<Guest Blog Post>

5 Steps to Protect Facebook’s Future

Ever since Facebook toppled MySpace there have been people waiting for the wheel to turn again, for Facebook to fall from grace and a new startup to take its place. Entrepeneur Vivek Wadhwa is the latest to prophesy this fate, posting an article succinctly titled Facebook is doomed. But will history repeat itself? Vivek makes a key point in that it’s not enough for Facebook to rest on its laurels and just buy new ideas. It has to make changes. It has to grow, aggressively, if it’s going to survive the next game change. When I agreed with this, Cemanthe challenged me to put my money where my mouth is.

So here’s what I think Facebook needs to do in order to survive.

Step 1: Get Trust

As Vivek rightly points out, Facebook has a terrible reputation when it comes to privacy. This could be their undoing, so they need to turn over a new leaf. Make privacy settings simple and easy to find. Make privacy a default. Stop trying to claim ownership of user’s content. Once users trust Facebook again, the rest of the plan can begin to work.

Step 2: Get Mobile

Facebook’s mobile experience still lacks some of the desktop features. That’s inexcusable in a world where 63% of adults use their phones to go online and 34% use a phone as their primary Internet device. Mobile Facebook can’t be a second class citizen anymore. It needs to put mobile first.

Step 3: Get Offers

Facebook has made its money on advertising and, while it needs to get fingers into other pies, it would be foolish to do away with ads. But no-one likes ads. We skip them, we suffer them and we ignore them. We like offers. So change the ads that appear in our feeds to offers, deals and coupons. Because Facebook ads are based on our social data they should be for things we like. So we’ll take more notice of them and click on more of them. So Facebook will make more money and we’ll thank them for it.

Step 4: Get Gaming

Who remembers FarmVille? It was a sensation and everyone predicted Facebook would be a gaming platform. But we all went mobile and that never happened. Time to change that. Facebook need to start developing their own games. Stand-alone apps using the freemium model: free to download, but with plenty of in-game purchases. Logging into Facebook is mandatory to play and Facebook stores your purchase and progress data. This also allows for multiplayer with Facebook friends; you can play levels together, jump in to help each other out, lend each other items or upgrades.

Step 5: Get Trading

This is the big one. A digital currency (Facecoin?) is the end goal of this plan. Initially it would launch alongside the games and allow you to buy in-game purchases at a preferential rate. For instance, for 39p you can buy two cows. But 39p’s worth of Facecoins gets you four cows. This is how it takes off and, once it’s established, it can expand into other areas.
Imagine clicking an ad on Facebook which offers you 10% off those shoes you like.
Click again and you’ve bought them; Facebook transmits the order and the payment for you and took a cut from the seller on the way. The seller sees a higher conversion from their ad because there are fewer clicks between ad and sale. And your purchase can be (optionally) shared with your friends, further advertising the brand.

In time, Facecoins could rival Bitcoins and Paypal, combining the benefits of both. Why sign up to either when Facebook already has your details? Combined with Facebook’s now strong and developed advertising plan, Facebook could turn itself into a major social vendor.

Now this couldn’t happen overnight. Who’d trust Facebook with their credit card details right now? But if they invested the time, I really think this could work. Or do you think it’s too far-fetched? Is Facebook doomed? If it is, how would you turn its fortunes around?

James T Kelly has written for many sites, including New Media Angels, Format4Ebook and 3rd Sector Skills. He writes genre fiction and his latest short story is about a homeless superhero.

He blogs about social media, fiction and technology, and you can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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