What Happens to Your Business If Facebook Disappears?

Yesterday I was quoted in an article on ReadWriteWeb.

Here is a snippet from Facebook’s 2012 Slide Looks A Lot Like MySpace’s 2008 Demise:

“If the last ten years have taught business owners anything, it’s that social media entities come and go. It’s too risky to build an audience on a social media website only to see that site go bye-bye. It’s better to put in the work to build your own audience on your own platform and use social to acquire an audience.”

Check out the entire article for more of my thoughts and those of others – including the comments – about how people are reacting to the current Facebook situation.

The Life Cycle of Social Networks

There was a moment in 2006 that sticks out in my mind. I picked up a copy of Inc. Magazine and noticed an article about a website named MySpace. The company had recently been sold for something around the $500 million mark. This was really shocking.

At this moment in time the online world belonged to MySpace. The site was this new thing everybody was talking about. Even those in the media were talking about the site and how it was part of this new social media thing happening in the online world.

What was interesting about MySpace was that it really wasn’t anything new. The big story at the time was how a social media site called Friendster had done everything MySpace had done years before but had eventually failed.

Today we all know the MySpace story. The company floundered in just a few years after its peak around 2006-2007. For a variety of reasons people just seemed to move on to new things. There was nothing keeping people on MySpace. Now, this is all relative. I believe MySpace continued making millions in advertising revenue for years before being sold for something like $30 million in the last year or so. That’s not bad, but it’s not good.

So what happened?

Facebook happened. Around the time of the MySpace collapse was the Facebook rise. My first introduction to Facebook was in 2006 when it was just this interesting website. There was a buzz, though. You could share photos and create a profile for your friends to see. It was a way to keep up with all your friends. It was valuable.

In 2007, Yahoo! offered Facebook $1 billion. The owners of MySpace seemed silly for having sold out for $500 million. Facebook turned down the offer and continued to focus on user growth. By the beginning of 2012 Facebook had over one billion users and seemingly billions in ad revenue annually.

Today, Facebook has been getting bashed publicly. The stock is having its issues, but even more important than the stock price is the seeming rate of people uninterested in the website. The trend seems to be happening with folks of all ages, but even more with younger people.

Social Media for Business

Throughout all of this social media craziness with MySpace and Facebook has been the impact on businesses. The story has always been that businesses need a MySpace page and need a Facebook page.

With every social media website the story has been the same and really up to this point it has almost always backfired. Now, there are probably some stories out there showing how businesses have been able to earn incremental revenue from their social media profiles, but my hunch is that any success story has a catch.

The companies that have succeeded with social media and really the companies that have succeeded for many decades have focused on building their own list of buyers and subscribers. For these companies the Internet has meant a new way to directly market to potential customers and current customers. This has typically meant email marketing, which is strangely something people have ignored as social media has risen in popularity.

What smart companies are doing is focusing their entire social media effort around their own website (or their own blog). From there the companies will use the audiences on social media sites to funnel off traffic to their own sites. That’s how seemingly successful companies are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

What other companies are doing is focusing on building followers and likes on the social network. Photos are being uploaded and content is being uploaded to the social sites. Not only is all this content now owned by Facebook and Twitter, but what happens when the social sites eventually fade into the background?

It’s happened before. MySpace was something that nobody thought would die. Now nobody uses it even if they do have some great music functionality.

What happens to your business if Facebook disappears?

The smart play is to focus on your own website for opt-in subscribers. With this focus you can use whatever the current social media darling is to funnel traffic back to your site.

It’s a smart play for the long run.

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