Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here's How Facebook Can Beat The Analysts


Over the past couple of weeks, stock analysts on the Internet have started writing stories about the demise of Facebook. They all sort of embodied the same ideas and the same principles that state what they believe are the flaws in Facebook. First off, I don't believe that some of the ideas that analysts have been presenting are completely rational or accurate. But also, Facebook still has a chance. I believe that one of the big flaws in the analysts' views were that they almost all agreed that Facebook had little chance to turn the tide in their favor. To me, it makes no sense to think that Facebook doesn't stand  a chance. All Facebook needs is a little coaching from the Internet. We've seen trends like Facebook before, and if history is any indication, that the expert advice from the few of us that contradict the popular opinion, our, being everyone against the analysts, is solid advice.

  One of Facebook's problems is of course getting into mobile. We've all seen the headlines lately that have been blasting Facebook for lacking a good set of mobile applications. That's very true. Facebook clearly needs to make mobile computing a priority for their future. And while Facebook has recently updated their mobile apps for Android and iOS, it still isn't enough. The update was largely insignificant and didn't put them on the path to beating the overall trend that analysts and investors have set. Facebook desperately needs to make mobile a priority. The biggest problem with the mobile versions of Facebook is the user interface. It is painfully slow and is complicated and a pain to use. The experience of using Facebook on a mobile device is terrible. But so is the desktop website. The desktop website needs a makeover too. The user experience overall on Facebook is bad. And so Facebook needs to make the user interface overall, both on the desktop and on mobile devices, a priority.

  Some have claimed that Facebook just needs to improve on selling ads to the user. And that's an easy thing to say, but I don't think that's the case. They're doing just fine with selling ads and there is no clear indication that ad sales will be dramatically slowing down in the coming months. While yes, Facebook isn't as skilled at selling ads as Google is (but frankly, no one can beat Google), Facebook is still performing up to a reasonable standard.

  The biggest issue for Facebook is finding a niche. This was a big realization for me. Facebook needs to find a niche in online services. Is it going to be the core social networking features, like Chat, posting pictures and sharing statuses, or will it be something else? I can point to lots of evidence of how finding a niche can really help prevent a big company from becoming irrelevant in the web era. Myspace hasn't become irrelevant because they found a niche. Myspace is primarily now the place for musicians to gather. It found a niche and stuck to it, and is now seeing the benefit of not becoming a ghost in the web 2.0 era.
On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that not finding a niche, and doing the opposite, essentially becoming an all-things-for-all-people kind of a service, can hurt the future of a web business by making it irrelevant. I'm afraid that Google is doing that with  Google+. Google isn't content with Google+ being for a niche market, or only serving a small purpose. But they forget that by trying to be an all-things-for-all-people kind of company, they make the risk of becoming irrelevant in the years ahead. Facebook can suffer from a similar fate of that of past web services if they fail to target a niche audience. So far, Facebook has targeted a way too large audience. As a result, we see that their user experience is cluttered and as a result makes it less attractive to users and makes Facebook a less enjoyable experience altogether.

  In their current strategy, Facebook is failing. But it's not too late to change. They can, and should, turn the trend in their favor. They need to make a better user experience overall, and on the mobile platforms, as well as finding a smaller, more dedicated audience (finding a niche), that will help Facebook ultimately stay relevant in the coming years.

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