Monday, December 14, 2009

Facebook: The Godfather of Social Media and its Identity Crisis

LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning, blogs, mobile applications: 2009 is undeniably the year that social media hit the mainstream, fast becoming ingrained in daily life and accepted by society at large. Whilst the glut of social media options now available to us ensures that we are able to communicate and brand ourselves more thoroughly than ever before, what connotations does this hold for Facebook, the Godfather of social media?

Prior to 2009’s social networking revolution, Facebook was social media. Before ‘tweet’ became a verb; before the gardener’s dog had his own blog; before we had mobile applications that showed us where cash points were, we were quite content to post a few pictures on Facebook and scrawl messages on each other’s walls. But times have changed, and in social media, that change ain’t renowned for happening slowly.

A Twitter friend of mine, @WendyJacob, whom I have also had the pleasure of meeting in real life, has used her insightful blog to discuss the function of Facebook in today’s social media-rich world. She argues that she uses Facebook purely for social reasons, which I believe is a vital question that social marketers must address.

Around eighteen months ago (comparable eons in SM terms), Facebook was your one-stop shop for social media. Comfortable cornering the market, Facebook users used the site for everything, from personal branding to chatting with friends and playing games. As we sit upon the cusp of 2010 however, an abundance of options offer us specific channels for each purpose of our lives, social and professional – so what does this mean for Facebook?

In short, Facebook is like a middle-aged father suffering an identity crisis. Threatened by the arrival of trendy new kids on the block, the site is struggling to incorporate a variety of features in order to keep up with the leading pack and offer all users everything they could possible want. It shouldn’t.

The age-old LinkedIn vs Facebook debate still rumbles on in social marketing circles. Sure, Facebook has an undeniable larger reach – put simply, it is the largest network of people in the world – but quantity does not necessarily equate to quality.

The success of channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs about gardening and applications for gaming geeks all succeed due to one common theme – they serve a specific purpose. For the majority of Generation Y (and I include myself in this demographic), Facebook will forever connote fun, friends and frivolity rather than a professional ‘Brand Me’.

Recruiters and marketers may wax lyrical about Facebook’s reach, but as with all marketing, it’s about hitting the right people in the right channel – and Facebook should remain a playground rather than a board room.

Am I alone in this sentiment?


  1. Agree entirely. I only go on Facebook to see what mood my daughter is in or if anyone else in my family and friends has done anything interesting or exciting. It will never be a recruitment m,edium for me. As for Linkedin, I see that purely as a business networking thing, I don't even class it as social media, but maybe my definition of social media differs from others. To me social media is Facebook, Myspace and twitter where you can waffle on about washing your hair, what your watxching on telly or if you fancy talk about work stuff. Linedin is purely about work isn't it?

    Here's my take on social media and how it is impacting on the jobseeker (apologies for length of article)

  2. Hi Alisdair,

    Thanks for your comments. I have to disagree with you regarding your comment that LinkedIn should not be classed as social media. Whilst LinkedIn was set up primarily as a business network for professionals to ‘brand themselves’, promote their CVs and seek connections, the site has rapidly grown to become one of the key social media sites on the market.

    There’s no denying that LinkedIn is professionally-focused; however the group function allows people to communicate and converse with each other on topics relevant to them. True, these are little more than glorified ‘forums’ from Web 1.0’s heyday, but the ability to message people, follow comments, connect, update your status, share slideshows, PowerPoint presentations, contact details – there’s no way you can deny its social credibility. In regards to its being focused on business first and foremost, surely successful business is one of the most social things we can do?!

    One element crucial to social media is that you only get out of it what you put in. Have a play around on LinkedIn – you’d be surprised how well it integrates with other social media channels. I have certainly fostered several social relationships through the site.

  3. Great article and I did agree with the premise that Facebook was for friends and family and Linkedin for professional networking. As a matter of fact I was adamant about this distinction and would politely decline accepting a friend request from a professional acquaintance. Today however, as Linkedin becomes more social with discussions and groups and Facebook becomes more professional with pages and groups I am going with the flow and believe the lines will continue to blur and result in more transparent profiles. The transition will be an easy one for some but much more difficult for those who have not been concerned with appropriate content or those who may have established less than genuine personal or company brands. The increase in the number of users on both sites will continue to soften the distinction, like it or not. Personally, I think it's a good thing.

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  5. While intrigued by your post/view, I disagree that FB only be a playground. In Italy and many other countries around the world it is important to have a meal together and often meet ones family before making large business transactions. There is a level of comfort that one wants to have in a new business partner. Who is this person, can I trust them? Facebook has the ability to be a soft form of "Brand Me" while still being fun. It has the ability to connect you on another level (a personal one) with your business contacts, making you more of a friend which should ultimately improve your business relationships.