Did Facebook just shoot itself in the foot?

If you haven’t already heard, there’s this thing called Facebook and it’s kind of a big deal. Strike that, Facebook is enormous. Facebook now has more users than the entire United States population–thrice. Think about that–if every child, every bum, every grandparent alive in America last year were to create three Facebook accounts, that still wouldn’t add up to as many users as Facebook now has.

Now I’m not using America as the example to be ethnocentric, but rather to illustrate the perspective enourmousness of this social media platform. From what I understand, the world population hovers somewhere around 7 billion. So 1/7 of all people on the planet are using Facebook. That’s a lot of status updates.

With that recent mark, Facebook has release its first major ad. It’s a video about chairs, the universe, and (you guessed it) Facebook.

Now I’m no economist or business expert, but this move is very interesting.

Up until this point in time, I think Facebook has done a pretty good job of framing their product as a tool or a resource. Most people don’t think of Facebook as a business which can be competed against (or at least that’s my assumption). Sure, there have been a few flings with platforms like Google+ and the new myspace (which actually looks kind of sweet), but when it comes to social networking it’s pretty obvious who the big dog is.

That said, I think that this ad may change things a bit. A very small bit, but a bit nonetheless. The video released by Facebook is beautiful–no question about it. That makes sense when you hear that they recruited the director of the movie Babel to make it. But my contention is that Facebook creating ads like this may actually be counterproductive to what they want to accomplish. Ads imply competition.

If you are advertising to me, it means that you are trying to sell me something–that I have a choice. So with a company like Facebook which has for song long maintained a stranglehold on an industry choosing to advertise, it sends weird vibes. Facebook was built on the strength of word of mouth networking. People talked to people talked to people about this new cool way to interact. But maybe (just maybe) Facebook is now getting a bit greedy with their empire. After a disappointing show in the stock market, could Facebook be trying to a bit too hard to make itself profitable? Or are we as a society in too deep to care or notice?

Chances are, if you’re reading this post you heard about it via Facebook. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s the first place I go as soon as I open my laptop and it’s almost always up on my computer. I don’t hate it. In fact, I think it’s a very clean, fun, efficient networking platform. But I wonder if this ad signals the fact that Facebook is in fact a company with shareholders and loss statements. I wonder if more people will pay attention to other platforms or at least realize they have a choice. What do you think?

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One response to “Did Facebook just shoot itself in the foot?

  1. I don’t know about shooting themselves in the foot. I think what they’re doing is trying to go against the notion that Facebook is simply a tool or resource, mainly because that feels very utilitarian. In addition, Facebook has long been synonymous with Farmville and poking and useless notifications, so I think they’re trying to get away from that and still keep Facebook strong, so if there ever is a strong competitor, then they’ll be ready for them.

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