Mack at The Viral Garden, has just posted an article that we at Pandemic Labs find particularly poignant given our own interest in the social media space and Facebook in particular. Aptly titled, “The Myspacing of Facebook“, Mack explains Facebook’s march towards “monetizing its users” (a very on point commentary for so few words) and his predictions that Facebook will repeat ‘errors’ committed so recently by Myspace. This entry is short and to the point and uses Paul (from HeeHawMarketing)’s quote to great effect, however I believe that it does come off as possibly more harsh than is appropriate for the reality of the situation.
It is clear from both his commentary and his abandonment of Myspace that Mack thinks that Myspace’s declining traffic numbers and plateauing user numbers are evidence of failure on the part of Myspace to cater to the community. Furthermore, he makes clear that he feels Facebook is committing, or has committed, these same cardinal sins of social media. While his argument and position are strong, I feel that there are some valid points and views not openly considered in this post.
To begin, the basis for his argument against Facebook is the assertion that Myspace is somehow failing due to the leveling off of its users base. I feel this assumption is dubious at best. At some point, the inquisitive reader might ask questions such as, “How many users does it take to be ‘successful’ in Mack’s eyes?”, “Could this be a temporary leveling off rather than a sign of collapse?” and “Could Myspace’s leveling off simply be evidence that Myspace has reached the limits of the market for this particular type of social media outlet at this particular time?”. To be sure, I would LOVE to own a stock with a chart such as this (given that this alleged failure on Myspace’s part is evidenced by approximately a 35% increase in Daily Reach over the last year according to Alexa.com). Mack’s bold assertion of Myspace’s failure to “put the community first” seems similar in timbre to the sounds of people on CNBC arguing that Google’s stock was overpriced and failing while it stalled in the $450 range for three months earlier this year. I don’t know about you, but I was buying GOOG hand over fist at that point and have been handsomely rewarded on almost every day since. All stock analogies aside, it seems that there have to be a finite number of people in the world at any given point that have the desire or means to use Myspace. Maybe what we’re witnessing is this limit being approached rather than an overall grassroots rebellion against the monetization of the user base.
Additionally, Mack seems to ignore Paul’s assertion that the stepwise changes to Myspace and Facebook are orchestrated for maximum acceptance by the user base as a whole. I’m reminded of a similar situation as related in “Negotiation Bootcamp” by Ed Brodow of all books. Mr. Brodow explains how his gym tried to convert two of the four handball courts into places for more traditional lifting and cardio equipment. To accomplish this task, with a very vocal and passionate group of handball players at to the gym to contend with, the gym announced the conversion of ALL FOUR courts. In the uproar that ensued, the gym management “listened” to the the handball playing contingent and “decided” to only replace two of the courts since the handball players were so passionate about their sport. Brodow’s commentary shows that this gambit is a very successful tool for making an existing user base feel listened to and respected (and therefore unlikely to leave) while at the same time accomplishing the intended goal. Paul’s article makes this exact point very successfully in regards to Facebook and the new “beacon” platform. I agree with Paul that it is likely that Facebook is asking for more than it actually wants in an effort to appease and maintain the respect of the community. Mack doesn’t address this key point of Paul’s and it leaves me wanting to hear his opinion on the tactic.
A final point regarding Mack’s very timely is a point that Pandemic Labs has to constantly remind itself when designing media campaigns for our clients: The average internet user probably isn’t as tapped in or as radical-transparency oriented as a successful blogger such as Mack. I would argue, that most people are unfortunately NOT as thoughtful, demanding or picky as Mack when it comes to their internet experience and are absolutely fine with Myspace as it stands. As someone who personally shares Mack’s displeasure at the disregard for the community being exhibited by Myspace, I wish all users shared our view on this issue but realize this is far from the case. To use a cliche television example, American Idol is still one of the top rated shows in America. Can we really argue that the average person consistently requires or demands excellence and moral congruence from their entertainment providers?