Will Wall Street “Like” Facebook In The Long Haul?

As a social media brand strategist, it’s often hard for me to leave Facebook out of the equation entirely in recommendations. Oh, it happens. But not as much as other social media channels that could be completely left out of the media mix.

That part of “buying in” to Facebook is relatively easy, whether that means creating a Facebook Page, choosing Facebook Ads, etc. Practically everyone I know is on it and some of those people don’t hop from social network to social network with ease. So I don’t see Facebook disappearing anytime soon. I think it’s going to be around for a while, which is more than I can say for other social media channels that come and go.

Yet, the new part of “buying in,” literally buying Facebook stock, may give some people a degree of pause. Here’s why. The question becomes whether or not we believe it can continue to evolve and give us new, exciting experiences vs. having reached its peak.

This is going to be a huge challenge for Mark Zuckerberg because on one hand, he has to not only bring those new developments to the table to appease a new audience of investors but he also has to appease an audience of users who can be extremely sensitive to change (Timeline or Beacon, anyone?). Granted, people have to deal with that change and unless it’s a colossal miscalculation on Facebook’s part, I don’t see those users switching away with each evolution.

But when you think of Apple, for example, is it easy for you to imagine their next evolution without enraging a core group of fans? Sure, I can see that. Not everybody may buy, say, an iPad mini version, but it’s probably not going to be met with a backlash by those who don’t buy it.

When you think of Google, there are different products that are put forth from the company – some make it, some don’t – but we still by and large turn to Google for what we need, whether that means search, Google+, AdWords, etc.

It’s potentially harder for people with Facebook because so many changes they have affect the whole of the product. We can’t easily select what we want and don’t want from Facebook. They just do it and it’s our option to put up with it or leave entirely. They tell us these changes are good and we, sometimes reluctantly, have to go along with it because it’s not worth leaving behind the connections we have.

The other hard question to ask is this – do we want a social media department store? Because if Facebook evolves, it may have to keep adding on and buying companies like Instagram. But what if we don’t want all of our social media in only one place? Maybe we like having Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. in many different channels rather than One Channel To Rule Them All. If we look at physical department stores like Borders and Circuit City, we can see that the strategy of having many media under one roof doesn’t play with the public as well all the time as you’d expect.

Can a social media network actually reach a point where it becomes too big, too clunky, too fast? This concept has happened with other industries. Whether you buy Facebook may depend on whether or not you buy into the belief that each evolution they make will be fluid, intuitive and elegant or like turning around an aircraft carrier.

Why I do buy about Facebook is this much – there will be change, a portion of the audience won’t like that change (inevitable with an audience this massive), the size of that portion will depend on how great the change is and there will continue to be new players in the social media universe – not to take down Facebook entirely, but to outdo certain features.

I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of Zuckerberg. But he’s got quite the challenge at the opening bell.

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