The End of Facebook
I’m not one for rash futuristic predictions, but I think we are seeing the beginning of the end of Facebook. I say this for two main reasons, both of which stem from watching this happen with MySpace. Back in my other life I managed the social media for the tattoo shop where I worked. We maintained a MySpace page for many years before finally dismantling it in favor of a Facebook business page. Most of our clients were “graduating” from MySpace to the more mature FB experience, but more importantly, the user experience on MySpace was cluttered, slow, junky, and overwhelmed with ads. While FB has slowly been streamlining their advertising, the quality of the ad is just as important as the target. Users are way more likely to engage in an experience if it feels well thought out and aimed at them. For instance: Maybe you look over and see some blonde girl giving duckface with a Solo cup in her hand on top of an ad for auto insurance. Auto insurance company wasn’t paying duckface for her image, and Facebook didn’t really care. Businesses were poaching photos of your friends (or you!) to unknowingly advertise for their products. Pretty fucking evil. (Not to mention, cheap.) Facebook has become a little more strict about this as of late, but no one should pat them on the back quite yet.
The problem is that Facebook HAS to make money now. Before, it was making a ton of money for its owners and private shareholders, but now, it’s a publicly traded entity that has to satisfy a lot more investors. The push to advertise by any means necessary is going to get stronger and stronger and FB’s policies on privacy will undoubtedly get weaker and weaker. (Not that they were very strong to begin with.) If you operate a Fan Page for your band, your business, or just yourself if you’re an egomaniac, you may have noticed a very subtle change in the way you can post to your page. After you’ve added a photo or a post or status update it now gives you the option to pay to have more people see your post.
The fan page, for me, is just a way to keep people in the loop. My blog feed automatically pops up twice a week and I post fun design stuff that I find on the web sometimes. Ultimately, though, it’s not so much a tool to make money, as it is a way to connect to more people, bring them to my blog and site, and make the circle bigger. In fact, FB is the main source of traffic to my blog and since they’ve implemented this new policy my viewership has declined drastically. (Maybe you should make more interesting blog posts, you’re probably thinking…and I thought of that. So I went back and looked at everything from the last 6 months. As I suspected, I am just as boring now as I was then. Why the sudden drop-off?)
So let’s break this down even further…At minimum, they ask me to pay $5 for every post to increase my viewers. At 5 posts per week I’m at around $100 a month so people will POTENTIALLY CLICK A LINK. $10 is my other option for a nominal increase in views, making my monthly total way more. I’m not so good at math, but I’m thinking it’s around twice as much. Should I have an extra $200 A MONTH to promote some silly pictures that I find on the internet, take myself, or blog posts about Lana Del Rey, I’d probably buy myself some AdWords, or better yet, put that money in my pocket and congratulate myself on a job well done. Furthermore, the idea of handing Facebook $200 a month to make it a more appealing buy for stockholders makes me a little queased.
So how is this the end? $200 a month, or $2000 isn’t going to be a stretch for the RedBull Fanpage, Proctor and Gamble, Macintosh, or whomever. For me, and a million other small businesses, grassroots causes, and social entities seeking exposure, it’s simply not doable. Facebook has become the neighborhood that gets taken over by Walmart, Chili’s and HomeDepot. It was a level playing field, and now it’s a corporate wasteland. Facebook has created the perfect environment for a user experience fueled entirely by corporate sponsorship. In addition, there’s been a shift from the more personal aspect of the site to things like this:
This is how I remember the end days of MySpace…cluttered and overrun by “cute” and “whimsical” pictures and gifs that aren’t actually either. FB has entire pages now devoted to cranking these things out. Sometimes I open my feed and it’s the bulk of postings. When you distill these images down, they are just ads for the sites from which they originate. The personal aspect of your friends posting their thoughts and ideas or photos of a great night out has been replaced by jerky one-liners and “witty” cartoons of Victorian people sipping bourbon with a goofy quote over their head. It’s morphing into this tumblr/pinterest hybrid, but somehow less intelligent than both.
Am I leaving Facebook? No, probably not any time soon. It’s where everyone is, for now. I’m very interested to see how this plays out over the next year or so, however, and what changes FB will make in light of its going public. My suspicion is that another service is on the horizon, or already here, that will begin attracting a younger, hipper audience without the mess of corporate ads and quotes only your parents would think was funny. I’ll see you there.