The day brands will be better at home than on Facebook

How many times did we hear Oracles predicting the end of Facebook ? Lots of times and so much that no pays attention anymore to such predictions. We’re living in a world of change where always looking for the “new xxx” and turning against former loves is a natural behavior. Bottom line : Facebook is till here and will be for a long time.

However, there are signs we can’t ignore.

Brands are running out of steam on general public social networks.

That’s a known  fact : the “reach” of brand pages is melting like snow in the sun. Less and less people see brands contents except if they pay for it.

Secondly, general public social networks in general – and Facebook in particular -have a very poor contribution to the business (less than 1% of e-commerce cales). Even if the industry is still in its infancy, these aren’t good numbers.

Another issue : the Facebook model is facing sociological issues. The “young” are  leaving to avoid meeting their “old” and users are more and more concerned about privacy issues and data protection.

So let’s talk about data. Now that businesses understand they were the raw material of the future, they balk at leaving or sharing them with Facebook. When you have an oil well you don’t let anyone exploit it for free, even the one who helped you to find the oil slick.

To end there’s another clear trend : customers are not – or not only – looking for interactions and networking with brands but for a real experience. If the era of the “brand experience” replaces or completes the era of the “social experience”, the experience delivered by Facebook where the only difference between your page and your competitor’s is the talent of community managers (I admit this can be kind of unique) and your logo is not making it. It has nothing unique and differentiating.

A little bit of history before going further.

Why did brands moved into Facebook ? Because they were struggling to understand the evolution of social interactions and social networks and were not capable of coming with an “in-house” answer. Facebook was an easy and free means to occupy their territory and engage with customers on social networks. Facebook was the only cost-efficient way to adapt without being left behind and without spending big money.

However, some brands tried to build their own social network but few persevered. Too early to get a critical mass of users while customers were rushing towards Facebook, too expensive while Facebook was free, too young to be mature enough to activate and monetize the audience.

But this was before.

Users are not rushing towards Facebook or, at least, distrust it. An acceptable reach is more an more expensive. Conversation rates are low, the experience not differentiating and data are not an exclusive and proprietary asset.

The revenge of in-house social platforms ?

Enough reasons for brands (at least those who have the means and an unique brand territory to occupy) to start wondering if bringing “all this stuff home would be relevant. Bringing customers in an environment providing an unique, coherent and differentiating experience. An environment that won’t replace Facebook or Twitter (each channel can be good for a specific need) but will fill a gap in terms of engagement, experience and conversation. An environment where showing one’s uniqueness will be easier. An environment where brands will take ownership of he goose that lay the golden eggs the data and build an exclusive relationship.

Michelle Blanc has been claiming for years that there’s no better place than home and that general public social networks are only entry doors to bring customer home. Here we are.

So I would not be surprised to see some brands that gave up with their home-made social network in 2008 come back with similar and improved initiatives in the next 3  to 5 years.

A differentiating brand experience can’t happen on a third part platform

Does it mean the end of Facebook. Not at all.  First because not all the brands have the necessary stature or have the needed maturity about digital brand experience. Then because Facebook can be useful for other purposes. But Facebook as we know it today may be more relevant and will eventually transform, maybe to become a pure social network, people to people. Of course, such a move will question the revenue model if major brands have left. But with the current reach and transformation rate they already have less and less reason to stay, all the more since Twitter is much better for customer service.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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