Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m of a certain age and a certain demographic that means I’m programmed to be cynical but during one of my infrequent forays into Facebook recently I have been dismayed by the number of people trying to sell me things.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why this is happening and the commercial imperative that now drives Facebook down this path but I have to say that it appears to be a small step on a slippery slope that could ultimately kill the platform.
Facebook started out as a simple proposition; a bunch of college kids wanting to keep tabs on each other, but it soon grew into a much bigger beast altogether. With the growth and development of the site it always seemed that the changes were driven by improving usability and increasing the utility of the site, and with increased competition from other social platforms Facebook managed to carve a neat niche for itself and has become one of the early 21st Century success stories.
The warning signs however are there for everyone to see.
The prime driver of the site is no longer the provision of more, new and better features for users; it’s about capturing data and using that data to sell things. There was a huge rush to monetise the mobile platform soon after floatation as investors quickly realised that without this development there were no long term sustainable revenue streams. Couple this with the need to report to shareholders and the City quarterly and Facebook has transformed from a nice friendly application that seemed indispensable to people to a corporate money making machine, levering its popularity to fill the coffers of institutional investors.
And this is what will eventually kill it.
People use Facebook for a variety of reasons; some to vicariously view their friends lives, some to keep up to date with birthdays and others just to while away the time and play games. Few people however currently go to Facebook as their preferred source of information when looking to buy things. Granted there are examples of people clicking through from links on the site and making a purchase and true, there are people who take to social media to ask for recommendations on whom to use for a particular product or service. In the main however we don’t consider Facebook a search engine for our online purchases. Shoving advertising in our stream of friends’ outpourings is therefore not likely to persuade me or other people to buy the goods on offer.
Marketing is, at its core, about supplying needs but the caveat here is that these needs should be met at a time when the person is looking to buy. Facebook and other social platforms work very well during the research and consideration phases of the purchase journey, and brands that are using it to promote their name and position themselves for future purchases could ultimately do well. But far too many now are simply trying to sell stuff. When we go to Social platforms to relax we don’t want to be sold to in such an overt way, and the existence of these adverts is ultimately what will turn people off.
Like it or not, people are now leaving Facebook. That trend will continue as the kids are already somewhere else and see no attraction in Facebook. It’s only the older generations that keep this platform together. The good news is that these are the ones with the disposable income. The bad news is that they are the least likely to converts from adverts in this medium.
Like many others recently this sudden influx of unwarranted, unnecessary and intrusive advertising has meant that I’m no longer taking to Facebook as frequently as I did. I expect the next set of usage figures will start to reflect what will be the start of a long term decline for the platform.
Ultimately it will have the life squeezed out of it by the money men who will bleed it dry then move on. In the meantime all I now need is to find another way to remember my friends birthdays….