PREDICTION: Facebook will not be the only game in town come 2011; be ready to take advantage of marketing opportunities on new social networks!
FYI: I realize this is longer than my usual post, but bear with me. Facebook's recent domination means I have a lot of ground to make up.
The infamous leak of 100 million Facebook user pages in July of 2010 caused a scare among users and created what may turn out to be a golden opportunity for potential competitors. A security researcher, Ron Bowes, created a script that downloaded the information that users chose to make publicly available from the Facebook User Directory. Hence, this alleged leak was actually nothing more than the collection and publication of user information already made public by 100 million Facebook users.
Facebook also suffers a host of other privacy concerns including: (1) Facebook’s complex security settings leaving users unaware of their personal data being public, (2) hackers have repeatedly defeated Facebook security to harvest user information, (3) a growing number of Facebook applications provide easy access to member data, and (4) Facebook’s own connect buttons make user information readily available to other sites. The net result is that user privacy on Facebook is virtually nonexistent. With security being brought to the forefront of users’ minds, it is an ideal time for a security-conscious social network. One prime candidate, although still in Alpha, is Diaspora. This new social networking site touts the not so subtle security slogan, “Share what you want, with whom you want.” They stress user ownership of all content shared with friends. Other social networks are in the works for release in early 2011 as well, like Google Me.
If history proves anything, Facebook’s ‘monopoly’ is temporary. Looking at the last decade alone, there were two cases in which the public feared a company was ‘taking over’ the internet. In early 2000, people panicked that AOL was taking over. Ultimately, AOL faltered, chief among the reasons was a single-minded focus on mining the then lucrative Internet dial-up access business. MySpace is another example: officially launched in 2004 and by 2005, MySpace was the king of the Internet, with a base of nearly 80 million users. News Corp. purchased MySpace in 2005 and immediately tried to monetize it by inserting advertising into nearly every aspect of the user experience. MySpace peaked in 2007, with 150 million users, but due to the barrage of ads, it plummeted to 109 million users by mid-2010. The moral of story is that Internet titans come and go.
BOTTOM LINE: Why should this matter to businesses? The answer is simple.
Keeping an eye on these emerging social networks enables a company to be in on the ground floor, seizing market share, and reaping profits from a growing customer base. Given the large user base Facebook has acquired, businesses should continue to market there, but remain vigilant for other valuable social network marketing opportunities. The importance of diversification in marketing efforts also holds true for social media marketing. Focusing marketing efforts entirely on Facebook could prove to be a dangerous strategy in 2011.