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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The decline of FaceBook?

This posting started out as a response to a blog posting by a friend and old (as in longtime!) colleague of mine, Jim Belshaw. It got too long as a comment there, so I wrote most of it here instead.

Jim’s blog posting is here. It has embedded links that you can pick up from the posting itself. If you are interested in politics and/or things to do with the New England district of Australia, there is no better starting point, as the Belshaw blood is deep in the soil of the Tablelands AND Australian politics!

Jim wrote:


Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Facebook's decline?

Over the last year or so I have written a number of posts on the future of blogging. As part of that discussion I looked at the relationship between blogging, facebook and twitter. I suggested in part that just as first facebook and then twitter had affected blogging, so twitter was affecting facebook. To my mind, facebook had in fact peaked and now faced potential decline.

Against this background, I found Murad Ahmed's story in the Australian, Advertising statistics show social networking platform Facebook is starting to lose friends interesting as an early sign of the process I was talking about. 
Posted by Jim Belshaw at 1:01 PM

My response:

Interesting thought. I can comment only on the basis of my experience with all three – FaceBook, blogging and Twitter.

    FaceBook is a place where you have to agree mutually to be ‘friends’, whatever your motive may be. In my case, it was purely social.

    A blog, if you want people to read it, has to have a purpose other than simply to keep a diary, unless you have remarkable flair or a remarkable life! There are millions out there, and everyone who has started one knows how invisible it is on the web, especially at the start.

    Twitter connects you to people who interest you. Unless you annoy them by stalking, or making comments they find objectionable, you can see every tweet they make, and the place they invite their followers to go on the web. If they have millions of devotees, like Stephen Fry, e.g., then they won’t even know or care you are reading their tweets, unless for some reason they take a special interest in you. The people you follow, you will have chosen for your own reasons. Some will have few followers, and are delighted to have you on board. You met on Twitter because you have a common interest, not because they’re your long-lost cousin. That’s FaceBook’s department. My point is, your ‘friends’ there are probably in quite a separate category from FaceBook ones.

    I was still working as an historian at the UNE and interested in whether or not it had practical use as a tool for Distance Education learning. I came to the conclusion that it mixed the two worlds too closely together, and the only ‘student friends’ I kept on FaceBook were those who had stopped being involved in my courses.

    When I retired from the UNE, Tracey and I started a business doing graphics, web design, DVD conversion and movie-making. We created promo movies for the UNE for distribution in China, e.g., or ones aimed at attracting students.

    I thought of using FaceBook as a business tool, but we discovered that in the movie production business we had started, the real way that business came was word of mouth. Your friends and relatives on FaceBook don’t want to be made to feel like your clients.

    My medical problems changed everything, and just as the business started booming, we were forced to close it. Tracey could have continued it, but it was the last thing on our minds when told that, without treatment, I had three months to live.

    To get to the point here, it’s the interaction between the three – FaceBook, the blog, and Twitter that creates the dynamics for me. My blog has a clear purpose, best explained by visiting it and reading my profile.

    In promoting whatever it is that you want to tell the world about, Twitter is by far the most powerful medium, though would have been useless for me as a marketing tool for the business we had to abandon. That is not true for others, though Twitter is full of people using bad marketing techniques as well as good ones.

    Twitter is immensely powerful but it took me a lot of time exploring it on my own to understand why and how. I could sit on it all day if I had nothing else to do and explore the world with the most talented people in the world as my guides and research assistants. I can banter with some of them as I do on FaceBook, but that can be dangerous, as you may not know them well enough to make a joke.

    So I think though Twitter will continue to expand at the staggering rate of 600,000 new ‘Tweeps’ (people who have created a Twitter identity for themselves) per week, FaceBook will still prosper in the personal field and its commercial potential may fade, except for the FaceBook principals themselves and for FaceBook’s targeted advertisers.

    FaceBook has cunningly devised a system through social connectivity to let people yield immense amounts of valuable information about themselves, and for FaceBook to foster that yielding of information as their own marketing strategy. That is its strength, though it may in the end be turned upon itself when people discover that there are people out there who know way too much about them because of FaceBook.

    But I would never underestimate the ability of FaceBook to redefine and reinvent itself to maximise its marketing potential.

    Twitter is not immune to spamming and information gathering about its clients, but it has the same potential for being exploited as well as for creating dynamic and powerful communities at a moment’s notice.

    My bet is that they’ll continue side by side for quite a while to come, and each will adapt to changing circumstances.


  1. Hello Dennis

    I just clicked over to your blog from Jim B's to see what was behind the man who wrote so well. And then I read your 'about', and now I don't much know what else to say - except, keep writing, while I start at the start, and one day I'll possibly catch up to you.

    But I sincerely hope not.

    kvd - David Spence

  2. Thanks, David. We play with the cards we're dealt. It's how we play them that matters. All the best to you.


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