Every time Facebook makes a major change, the question is asked: Has Facebook “jumped the shark”?
The phrase “Jumping the shark” means the moment a product, after hitting a high point, starts a long decline, moving away from the factors that defined its original success. It specifically comes from a time when the 70’s hit show “Happy Days” was becoming stale, so the writers created a story line where the character “Fonzie” went water skiing and jumped a shark. (Well, you had to be there to understand…)
Anyways, getting back to Facebook, the recent f8 conference announcements of the new Timeline profile and the Open Graph apps sharing every interaction you make with music or reading or cooking, all lead me to wonder if we’re in for the “age of oversharing”?
And what has me scratching my head is this: if Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is so intent on having us share every minute of our lives, why isn’t he leading the way? For example, see the Facebook profile for Mark Z (if that is a real profile). Only very occasional status updates, which do not communicate anything of his personality, his likes and dislikes, and what he is doing now. Why doesn’t he share his own baby pictures, like he encourages people to do on Timeline?
Shouldn’t a founding entrepreneur be the most enthusiastic user of his product?
What also has me concerned that Facebook is straying away from its roots is the continued viability of the business model. After years of meteoric growth, to where 10% of Earth’s population are active users, where is Facebook going to turn to continue generating revenue? By getting these users to interact even more with the platform, revealing more of their personal information, and viewing ads, of course. Facebook has tons of cash to burn thanks to generous venture investors. But the business model has me wondering if the revenue numbers they report are true. I mean, when was the last time you clicked (on purpose) one of those lame ads on the right side of the screen? There is something here which is not quite right. In my opinion, the business of Facebook gives off Enron-type vibes. (But oh well, Zuck is the kid billionnaire, not me).
Will this mean that I won’t continue to use Facebook? Far from it. I still see Facebook being a powerful tool for solos to communicate who they are and build a tribe. I’m especially excited that the new Timeline profile view can be used as a very powerful Professional Portfolio to demonstrate your credibility and build your positioning.
The general guidelines I recommend for social media still hold true:
1. Assume every thing you post is up forever, even if you try to delete it. Before you post, ask yourself if you would want to read it five years from now? Think “evergreen” – content which stands up well over time.
2. Assume every thing you post is visible to everyone, even if you try to use selective sharing.
3. Only share personal information and updates that contribute to your professional positioning. (This means stay away from the new Open Graph apps or minimize sharing with them).
4. The majority of your posts should build your Professional Portfolio: Education, Demonstration, Opinion, Recommendation and Information.
Remember that the goal of Facebook, Google+, Twitter (or other social media platforms yet to be invented), is to get you to share as much of your personal life as possible so you can be a target for mass advertisers. You end up working for the advertisers, for free.
However, through conscious and selective use of these tools, you can turn the tables and have these powerful channels work for you. Isn’t that going back to the original promise of social media: people connecting with people?
For more information
For more about building a Professional Portfolio, see my article:
“Build Your Credibility By Becoming A Content Creator”
Facebook f8 conference (via TechCrunch) – one of many, many, many articles
Photo montage by me.