Is Facebook losing its personal touch?
Facebook’s story sounds much like the life story of the average human being. It started life in a world of academia, as TheFacebook.com; an exclusive network for Harvard University students. It “graduated” a few years later and opening itself up to a world of opportunities for businesses and the general public.
No one can really argue that Facebook has taken social media out of this world. Everywhere you go, even if you’re not connected to the internet, near your laptop, or on your smartphone/tablet, it’s likely you’re exposed to social media in some form. TV programmes often have hashtags tied to them for viewers to get involved, and in return for a Like or tweet, retailers sometimes offer customers exclusive rewards.
But has Facebook grown too dramatically over its 10 year life? Is it trying to do too much? Today it is a main arena for many of us to keep in contact with friends and organise our social lives. Businesses use it to engage customers and reach audiences they may not have been able to reach had Facebook never become what it is today.
Some might argue that through recent developments Facebook is losing its touch. Earlier this year Facebook launched clickable hashtags and is now reported to be testing trending topics. Sound familiar? Hashtags and trending topics have been around on Twitter since its birth, and are instrumental in driving conversation and, in some instances, increasing brand awareness on the platform. Facebook has made no secret of the fact that it wants to become a more conversational platform, but is this feasible? Possibly not. Many people prefer to keep their Facebook profiles private; most likely because it’s a more “personal” platform, and people share updates of their lives with their network which they might not want the general public to see. – I’m talking about those photos of you after having too many drinks, which you probably don’t want a potential employer to see.
In my view, Facebook’s attempt to become more conversational by following Twitter’s example is a mistake. For a social network where much of the user data is private, there is little vaue in searchable hashtags or trending topics…unless a large proportion of your connections are discussing the same topics, in which case, you'd see these appear in your News Feed anyway.
Beyond the privacy factor, if you look at the big social networks, each has its own unique selling point. Twitter is good for having conversations with anyone, anywhere, which you can dip in and out of at your leisure. LinkedIn is a professional network (you wouldn’t find any photos from your house party on there). MySpace is trying to become more music-oriented, and Google+ is ideal for link building. And Facebook? That’s for your personal life.
Trying to break into the territory of a rival network could be a risky move, and in the long term could devalue what Facebook brings to the social media space. Facebook hashtags have been around for a few months now, and have had minimal impact so far. If hashtags aren’t catching on, I can see little value in trending topics.