A couple years ago I wrote a post about why I thought Facebook was on a crash course to fail. On the contrary, they’ve proven my assumptions wrong over the past 30 months (maybe they read the post?) and the future looks pretty damn sweet for team FB.
At present, Facebook has over 500 million users, generating an estimated $1 billion in revenues and has become a household name in much of the developed world. Even Hollywood is piggy-backing off their success with “The Social Network” movie having a nice little run at the box office for the past couple weeks.
Facebook surely wasn’t the first social network on the market but at the rate they are going, they very well could be the last. Here’s why I think Facebook wins:
1. Facebook built an ecosystem, not just a product. Facebook has extended their focus way beyond creating a great stand-alone product and gone to great lengths to enable the developer community to participate and help create the experience. While FB’s competitors were focusing on new features and opening markets, Facebook was building the Facebook Platform – a massive initiative that “enables anyone to build social applications on Facebook and the web.” — and infiltrating the web with the like button. As a result, they have amassed and aligned the interests of many smart people together to build an ecosystem around Facebook and, as Mark Zuckerberg said, help “build the social web together“. This has not only improved the experience for users but also has made Facebook omnipresent on the web.
2. It’s not just about the Cool people. What started off as an exclusive product for American college students now has almost no demographic or geographic boundaries. Facebook spans generations and locations. Not only do my twenty and thirty-something friends have accounts, but so does my 15-year old cousin and his friends, as well as my parents and their friends who are in their late 50’s. This has never happened with any other social network… not even close. Friendster and MySpace had a certain appeal to a certain demographic making it so easy to jump from one to the next. But when your friends, family and colleagues are all at the same party, it’s not so easy to leave.
3. UI recipe hasn’t been compromised. This was a major sticking point for me a couple years ago during the influx of third-party apps that were vomited across the site with updates about games and other things that had little relevance to most users. FB must have read my post about the cluster f**k of apps because they did a great job balancing the presence of all those games and focusing on better relevancy. Also, I like the fact that everything still remains simple and navigable with no options to customize anything. MySpace and Friendser take pride in giving their users the freedom of self-expression and allowing them to customize their pages but this strategy has bit them back in the ass and really tainted their UI — it’s one giant, incohesive mess. Good to see Facebook hasn’t taken this route – bonus points for them. Finally, with the temptation of Ad deals lurking around (surely, they’ve been seduced more than once), these guys merit some praise for incorporating Ads in a non-intrusive manner while keeping the UI intact. More bonus points for not selling out.
4. Value proposition for business, not just consumers. Whether you’re Joe Shmoe’s local cheese shop or a multi-national brand, companies are now aware that having a “facebook strategy” can drive tremendous business benefit. Not only can companies interact with their fans in a two-way conversation and generate massive viral exposure, but here’s the kicker… it costs nothing. Facebook has been very smart about creating value for companies to participate in the experience and they’ve hit some major pain points for enterprise marketers… admin controls, analytics, integrated applications, etc. Tie this together with their advertising platform and +500 million users and you have a very attractive proposition for businesses to have a presence on Facebook.
5. Superior execution. All this stuff has happened because of one very important factor: an incredible capacity to execute. Facebook came on the scene late in the game — after MySpace, Friendster, Hi5 and Orkut — which says a lot about the fortitude and quality of the people behind Facebook. This is probably the most valuable asset they have and something that won’t be easy to replicate.
Will be interesting to see how far they evolve in the next 30 months and of course, I’ll write another post then.
What are your thoughts? Can anyone compete with the Facebook juggernaut or are they untouchable?