June 13, 2012

Facebook will remain king, but social pure plays will fade


Facebook collage by Jennifer Daniel

Look for the rise of sites with deep social features

This is second of a three-part series on Facebook as an investment. Also see:
Facebook’s biggest barrier to enormous wealth? Trust
Brands: How to cut your exposure to Facebook business risk

Christopher RollysonFacebook will remain the dominant popular social network in many markets for many years, and it won’t have to worry about being “displaced” by another social network the way that it displaced MySpace. In the near term, this lack of competition will give the company some breathing room, but a more daunting threat awaits: the waning of social network pure plays’ influence by 2017. Nonetheless, the fate of pure plays should be top of mind for serious Facebook investors: to produce the fabulous returns that current investors expect, Facebook will have to move far beyond adverts.

In part one of this series, I argued that Facebook had a significant trust gap with users that would inhibit its ability to monetize its most unique and valuable assets, and that the trust gap was recently compounded by its “IPO irregularities.” Below I’ll take a different tack and analyze the investment prospects of Facebook the platform.

Social networks’ disappointing investment results

Pure play social networks (Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn) have not lived up to investors’ ROI aspirations, despite the fact that people (‘users”) have loved the networks and lavished mind-boggling amounts of time on them. The Web 1.0 logic behind investor expectations held that the more time people spent on the sites, the more ads they would see and the more they would click. #fail

In retrospect, it is understandable that pure plays’ management and investors didn’t appreciate social networks’ social context. It turns out that very few people understand the intricacies of “sociality,” much less how to wire it into a value proposition or a business ROI. Continue reading

January 11, 2010

2010 predictions & recommendations for Web 2.0 and social networks

How mass collaboration is transforming company and culture

2010_PredictChristopher RollysonAs chronicled in the just-published Decade in Review 2000-2009, the 21st century is proving to be volatile and disruptive in every way, and 2010 will continue the trend. Three disruptive forces are converging: the relative value of the Industrial Economy continues to fall as overproduction reigns. Globalization is replete with extras that people at the head table didn’t order. Most imperceptibly yet poignantly, the emerging Knowledge Economy is digitizing communications and changing the economics of knowledge and relationships.

Web 2.0 and social networks drive down the cost of communication, which accelerates volatility because when people talk, ideas change and lead to action, and digital conversations happens faster and less expensively. Social networks are rapidly making the Web human, thereby attracting an ever-larger portion of all human communications online. In 2009, adoption reached critical mass, ramping strongly among consumers, so many enterprises are following. The Web 1.0 adoption rhythm is very instructive.

Pervasive Web 2.0 also means reexamination or disruption of most areas of life, culture, society, government and business because social networks alter how many and what kind of relationships people have. The impact is similar to Ford’s production line, except it is more powerful: it scales relationships. Large organizations will remain in a profound state of turmoil because they were not built with withstand the volatility these forces are unleashing. Many Fortune 500 companies will be confronted with their survival, and some will not make it. Entire industries will consolidate over the next several years (automotive, airlines, banking, hotels, food, consumer goods…). Web communications mean we consume novelty far more quickly, which curtails product life cycles and leads to ultra-fast commoditization. Companies will require unprecedented innovation to even stay in place. New entrants around the world compete for customers and leverage their lower costs and better innovation processes. And Web 2.0 is still in the early stages of adoption.

This dynamism elevates opportunity and threat for executives and their organizations, so our focus here is to lay out probable milestones for 2010 to assist executives in business strategy and career planning for 2010 and beyond. First, I will lay out predictions, on which I’ll build for my 2010 recommendations. By the way, this follows Year in Review—2009/Social Networking Gains Legs on Heavy Seas and Decade in Review 2000-2009/The Rise of Web 2.0, the New Pervasive Human Space. Continue reading