News the other day that Facebook has seen its first drop in UK users since Nielsen Online first started collating data on the site in July 2006.
The fall – of 5% – equates to a slide from 8.9 million users in December to 8.5 million in January. Whilst this slide won’t worry either Facebook or its competitors unduly it does raise an interesting talking point…when does a lot become too much?
There is conjecture within the industry that Facebook has gotten simply too big, too homogenous, and that, as a result, it has lost its brand value.
Nic Howell, deputy editor of New Media Age says that, “social networking is as much about who isn’t on the site as who is – when Tory MPs and major corporations start profiles on Facebook, its brand is devalued.” And, as a result of this emergent bandwagon-jumping by politicians and multinationals, the site is no longer as popular amongst its core audience of the young.
Indeed, Howells goes on, these new profiles are, “driving its core user base into the arms of newer and more credible alternatives”.
Neilsen Analyst Alex Burmaster points out that the site’s early growth rates, “could not be sustained”, and that user numbers would plateau – and also that, “real growth potential lies in the niche networks – those based on a particular lifestyle or interest, such as travel, music, wealth or business”.
Put another way – Facebook got too popular, lost its brand credibility (to an extent – this is by no means a nosedive) and then shed customers to other less well-known and, consequently, “cooler” sites. Which all goes to reiterate what we already know; consumers, customers, call them what you will, like to feel as if they are in a privileged minority and as soon as that changes and they feel part of an undifferentiated majority…why, they up and leave, switch brands and start the whole process elsewhere.
With enormous companies like Facebook these problems are not terminal in the short run – but smaller outfits can find this kind of consumer behaviour very troublesome indeed…which finally leads us on to the essential and central tenet to adhere to in your brand’s growth and development;
Do not deviate from your core values.
Regularly review these values in relation to you business – it’s no good trotting out a glib soundbyte as if it were a mantra without really understanding how it relates to your business at grassroots levels. In short, regularly and objectively take stock of your position with reference to what you planned from the beginning.
This, of course, has been put more succinctly elsewhere…don’t sell out. Perhaps this is easier said than done, but when it is done properly the results can be spectacular; just ask Steve Jobs about Apple and it’s fanatical and ever-growing user-base.