users slowly begin to frequent other social sites outside of the Facebook realm, take the above imaginary situation into consideration. Remember that Google+ is important and should not be ignored, and that company blogs shouldn't be neglected and left to stagnate. Work on expanding where your brand has a social presence. Different social platforms mean different audiences to tap into - you should never allow for just one site to completely engulf all of your marketing efforts.