Ultimately, Facebook is full of other people's agendas, and it feels out of your control. Some people just want to have conversations. They want to say something to another person, or a group of people, and not worry about the drama and uncertainty of feeding into the Facebook machine.
Snapchat is just one of the many places where Facebook refugees are going. Other destinations include WhatsApp, Instagram, LINE, WeChat, Kik, Twitter and Google+. Many are dividing up their social networks by service, having their smart conversations with strangers on Google+, their celebrity fan interactions on Twitter, sharing their pictures on Instagram and keeping touch with their best friends on WhatsApp.
It's a diaspora, and people are heading to different places, and the social and communication app worlds are very much in flux.
How Facebook Tries to Stop the Bleeding
Facebook is bleeding users, especially the youngest ones. One study found that 16-18 year olds in the UK were "embarrassed even to be associated with it."
The situation is so dire for Facebook that the company is now paying people to use it. For example, Facebook recently partnered with T-Mobile US to offer GoSmart Mobile prepaid service free, as long as the users are on Facebook.
The concept is similar to one Facebook uses in 45 countries where people typically pay for data by the minute. Facebook Zero is the name of the program in which Facebook pays for data connectivity as long as people are using Facebook.
And Facebook is also enabling fliers on seven of the largest North American airlines -- AirTran, American, Alaska Air, Delta, Frontier, United and US Airways -- to use Facebook free in-flight. Facebook is paying for passengers' GoGo access, as long as they're using Facebook.
Facebook is trying to stop bleeding users through acquisitions. When people started abandoning Facebook for Instagram, Facebook bought Instagram.
Another stratagem is to copy. For example, in the 2.5 years that Google+ has been in existence, Facebook has copied nearly every differentiating feature about that service (except for its simplicity, Hangouts, photo editing tools and lack of advertising). Facebook tried to copy the Twitter stream concept in several ways by adding asynchronous following and the Ticker. When people started using Vine, Facebook's Instagram copied its approach to capturing and sharing videos. They even tried to copy Snapchat by creating Poke.
It’s likely that Facebook will continue to do everything it can to not only stop losing users, but also try to hide the fact that its core audience is slipping away.
Don’t get me wrong. Facebook will be a large and financially successful social network for years to come.
I just think it’s likely that Facebook is a “network effects” bubble that will pop, possibly this year. When it does, the service will be relegated to an also-ran status that’s just another choice, rather than the necessary social network where everybody is and must be.
And that’s probably a good thing.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.