No matter what you call it, the truth is that 2012 was a banner year for Facebook. Steadily through the fog, you’ve innovated and experimented – and we’ve been along for the ride. Threats to your dominance remain exaggerated. Like it or not, we’re with you. But on the flipside, you’re finding the sledding to be pretty rough as the unquestioned market leader. Criticism grows as the euphoria fades, as Microsoft, Google, and now Apple know all too well. Welcome to post-adolescence.
Facebook major stakeholder groups are demanding more and more in 2013
- Users are bored. People are increasingly turning off their Facebook accounts and/or disengaging from banter in such a public forum. And let’s face it, this was bound to happen. The social discovery phase is more or less over, but the social operating system phase is just taking hold. The trend for people to have more of their personal information online is continuing to pick up steam, but the countervailing trend is that people want to do a lot less conversing on Facebook.
- To participate in Facebook as a user today, you are opening yourself up to your friends’ narcissism, facebragging, vaguebooking, and egocentrism. Not to mention their politics, ignorance, hate, religious and sports preferences, anxieties, and fears. It was all novel in the beginning, but can this continue?
- Brands are all-in. They can make long-term investments to capture “share” without seeking immediate ROI. The Social Media Management Software (SMMS) business is thus very strong and continues to grow as infrastructure investments are being made.
- Data-driven brands are starting to make strides to measure their effectiveness, and are beginning to ask second level questions such as “how are we doing against competitors?” and “how can we do better than we’ve done so far?”. Showing up has been half the battle to date, but data-driven performance optimization is the wave of the future. Leading brands will move in this direction in 2013, laggards will fall in line thereafter.
- Software companies and agencies think “the grass is greener on the other side” by seeking to be more like the other. Both sides recognize that large companies want solutions and are not as “price-elastic” as smaller businesses more immediately concerned with the bottom line. Software companies recognize that technology thrown over a fence has only limited value.
- Agencies recognize that all but their “creative” services and relationships are indeed a commodity after all and that technology can help differentiate in the 21st Century marketplace. Therefore, software companies are starting to add things like advertising services and maintenance agreements a la Oracle. Agencies are looking across their clients and are creating software tools in their spare time to solve common problems.
- Small businesses are frustrated. Ironically, small businesses are the most demanding users of Facebook products (Pages, Ads, etc.). They typically make marketing investments in order to make customers walk through the door or make the phone ring. And when that doesn’t happen or happens without proven attribution to Facebook, small business owner/operators get extremely skittish.
- There is no such thing as a long-term marketing investment for a local business that typically operates with a limited budget and limited human resources. Tried, true, and directly proven are the buzzwords for the local business – and Facebook hasn’t quite hit the bar for them yet. Solutions that focus on ratings & reviews and direct leads such as Angie’s List, OpenTable, and Yelp are rapidly earning more mindshare among the local business market segment.
- Developers are semi-empowered. The APIs are… well… “social” in the sense that some of the data is available some of the time. Let’s face it, the world’s best APIs are not created by YouTube, Facebook, or Google. Access to some of Facebook’s APIs is limited to select partners, while everyone more or less has access to the Graph API. That Graph API works as expected some of the time.
- Infrastructure elements such as social-plugins and authentication, by contrast, work spectacularly well and reliably. Facebook is building out its developer support infrastructure and engagement programs, and will mature significantly in 2013. But it remains a little of the Wild West currently, and breadth developers have to achieve something significant to unlock more access. Sounds like a video game.
Where does that leave all of us as we plan for 2013? Here are a few predictions for Facebook:
- A significant user profile redesign is absolutely going to happen in 2013. Threats from Google+ and MySpace – muted to date – will force Facebook’s hand to improve the overall user experience.
- Facebook’s commitment to experimentation will not subside. Not that you needed me to point that out to you. The iterative a/b web, agile development model will continue for the world’s dominant social network. Adapt or die.
- Speaking of Google+, the blending of search and social will result in a major search engine deal between Facebook and either Yahoo or Bing. I’m thinking of something significant, where (like Google+), social proof will impact search results and become another leg of SEO. Something has to happen here.
- Attribution is the keyword for local businesses in 2013. They’ll need to be proven the value of Facebook, or their confidence will continue to erode. A refresh of the “Local Business” page with a greater emphasis on lead generation is forthcoming.
- The attribution point will become bigger for larger companies, brands, and Facebook advertisers in the 2nd half of 2013 and beyond. Larger advertisers will need a firm grip on what they’re getting for their ad spend, or they’ll migrate to other platforms. The clock is ticking on this altogether critical point.
- Facebook’s data platforms will be even more open in 2013 than they are today, not less. Facebook’s developer strategy remains to empower people with data and extend the influence of the network. This won’t result in restrictions as many have predicted.
- The ongoing marginalization of basic, first-generation “social marketing” will continue and intensify. Social maintenance, auto-pilot, “post 2x/day morning and evening” broad generalities are common knowledge. Consultants, agencies, and “experts” will be forced to bring a bigger and better value add to clients. The basics are known – now who bridges the gap from social back to search to create real & lasting business value. That should be the focus moving forward, as it is sustainable.
Have a great 2013 everyone!