Tuesday, 22 May 2012

What I'd do if I were Zuck

So things aren't going very well for Facebook. As we all know, not only did the shares fail to pop, they then plummeted and more trouble seems afoot, since even the underwriting banks have slashed their revenue estimates for Facebook. Although Zuck has wedded bliss (and a couple of billion bucks) to fall back on, I suspect he's feeling a bit blue at the moment.

So I wondered, what would I do, if I were Zuck? Besides buying a yacht and an island...

1. Do something about mobile

Mobile experience and Facebook's inability to monetise it is destroying them. All this talk of emerging market consumers is meaningless if they can't be made to pay and in developed markets the iPhone/ iPad consumer is passing Facebook by.

The trouble is the Facebook isn't a platform or an ecosystem. Even Amazon - the smallest of the tech superpowers - has it's own platform (Kindle) and ecosystem (Prime). That allows it to create value through retail, lock-in through closed ecosystem and most importantly, ultimate control over the advertising experience on the platform.

Facebook is disintermediated and this is bad. Really bad. If I were Zuck, I'd buy up RIM or HTC and evolve them into Facebook Mobile, based on a social-spun Android. Friendroid, if you will. Closed, vertical integration of hardware, software and web services is the future of smart platforms and Facebook needs to be there.

Pesky problems like Zynga might go away too. They'd just be apps on a great Facebook machine.

Cost might be an issue though. $7-9Bn. Ouch.

2. Hire a designer

Facebook is a mess. There; I've said it. 5 years ago, they were sleek and cool, now they're an utter mess of design ideas that confuses and distracts. All of the other social media competitors have functional focus, like Facebook used to have.

Zuck desperately needs to restore the design identity around contacts and real world meeting that Facebook used to have. If not, then time spent on the platform is only going one way.

I'd be talking to Ideo or Frog pretty quickly, if I were him.

3. Work out what the hell a "like" really means

"Liking" has been devalued. It's too darn easy to do and it drives the wrong kind of engagement behaviour. Narcissistic supply means that people are driven to game the system to seek them out. And because it's so easy to give, others do it in the hope of mutual return.

For brands with Facebook presence it means that engagement is too hard to measure. No wonder lots of them are thinking about pulling out altogether. So Zuck needs to enforce some quality over what we like. Maybe we should have a quota... or we could scrap the whole thing and start again.

4. Re-engage with local

I've always thought one of the best things you can do with Facebook is create local social circles. Local in interest and psychology as well as geography. It kind of feels like Facebook could play on this more. Rather than "follow us on Facebook" it could get a bit Foursquare in terms of "checking in" and start to get more spontaneous around social marketing.

Wouldn't it be great if the "check in" had its own Facebook page and virtual environment? Wouldn't it be even better if Facebook threw its own events in the coolest hangouts?

If I were Zuck, I'd really want to make Facebook cool again...

But if I were a betting man...

...I'd say he won't do any of these. Enjoy the yacht, Zuck.

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