Conquering New Horizons: Can Facebook Measure up to the Real World?

By Nicole Edry September 26, 2011

Facebook has already conquered many things, including virtual cross-promotion. Most times when I read an article or stumble upon a new website, I always see an option to “Like” on Facebook, sometimes accompanied by the “Tweet” or “Tumblr” option. Now that the world’s social networking system is going mobile, the game is changing quite a bit. New players are emerging, new alliances are being forged, and new terrain is being discovered.

Exactly how much of the world’s population are we talking about here? Well, in reference to ABI Research’s Mobile Social Networking 2011 report, it’s a mind-boggling amount. “The number of people accessing social networks from mobile phones will exceed 550 million in 2011, and that figure will more than triple to over 1.7 billion by the end of 2016…over two-thirds of the global user base of social networks will use smartphones and other mobile handsets to access the services.”  Forget laptops, now that people have even more portable and convenient options they can stay plugged in all the time. Social networking is being taken to a whole new level, one that is not without complications.

Not only does Facebook have to worry about accommodating all the new users that can now access via mobile phones, they also have to worry about being relegated to just another application. Online, they have a clearly established dominance even over the most popular social networking sites. In terms of Facebook vs. Twitter, the numbers don’t lie. According to a February eMarketer report, 42.3 percent of the entire American population was using the site whereas Twitter only had 7 percent of the people. There is no question which is the most massively popular website, one that has really become more of a tour de force than just a standard networking site. According to numerous sources, it is just behind Google as the most widely trafficked Internet site in the world.

However, on an iPhone or any other smartphone, Facebook is just one of the numerous apps available. How can they compete with Angry Birds, or Google Maps, or Pandora, or others that are not even remotely social networking sites? Especially since games are the most popular apps by far. “Applications in the Games category of the App Store made up 55 percent of all applications in the top 100 apps in both the free and paid categories.”

While Facebook does have games, it is less of a touch-n-go process, and people would understandably prefer having instant access to fun at their fingertips. In 2010, the UK Independent released some interesting data that helps illuminate just what Facebook is up against. In Blackberry, Droid and iPhone/iPad lists of top 5 most popular free apps, Facebook only appears once.

Most Popular Smartphone Apps:

Highest ranked free applications, Apple App Store for iPad (US, Q3 2010):?

1.      iBooks

2.      Netflix?

3.      Real Solitaire Free for iPad?

4.      ABC News for iPad?

5.      The Weather Channel Max for iPad

Highest ranked free applications, BlackBerry App World (Worldwide, Q3 2010):?

1.      BlackBerry Messenger?

2.      BlackBerry App World?

3.      Pandora?

4.      Poynt?

5.      Hangman

Highest ranked free applications excluding games, Google Android Market (US, Q3 2010):?

1.      Pandora Radio?

2.      Google Maps?

3.      Advanced Tasks Killer?

4.      Facebook for Android?

5.      T-Mobile My Account

In reality, it is an ancient economic dilemma, although framed in the most modern of stages. What is the best way to capitalize on an incredibly fast-growing consumer base when the dominant edge in your current market has been tempered with an entirely new and substantially larger competitive group? Facebook has to find a way to maintain its online status of top dog without losing ground against apps it can’t just evolve to compete against. It’s like playing minor leagues and pros at same exact time, except the minors are strictly baseball and the pros also include basketball, golf, hockey, curling, and every other sport known to man. (Even though social networking sites are hardly minor league.)

And if the social networking and mobile phone worlds are the major and minor leagues, then its players are participating in a middle school gym class as well. The team captains are choosing and discarding prospective team members and rivals like a business world kickball game. Not to mix metaphors, but it almost reads like a soap opera love tangle. Originally Apple and Facebook were in cahoots, but then decided to go for Twitter instead. Perhaps they were threatened because Facebook will need to build a new mobile phone service in order to accommodate the ever-extending base of consumers. Google is in bed with Android, and its new social networking system Google Plus seems to be well-received so far.

Facebook has responded by teaming up with Microsoft (in June 2011) and most recently with HTC Status, the only mobile phone with a Facebook button. I can actually remember the commercial: A friend is sleeping, drooling and making a fool of himself in the airport. His giggling friends take a picture, he turns blue, and as they push the FACEBOOK button he is uploaded for the world to see. I remember thinking “is a specific button really necessary?” While I most definitely know the commercial and the app, I didn’t remember which phone it was until I looked it up online. Which begs the question: can Facebook ever truly be in partnership with anyone, even if they’re not in the same market?

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Contributor

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