Facebook is hemorrhaging users, they say. “I can’t get no (organic) satisfaction,” they gripe. Facebook doesn’t value your privacy, they warn. Facebook will die, they predict. One of those statements is as false as your grandmother’s teeth.
As someone whose professional and personal world revolves around digital media, social platforms and apps, I’m immersed in an environment fueled by innovation, predictions, and an accelerated cycle of Darwinism. Platforms add features at an incredible pace as they try to outdo one another in an effort to avoid being that lame gazelle doomed to be lunch. And the pundits are right there, popcorn in hand, playing an admittedly satisfying game of celebrity deathwatch. Every one of them has their metric of choice for measuring impending doom or digital hegemony. In my day-to-day, I hear terms like user acquisition, retention, engagement, differentiation, and integration. These are all important, and can indeed be useful for informing predictions. Right now, everyone’s favorite prediction is the inevitable fall of Facebook.
But Darwin forgot about one thing: Grandma.
Grandma is on Facebook, and she wants to see pictures of her granddaughter’s recital. You’re not going to disappoint Grandma, are you? Grandma doesn’t care that there’s a more feature-rich, engaging, shareable platform you just downloaded. She took that leap and spent the last six months learning “The Facebook.” You’re kidding yourself if you think she’s going to spend the precious little time she has left to go through those shenanigans again. She can spend it on better things, like playing Farmville. And even if you can convince Grandma to jump, good luck making the rest of her Bridge Club Facebook Group jump with her. So you’re going to stay on Facebook.
And looking beyond Grandma, it’s a lot easier to coordinate next week’s bake sale by posting updates to your PTA Facebook Group. Oh those other PTA parents are so clueless about social media, but at least you know who’s bringing the lemon squares. So you’re going to stay on Facebook.
Facebook has a huge advantage that no platform has ever enjoyed. It has won over the late adopters. These are the folks who use Facebook as a literal extension of their everyday life. Late adopters don’t use social media to build thought leadership, curate content, trigger virality, or further their online brand. They use it to find you when you aren’t answering your phone. This is the critical piece that platforms like MySpace lacked (and Google+ lacks today).
When the next best thing comes around, a younger, tech-savvy user base has no problem switching gears and migrating elsewhere. To keep this type of audience satiated, you have to continually out-think, out-maneuver and out-innovate. On the contrary, when a large chunk of your audience is the type who only use their iPhone to make phone calls, you have inertia on your side. Nothing will impress these late adopters enough to move, which makes it harder for their early adopter offspring to simply abandon them for greener pastures.
So do your Snapchatting, reblog those Tumblr posts, and document your life in six-second Vines. Just don’t forget to “like” Grandma’s cookie recipe on Facebook, or else she’ll be blowing up your voicemail later, and ain’t nobody got time for that!
And that is why, Facebook will never die.