If my own “friends” can be used as an averaging sample, I’d say the answer is no.
I’m not dissing social media—Facebook in particular, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or any of the others—and I won’t because it’s already become an interesting part of my work as a professional communicator. I don’t think we’ve even come close to realizing the business and branding potential of social media. When else in time—aside from when we were still selling bottles of tonic off a horse and buggy to a crowd of settlers—has business had a chance to have a real conversation with the individuals they too often see as a lump of target market? And if they’re being honest, most companies will admit that they’re still sliding around the surface of what is possible, trying to figure out what works for them. They’ll get there. Watch a few early TV commercials and try not to squirm.
Small businesses in particular have so much to gain—social media is relatively cheap compared to other media, it’s doesn’t require a gargantuan effort and fulfils one of the commandments of content marketing—that every company can be a broadcaster or publisher. I don’t understand why every artist, photographer, interior, graphic or fashion designer—anyone who works in a visual medium—doesn’t have a portfolio on Pinterest. And I can’t figure out why businesses are staying away in groves from Google+.
But business uses aside, if my group of friends is typical, then personal use of Facebook is in decline. Sure there are still some diehards on there frequently, but even they’re posting fewer and fewer bits of information about their own experience, and are sharing or liking or otherwise passing on the often colorful postings of others. Outside of new houses, new puppies (ok, guilty), the odd political opinion and a random complaint or announcement of celebration—people just don’t seem to be saying much on Facebook anymore. As a personal branding platform, LinkedIn has it beat in the shade…in fact, as Facebook gets less personal, LinkedIn seems to be getting more so, with colleagues and contacts sharing more about their working lives.
Perhaps the early critics of the “ubiquitous-ization” of Facebook, the ones whose argument usually questioned why they’re want to know what someone on the other side of the country had for lunch, were right. Personal lives just aren’t that interesting—unless you happen to be the person to which that life is happening. Let’s face it, we’ve all at least hid or in a more drastic frame of mind, “unfriended” the constant braggart or bore. Too, some days it’s hard enough to come up with something worthwhile to say to those with whom we share a bed and mortgage—it’s not humanly possibly to constantly communicate your cleverness to your hairdresser’s sister and that guy who sat behind you in grade 10 math.
Or could it be that the novelty has just simply worn off?
It’s not that I regret having a personal Facebook page. Where else would I have put Zoey’s puppy pictures or the video of my renovation or announced my marriage to a captive audience. At least it was captive at the time. What I learned in using the platform has been invaluable in my work life. It was interesting to see how people I knew in my teens turned out. I felt confident and powerful in ignoring the friend requests from those in my past who don’t belong in my real or virtual present. And I was “found” by someone I used to be close to—I’m glad we’re friends again.
I think that social media in one form or another is going to be with us for a very long time—and I’m willing to bet that whatever will captivate our attention after it hasn’t been developed yet. But it will be. So to some extent, Facebook will be a phase for us all.
And while I may check in on my personal page from time to time for old-time sake, it’s time I started seeing other platforms.