17 Apr Who, If Anyone, Will Be the Next Facebook?
Facebook has been all over the news in recent months, and not for good reasons. While it’s hard to picture a world where it isn’t the biggest social media network, nothing is ever certain in social media. Few people anticipated Facebook would be the behemoth it is today; it follows that we won’t predict “the next Facebook” either. But let’s take our best shot.
Since Facebook is all but saturated in the U.S. market, it’s unlikely that people will actually stop using it until a replacement arrives. So, the next Facebook would have to have all of what makes Facebook great, while solving key issues that Facebook hasn’t be able to.
Let’s address some of Facebook’s biggest problems
PROBLEM #1: ACCURACY OF CONTENT
Recent news stories regarding the spread of disinformation and false news might be Facebook’s biggest challenge. Additional issues with bots (Russian, or otherwise) and pages intentionally posting false, inflammatory subject matter certainly contribute to the concern that the content we see on Facebook isn’t accurate.
So how should the next Facebook look to prevent this issue? One potential answer: community policing. Facebook has hesitated in giving the users the power to downvote or “dislike” content – when similar mechanisms, like the upvote/downvote process at Reddit or Wikipedia’s community of policing editors, have helped keep content accurate. Instead, Facebook has employed teams of employees to take down content manually once it’s been reported – which hasn’t been very effective in stopping the spread of bad content. With over 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook giving the power over to the community to prevent the spread of negative or inaccurate content might be the answer. Or, perhaps it’ll be the answer for Facebook’s replacement.
PROBLEM #2: CONTENT CREATION
Facebook’s many algorithm adjustments over the past few years have often been all or partially aimed at getting people to see more content – because users aren’t creating it like they used to.
With fewer people sharing original content, Facebook has even tried to prioritize personal content over branded, public or sponsored content. It’s a step in the right direction for the user experience, but if friends aren’t posting, your Facebook feed gets boring quickly.
So, the next Facebook can solve this by doing one-two things – either get people to post more, or add in more content. It’s not surprising to think that the next social media platform will be more of a media company than a community – think of popular sites like Buzzfeed – so let’s go that route. Buzzfeed produces hundreds of pieces of content a day with a mix of paid writers and community contributors. There’s always something new to see there – the next Facebook should make that their goal.
PROBLEM #3: USER SECURITY & DATA COLLECTION
With the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, people are warier than ever about the sheer breadth of information that Facebook is maintaining on them. Facebook would likely argue that the data collection is for making the platform more suited to your activity, improving the experience etc., but ultimately the largest reason Facebook is collecting the data is because of how valuable it is.
User activity data like this is valuable in many ways, but let’s focus on the #1 reason Facebook is collecting your data – to entice advertisers to buy ad space on the platform. In fact, Facebook might argue that the platform can’t exist without the massive amounts of ad dollars being spent- roughly $40 billion in 2017 alone. But, success stories in the subscription realm like Netflix or Hulu suggest that there are other ways to make money outside of running advertisements. Recently, social app Vero made a splash by saying no advertising would be present on the channel, instead charging users a fee. However the next Facebook decides to handle user data they collect, transparency and a “less is more” attitude will likely win them a large fan base.
When it comes to knowing who the next Facebook is, it’s anyone’s guess. But, if an app can solve the three problems above, I know I’d sign up for it.
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