With all due respect to Facebook, paying $1 billion for Instagram smacks of desperation.
It’s as if CEO Mark Zuckerberg is terrified of becoming irrelevant and is willing to spend insane amounts of money in order for Facebook remain on the forefront of cool.
That’s a hopeless quest, though. Facebook may be many things, but it’s not cool any longer. It lost that imprimatur back when it allowed corporate pages (yes, even yours) and advertising.
(LIST: The 50 Best Websites of 2011)
Where Is the Love?
More importantly, nobody seems to love Facebook any more. People seem mostly to tolerate it, because it’s convenient. And that’s why Facebook remains vulnerable.
Consumer-oriented social networking sites are like television networks: People will switch when there’s something better on another channel.
With its awkward design, 1990s-style layouts, weird privacy policies, and intrusive advertising, Facebook is vulnerable to the next best thing. Frankly, I think it’s just one online conversion program away from losing its customer base and becoming the next MySpace.
That’s not true of LinkedIn, though. LinkedIn is all about business and people’s resumes. Because its scope is limited to fundamentally dull information, LinkedIn is simply not vulnerable to something “cooler.”
Sure, somebody could launch a site similar to LinkedIn. (And I’m sure plenty of people have.) But why would the customer base bother to change? Nobody on LinkedIn cares about being cool. LinkedIn’s beauty is that it’s dull but functional–like email and the telephone.
That’s why I believe that LinkedIn will keep growing, becoming increasingly valuable and relevant–while Facebook will eventually be replaced by “cooler” technologies that appeal to a fundamentally fickle base of consumers.
Niche vs. Mass Branding
What does this have to do with sales and marketing? Everything.
Facebook is a perfect example of a company trying to be all things to all people, while LinkedIn is a perfect example of a company that focused on a niche.
As a result, LinkedIn is building a loyal customer base, while Facebook is involved in an expensive and probably pointless quest to remain relevant.
Customers don’t want you to be everything and anything to them. They want you to do one thing really well–reliably, predictably, and hassle-free.
Anything else, and you’re at risk of being replaced.
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Geoffrey James‘ “Sales Source” (formerly “Sales Machine” on CBS) is the world’s most-visited sales-oriented blog. His best posts, with many extras, are in his new book: How to Say It: Business to Business Selling. @Sales_Source
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