In the past year Facebook has publicised its efforts to increase its monetary value by introducing new advertising opportunities. As a result it seems as if the site has started to forget about its users and focus entirely on making advertisers happy. Users may not be necessarily leaving the site, but it's certainly leaving them disgruntled and here's why.
Introducing intrusive advertising into its user's newsfeed was a disaster that saw a multitude of complaints from people receiving them. Whilst much of this flack has been directed at brands surely Facebook should take the blame? The site now misunderstands its user - who wants to be directly sold to whilst interacting with friends? No-one. At the end of last year Google's VP Bradley Horowitz made the humorous analogy for the new ads, comparing it to someone chatting on the street with a man in a sandwich board jumping up and down in the middle. This may be a far-fetched comparison, but it's not far from the truth.
The site has also launched a "buy tickets" option on the events pages - which to be honest seems like a pointless feature. Designed to boost Facebook's ecommerce offering, it demonstrates exactly the opposite. On clicking, you're taken to the promoter's site, taking the sale outside of Facebook. This serves no benefit to the customer and actually increases the links in the chain. The user might as well go direct to the ticket seller.
Though Facebook may be lacking in innovative functions for its users, will it actually encourage them to leave the platform in the next couple of years? Facebook was one of the first sites to offer consumers a service that collates various social interactions so it's unlikely to be relinquished. However, this doesn't mean other social sites aren't offering better and more innovative functionality for social media fans.
So what's working well elsewhere? Twitter's recent introduction of Vine is a far more effective example. In classic Twitter style, Vine allows users to post short six second clips. As well as being brief and snappy, it's very fitting to its audience. It also offers limitless possibilities for creativity, as users need to make impactful and simple content within the constraints of the medium. Recently during London Fashion Week Vine really came to the forefront, with designers and editors taking short clips of behind the scenes footage and catwalk shows which were shared exponentially on the site.
The launch of Google+ has been an anti-climax and it's a platform that hasn't been picked up by many. However, Facebook should not ignore Google's focus in putting the user at the centre, improving interactivity and offering an unparalleled functionality that can't always be gained offline. Of particular interest is "Google Hangouts" where users can video chat, play games together, share videos or even work on a document.
Facebook's rivals have been around a long time and some might argue that they are still yet to take the crown. However, by putting advertisers first and offering little in the way of innovation, Facebook's users will start looking to other sites such as Twitter, Google+ and other upcoming social media sites such as Meetup, to gain a richer and more immersive experience. One that perhaps isn't a reflection of real life, but acts to enhance and build upon our every day experiences in an innovative and exciting way.
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