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Has Facebook Hit a Wall?

Rusted Facebook

After years of huge growth, Facebook is starting to show some rust.

According to this article and others like it, a good portion of Facebook users are spending less time on the social networking haven. Some cite boredom, others privacy concerns as the reason they are taking a break from the site or deactivating their accounts altogether.

Reasons Why Facebook has Hit a Wall

In my opinion, there are a few reasons why many people are spending less time on Facebook:

  1. They’ve found their friends – After you’ve been a member for awhile, it seems pretty obvious that you found your friends from high school already and you know what they’re up to. It’s unlikely that many of the people you want to connect with aren’t on Facebook. Now that you’ve caught up with them, what else is there?
  2. Privacy concerns scare users – How many news stories have you read or watched in the past couple of years that detail concerns for how Facebook uses your personal data? This doesn’t create a trusting relationship between Facebook and its users. Not to mention the security risks of being hacked or getting a virus from 3rd party apps.
  3. New “features” have complicated the experience – Personally, I liked Facebook a whole lot more when I joined it in 2009. It was less of a hassle. The interface had a great simplicity and I didn’t all of the sudden lose updates from certain friends. Facebook has made it harder to do what the site is meant for: connecting with people.
  4. Business pages have less reach – I know Facebook has to make money. But the changes to business pages have really soured me on the service. When I post something to my page, for example, only about 25% of those who “like” my page will actually see what I post. Facebook now wants businesses to pay to reach their fan base. Not cool!
  5. There’s only so much you can grow – The unrealistic expectations of Wall Street are that companies will just grow more and more each year. Well, when you already have hundreds of millions of users, how many more do you really expect to sign up? Facebook (and every other company) is not a perpetual growth machine.

This is a huge challenge for Facebook. How exactly do you keep users engaged after so many years? How do you entice more people to sign up or come back after a hiatus? How does Facebook prevent itself from turning into another MySpace?

How to Fix Facebook

For one, I think Facebook needs to focus on making things as simple as possible for users. Some features they have rolled out have helped in this area, especially in the photo sharing realm. Still, things change so rapidly that, once users get used to doing something, some marketing wizard at Facebook decides to change it. That itself has to change.

Radically changing how common tasks are done, forcing users to accept new privacy terms by default and not being open with its community has done some damage. The company needs to listen to its users and change some of their more offensive practices.

I’m a firm believer that you really can make money and do right by your customers at the same time. That, more than anything, will keep Facebook users happy.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the competition. There are simply too many competitors to name. While it’s certainly not impossible that one of these other social media sites rises up and outdoes Facebook, right now they are still the king of the hill.

Facebook has some time to figure things out and improve its service. Still, the faster they improve, the better chance they have of staying at the top.