The future of Facebook

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Once a rising star, Facebook’s future may be dim. The social networking site made a disappointing debut on the Nasdaq in May. New social media sites are building notoriety, potentially stealing away current Facebook users. Looking through the telescope, Facebook may no longer be a shooting star.

Facebook is facing serious challenges that may lead to the company’s overall decline. Those challenges include increasingly concerning privacy issues for Facebook users and the impressive competition of new social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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Fading Facebook

A poll by the Associate Press-CNBC reveals that half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad.

BYU student, Meri Gilbert said, “Even though Facebook is a once-in-a-generation idea, I think it’s appeal will fade down the road.”

Seven years ago, the social networking site didn’t exist. Now, it’s a global company valued at over $70 billion and is considered the premiere platform for online social networking.

Facebook stock went public for the first time last month. The company sold itself to Wall Street as a growing company, but it’s growth rate is slowing. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook grew only 5 percent in April, down from 89 percent in April 2010.

“I used to be on Facebook 20 times a day, at least,” Gilbert said. “But now, I only check my Facebook page occasionally, usually after I’ve spent time on other sites.”

People are less addicted to the site than they once were. “When grandma’s on Facebook sending you invites to play ‘Armies of Magic,’ you’d much rather be off Facebook than on Facebook,” Gilbert said.

Not only are average Facebook users doubtful about the social network’s longevity, but investors are concerned as well.

Facebook makes a profit primarily through advertisements. But, with 57 percent of Facebook users reporting they never click on advertisements, and another quarter of users reporting they rarely click on advertisements, the social network may be close to running it’s course.

Why is Facebook Becoming Obsolete?

Facebook’s privacy settings are not trusted by Facebook users. Three of five Facebook users say they don’t trust Facebook to protect their personal information, while half of Facebook users say they wouldn’t feel safe buying things on the network.

Natalie Chambers, director of internships and career services for the communications department at BYU, explained that while she feels fairly confident in privacy settings on Facebook, Facebook users should be careful how they use them.

“We encourage students to reduce their social media footprint as much as possible in preparation for applying for an internship or job,” Chambers said. “Employers look at Facebook all the time.”

Furthermore, Facebook is facing competition from dozens of other social networking sites. Pinterest was created two years ago and has since become the third largest social networking site in the United States.

Jeff O’Bryant, a BYU—Idaho graduate, attempted to launch a social networking medium a few years ago that would provide social networking features within a blogging platform. “What people really needed was for Facebook to introduce more blogging features.”

O’Bryant said that varying social networks are important.

“Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn all satisfy things for me that Facebook doesn’t,” O’Bryant said.

New social networking sites offer more specified services for users. LinkedIn provides professionals with networking tools. Seventy-seven percent of job listings on social networking sites are found on LinkedIn, compared to 25 percent on Facebook. Twitter’s format creates high volumes of traffic, a valuable tool for bloggers and news media.

“I think if you can find a niche that Facebook doesn’t satisfy, you’ll have a pretty good chance at competing with Facebook,” O’Bryant said.

Facebook’s Future

Beki Winchel, a social media and communications intern at Listen Technologies said, “Facebook is the foundational platform for social media efforts.”

In spite of dramatically reduced growth rates, competition and privacy concerns, Facebook isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. The social networking company has taken some steps to procure a long and profitable future.

“Where I see the decline of Facebook—where it’s already happening—is that people are spending less time on the platform,” Winchel said. “Facebook is trying to fix this by purchasing Instagram, linking Facebook with Pinterest and having its own check-in feature.”

Facebook users who were once weary of the site have found a revival of interest through the Facebook mobile app.

Jared Nielson, a BYU student studying advertising, said, “I never log onto Facebook on my personal computer anymore, but I’m on Facebook on my iPhone constantly.”

Among other things, the app allows users to locate themselves through GPS and post to their profile where they are and who they are there with.

“Even though I’m spending a lot more time on other networking sites, all my friends are on Facebook,” Nielson said. “I’ll be a Facebook user for a long time to come.”

As social networking evolves, Facebook will continue to face challenges. But as the largest social networking medium in the world, Facebook is poised to continue as the star of online networking.

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