This week saw the 10th anniversary of the worlds biggest social network, Facebook. It has grown from zero to almost 1.2 billion members, a staggering 17% of the planet’s population. It can claim that it introduced the world to a brand new media, social, or at least an attractive enough proposition for people in their hundreds of millions to get involved.
So, given the huge changes on the world of communication and connection that Facebook has driven, what will the next ten years hold for Facebook?
Will it even exist? I think in 2024 that Facebook will still have a significant presence in social media. The vast number of Facebook accounts may not stay in the billions (unless they can get through the Great Firewall of China before it’s too late), and the demographics of the typical Facebook user may change, but it will still be a player – it feels too big to just disappear (that phrase could well come back to haunt me!).
Who will the audience be? Facebook is already experiencing the trend of an older demographic with large numbers of young users abandoning their accounts, but what about the older audience. I think it will remain attractive because I don’t think they have consciously joined the network the cause younger people have – their friendship group has reached the tipping point where they feel they should join. Facebook often talk about the next 5 billion users, but the future will deliver more specialised networks, grouped by interest or demographic (like SnapChat has done for teens and young adults has done in the last year).
Will the empire grow? Facebook has already proved that it is not afraid to grow the empire, in terms of development of the network but also the acquisition of competitors (e.g. Instagram). If they see a threat, they can act fast with large revenues from advertising. Maybe the time will come when Facebook as a social network is not the biggest part of Facebook Inc’s portfolio…?
Is mobile (still) the future? This may be a little short-term, but the current Facebook mobile experience is pretty depressing – a temperamental app and a separate app for messaging and yet another for managing company pages – this sort of experience will turn people off as they rely more and more on mobile for their content. Mobile should be considered the norm, it will be in some countries by 2015.
How big is the data? Right now, marketers are offered display advertising and that’s pretty much it. But the size and quality if the data that is held by Facebook which could unlock a new chapter. Somehow using the tremendous amounts of big data, from a marketers perspective, opens up personalisation to a level that we would struggle to get our heads round in 2014.
So, in summary, there is a future for Facebook. The people on the network may change their demographic, but there will still be hundreds of millions there. And I think that the future fir Facebook is positive – their first decade was without compare, and if they continue to be flexible enough to adapt and rich enough to afford it, the future of Facebook looks bright.