Will Facebook Drink the Internet’s Milkshake?

As Facebook has added millions upon millions (now probably close to 800 million globally) of users, I started to wonder just how big it was going to get. When I read a report from the New York think tank L2 called “Facebook IQ”, it became clear the answer lies somewhere between “Facebook is a big player” and the first paragraph in the report that states in the next 36 months a new digital ecosystem could evolve where “Facebook is the Internet.” Let that sink in. Like the oil rush and ruthlessness of Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”, Facebook may in fact utter the words “I drink your milkshake” to the rest of the Internet players.

The L2 report is a prescient piece about Prestige brands, like BMW, Ferrari, and Bobbi Brown, and their Facebook Page grades on a scale from Feeble all the way to Genius across four key metrics: Size & Velocity, Programming, Engagement, and Integration. It’s worth a read, and its revelations could be applied across all vertical markets in the Internet space. Read the report, though, and you’ll start to sweat thinking you have been left behind (unless you’re one of the top Prestige brands in the report). What really leapt out at me was the prediction that the social commerce market will be $30 billion by 2015, at least according to Booz & Company.

What Could Get in the Way

To be sure, you need to be on Facebook and you need a company page. That’s where your customers are, and you’re what I call “conspicuously absent” if you don’t have a Facebook presence. If a company doesn’t have a Facebook page these days it makes you wonder about their credibility. However, several potential obstacles are in the way of Facebook actually becoming the Internet and dominating social commerce.

Facebook IPO

When Facebook goes public, ostensibly in the near future, Facebook and its business practices will come under a great deal more scrutiny. And that scrutiny can lead to some cultural and business practice changes. Will there be a mass exodus of talent when they become newly-minted millionaires? Will Facebook still be the hip place to work in 36 months?

Digital Sharecropping

You run a big risk putting all of your digital eggs in Facebook’s basket. We’ve all seen the constant changes to the site and heard the stories of Facebook deleting profiles and pages. If you build your web presence heavily around Facebook then you’re basically following a digital sharecropping strategy by building Facebook’s business and not reaping the full rewards yourself, and you, and your social commerce, are always subject to whatever Facebook decides to do.

Actual F-Commerce

Despite the social commerce forecasts, Facebook has some serious buyer objections to overcome before people will open up their wallets and conduct social commerce on Facebook. In the ‘Know – Like – Trust – then Buy’ sequence, Facebook is getting hung up on the Trust part. Consider this: A recent WebProNews article references a survey from BillingViews, and it found that 87% of people would not be comfortable buying something through Facebook, and 94% wouldn’t pay a bill through Facebook. Why is this you might ask? Security was cited as a main concern.

Competition

Right now, there is no real credible alternative to Facebook. But upstarts like the Diaspora Project and Google+ could give consumers something else to consider—as long as their friends are there. People go to Facebook because that’s where everyone else is, but ask most people and they’d be open to something else since “Facebook fatigue” began setting in a while ago. I offer here some anecdotal evidence of my own: I mentioned the new Facebook phone to a digitally savvy friend and he said flatly, “Enough. I’m getting sick of Facebook.”

What To Do

You can’t dispute the data about Facebook and its importance, nor can you put your future in someone else’s hands. Take a page from the financial investing world and apply it to your digital marketing investments: diversify, diversify, diversify. Put your domain (your website) at the center of everything you do. It’s the one thing you can control. Then use the available channels to augment your website.

By all means, go where the party is, but don’t put everything into the Facebook basket, or Twitter basket, or in any basket. A lot can happen in 36 months, and if by then Facebook has become the Internet, then you and your social commerce are covered. But what if it doesn’t? What if “something new” comes along? The fact is no one can predict what’s going to happen.

I’m sure there are differing opinions about whether or not Facebook will drink the Internet’s milkshake. What do you think?