I had an interesting conversation with a Brand Manager recently. He was wondering why the numbers on Facebook are beginning to decrease (as per reports around the time that Facebook made their public intentions public). All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. How do I answer this question? Here are brand managers who really are working themselves up the curve in the Digital Space and I don’t think they need anything to sway this learning curve, especially anything negative on a buzz word like social media. My deduction was that there could be two answers to the question on hand here. One, the reports are all false to effect the valuation of the company. Two, its very possible in markets that have reached their tipping point and cannot grow anymore and hence the numbers either taper or start to decline. Since the markets in question were the US and UK market, I would go with the latter. The report does not necessarily mean that members are moving out of Facebook, it merely denotes the growth rate had slowed down (oh and they have even coined a phrase for it - the Facebook Fatigue Syndrome).
Thankfully, India has a long way to go before reaching that point.
A seemingly bigger problem that we will face in the near future is the number of social media networks being introduced in the market. With more social media networks being introduced, the traffic and membership is bound to be scattered making it difficult for a brand to decide which network he/she should concentrate their social media efforts on.
With regards to social media, Orkut first reigned but was quickly overtaken by Facebook and now Google+ is trying to make a run for the title. In the first week a lot of my friends were raving about Google+ (albeit on Facebook) and some have started using the network too. However, they have not stopped using Facebook and I don’t see them stopping too. The base that Facebook has acquired is too big to ignore and that is the prime basis of a successful social networking site. I do not believe two social networking websites can co-exit if they are based on the same vector. If Google+ was introduced to counter Facebook it will fail. The bigger fish will gobble the small fish (and in this case its Google ... can you believe it!!!). But if you have two social media networks like Facebook and Linkedin, catering two different segments of your life (the personal and professional), they can very well co-exist as there is no clash in the purpose of being present on these networks.
So what will the impact of Google+ make in the India market? Google is aware of the growth of this market and more than trying to convert Facebook users they will concentrate on trying to get those that are virgin to the social media space. Easier to convert since they are not habituated to a specific social media network. Another area where they can get an advantage over Facebook is to concentrate on their developers as they will be the future for the network. Facebook has never been good with secure sharing and the circles feature in Google+ could work in Google’s favor, though Facebook has a feature like this its just not represented in a good way and it seems to get lost in the bundle of features on offer.
I still feel that Google will fall short purely on the basis of the larger numbers on Facebook (read - ‘all my friends are on Facebook why should I be anywhere else’).
Be that as it may, I believe its about time we see some serious competition in the space of social media. With competition comes greater features and benefits to the consumer and that’s what we all want.
Carlton D’Silva is the Creative Director at Hungama Digital Media and has spent over 15 years in the digital space. He takes insult when you call the digital medium new media…15 years should be old enough! Find him on twitter @TheWordOfGawd