Social Networks a Fad… again

Back in August of 2006, I wrote a post entitled, Social Networks as Fads.  To recap, my thesis of social networks was that there was always going to be a ‘flavor of the moment’ and that once everyone gets sick of that flavor OR something new and exciting comes out (which is every 6 months now), that social network will lose the majority of it’s dominance.

The analogy I used is the NYC Club Scene.  A “hot” club cannot be hot for too long.  Chances are, the following summer, the club will either not exist or it will have a totally different crowd.

After reading through my RSS feeder this morning, I see news about Steve Ballmer saying that Facebook could be a fad.  I thought he was going to pour significant money into Facebook at an insane valuation.  Would I do that if it was a fad?

Facebook is certainly interesting.  There is an entire ecosystem of companies built around Facebook that should provide it some staying power.  There are also a lot of unknowns at this point.  The ecosystem around FB was built because it’s fairly open.  When FB starts to charge tolls or other fees for accesing data on FB, how will the current ecosystem play out?

Trendsetters inherently like to be where other people aren’t.  The Killers, the Lower East Side, All-Stars, Spice Market, Apt, and others.  Now that there are tens of millions of people on Facebook, will the trendesetters move elsewhere and start another goldrush?

On one hand, I believe that this may happen.  It’s happened before and history repeats itself more often than not.  However, I think Facebook is starting to attract the mainstream audience of users which tends to move slower.  According to this article, we’re moving into The Bowling Alley crowd.

Once across the Chasm, the Bowling Alley phase begins, representing the early majority. The creation of the whole product to fulfill the needs of a niche market requires an additional strategy beyond product leadership: customer intimacy. Once the whole product satisfies the needs of a niche market, pragmatists embrace the technology, and a “pin” — as Moore calls it — is knocked over. Technology vendors should seek a beachhead that will allow them to leverage their success in one niche market to attack another.

Where this all plays out, I have no idea.  I’m watching carefully though.

  • Nate Westheimer

    A thoughtful post, Darren. One thing I’m realizing is that I’m needing Facebook a lot less than I like it. That being said, your “fad” concept holds up in my book.

    It’s true that if FB truly hits the mainstream, things change; but overall, all this talk about FB’s defensible advantage being that people are investing themselves in their platform is missing the point.

    So far I’ve not invested anything, with the exception of my photos, I could not easily recreate on another site. If Facebook vanished, I’m sure my network would organically reconstitute somewhere else. Facebook is not in the clear by any means.

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  • Christien Louviere

    Nate hit the nail on the head. If I was Mark, I’d cash out. 12 months ago it was all over MySpace and since FB is opened up, it’s all about FB. I think it’s great, but it’s not in the clear.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but recently I saw a strong parallel to GeoCities. There are many users on FB today that would respond, “What’s GeoCities?”

  • falicon

    This was a great old post to re-discover (via search of course) now that we have the advantage of hindsight…seems like it has avoided ‘fad’ status so far…

  • falicon

    This was a great old post to re-discover (via search of course) now that we have the advantage of hindsight…seems like it has avoided 'fad' status so far…