Internet start-ups don’t always enjoy a very long life span. Popular fads are created every day, and even though millions of people might be surfing over to the latest and greatest website this week doesn’t mean they won’t move on next week. Much to its credit, Facebook (which may not even qualify as a start-up any longer) has stood firm in the rapid river that is the modern social web and has grown into one of the most powerful web properties online. Could it be that Facebook has found a unique formula that protects them from obsolescence and makes it irreplaceable? We believe so, and today we explore several forces at work to keep Facebook at the forefront of our social-media minds for the foreseeable future.
New Designs Always Prevail
A common reason why popular Internet businesses fail is because they try to fix what isn’t broken. We have seen this familiar story play out with the once dominant social networking portal Myspace. Users enjoyed the overall look and feel of the original interface and appreciated the additional features, such as the profile music player, profile HTML customization. Unfortunately for Myspace, the designers continued to overhaul the interface, adding new features and making the entire experience feel different. Many users were shell shocked, feeling as though the Myspace they had gotten comfortable using was changing for the worst.
Facebook on the other hand has also overhauled their interface several times, but each time their popularity barely takes a hit. It isn’t as if the changes aren’t usually met with disdain; they are, and entire groups have formed protesting new Facebook interfaces. However the developers at Facebook truly understand their users, for despite early complaints, new features and designs are quickly accepted, and eventually beloved. The “News Feed” feature, for example, was once flamed as an unnecessary invasion of privacy, but has quickly become a centerpiece of the Facebook experience. So long as Facebook tweaks their design in ways that users can easily adjust to and find enjoyment in using, it is unlikely that advancements in their interface will lead to a mass exodus of users.
More Than A Hip Fad
It may not be obvious as you update your status or comment on a friend’s picture, but Facebook is actually providing its users with a much-needed service rather than just a popular way to kill time. For many users, the website provides them with one place where they can digitally manage their entire offline life. The photo album features allows them to organize and display thousands of photographs, and even tag their friends as being in the picture with them. Facebook messaging has all but replaced email for young teens, and their chat feature is taking users away from traditional clients. Third party applications allows users to have fun, show off their musical tastes and play collaborative games between friends. Perhaps most important of all, the website brings together all of a user’s social connections, from classmates, to parents, to best friends, and allows them to keep up with everyone’s lives.
For all of its capability and utility to its users, Facebook can not be considered an Internet fad facing a quick burn out in popularity once the next “big thing” comes along. We must instead acknowledge it as a lively social hub through which users stay in touch with people they may otherwise lose contact with, a powerful statement of value that gives true testament to the staying power of this Internet giant.
The Application Market
Since its inception, the Facebook Application market has exploded into a full-fledged business opportunity for thousands of Internet entrepreneurs. In a short time span, the open platform has created a veritable “Facebook economy” that is literally supporting entire start ups who collectively contribute dozens of new applications each day. Many such start ups have already made millions from the Facebook application market, and this opportunity does not look to be drying up any time soon.
Since these companies often find themselves competing for the limited number of users, they are consistently improving and developing breakthrough applications that serve to keep Facebook a fresh and exciting place for users to be. So long as there are users, there will be app developers to give them fun new tools, and so the cycle continues.
Marketing and Business Utility
As Facebook has grown in popularity, marketers at companies both small and large have caught on to the value of its endless network of connections. Today, Facebook marketing (and social media marketing in general) is considered a serious skill that no company operating in the year 2010 should be without. This nascent marketing strategy is forcing advertisers to get personal with their customer base, since questions, comments and concerns can now be aimed directly at the page of the business.
Local businesses have especially found great utility in the event planning capability of Facebook. Using Facebook events, bars, clubs, and restaurants can announce live acts and events or specials on drinks and food. Customers can then RSVP on the event page, giving the establishment an approximate event size to prepare for.
Additionally, companies can announce product release dates to all of their fans on Facebook, creating buzz and driving sales directly from their page. Through the use of status updates and notes, companies have found ways to hype everyone who receives their updates up, making it an indispensable sales machine that would cause significant damage if it were to suddenly disappear.