So – Facebook is worth 50 billion bucks. Or so Goldman Sachs tell us.
Well why not? It’s a known fact that no teenager can live without Facebook – and hard headed businessmen have made it the biggest single provider of display advertising in the UK. So $50 billion seems about right. Where can I invest…
But hang on. It’s Goldman Sachs telling us this. The very same Goldman Sachs who like to pay out enormous sums of money to, er…employees of Goldman Sachs. So we should take the valuation with a pinch of salt. Actually, more than a pinch of salt. It’s the beginning of the end for Facebook. In fact, this whole social media thing is just a passing fad.
That was the central thesis of an article I read over the weekend. It was in Marketing Week, and it quoted an analyst called Douglas Rushkoff – who’s already accurately predicted the demise of Netscape and the failure of the AOL Time Warner deal. According to Rushkoff, social media is nothing more than a craze – a ‘party’ – and pretty soon we’ll all move on to the next big thing. The founders of Facebook may well cash in – just like the founders of MySpace did – but ultimately Facebook will be eclipsed, in exactly the same way that MySpace was.
Facebook – the story so far
Can all that be right? I decided to do some research of my own. Hard-hitting, empirically based, scientific research. I spoke to a friend who has a teenage daughter.
“On Facebook?” he said. “She’s got about 700 friends.”
Seven hundred? That was a staggering figure. “And she knows them all?”
“She claims to. Friends. Friends of friends. Friends from school that are at university now…Actually it’s really good in that respect. She has a far better idea of what to expect from uni than I ever had.”
“So how does she keep in touch?”
“On Facebook. Our phone bill’s about six quid a month. Told her I’d sent her an e-mail the other day. Looked at me as though I’d used a wax tablet…”
Less than ten years from now my friend’s daughter will be in the workplace. She’s grown up with social media. It’s how her generation communicates. No, she may not be using Facebook in the future – Mark Zuckerberg may well have cashed in his chips – but neither will she have jumped back into the tender embrace of good old fashioned e-mail.
The world is becoming increasingly digital – in the US sales of e-books have just outstripped sales of ‘normal’ books for the first time. And social media will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Twitter & Blogging
Let’s take Twitter as an example. You may snort in derision here, and tell me it’s stupid and whether or not Stephen Fry is brushing his teeth is of no interest to you. And I agree – partly. A lot of it is vacuous celebrity tosh. Thanks to Twitter I’m ashamed to say that I now know who Kim Kardashian is – what an indictment that is.
But behind the froth there’s a serious purpose. I find the ability to convey a short, sharp message (less than 140 characters) increasingly useful. There have been a couple of times when the first I’ve heard of something has been on Twitter. Yes, I’d like a British-based business version of it – but who says that a couple of years from now there won’t be one?
It’s the same with blogging. A great many blogs are dull, badly-written rubbish. But I am constantly amazed at how much valuable information you can find – at how much people are willing to share. And blogging is absolutely ideal if you want to keep your business in front of clients and potential clients…
So Mr Rushkoff may be right about the individual companies involved. But I think he’s wholly wrong about the phenomenon. I don’t think social media is going anywhere, and your business needs to embrace it. (If you don’t know where to turn, ring me. I know plenty of experts.)
Yes, of course the landscape in two, five, ten years from now will look very different – after all, five years ago Facebook had just launched its US high school version – but we won’t take a step backwards, any more than I’ll suddenly decide to drive a car without electric windows.
Never mind my friend’s daughter – I picked Dan up from football training last week. A couple of ten year old girls were coming out at the same time. “Catch you later,” I overheard one of them say. “I’ll be on Twitter as soon as I’ve finished my tea…”