Facebook was always the weakest member of the FAANG gang.
Where Amazon and Google had worked to build platforms for captive audiences, Facebook had little hold beyond a fragile social media ecosystem.
Mark Zuckerberg was well aware of the fate that Myspace and other social media companies had met and so he worked to head off competitors by buying them up. That worked until the Chinese deployed TikTok.
TikTok has carved up the social media market for teens and pre-teens. Advertisers and investors are reacting appropriately.
Zuckerberg’s pivot to the metaverse was a bizarre stunt that could only end one way. It was, ironically, an escape from reality marketing escapes from reality as the future of the company.
Facebook isn’t gone yet. It has a sizable audience. But that audience is older.
FAANGs run on the promise of endless growth. But you can’t offer endless growth without generational demographics or international horizons. And Facebook has neither.
All of this has some implications for Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and the social media business, which some conservatives are diving into.
Twitter has never defined itself by generational market share. It was a niche product connected to trends. As a private company, Twitter wont’ have to worry about meeting aggressive growth metrics. Musk presumably has his own plan to monetize the company. It’s hard to imagine how those plans can possible compensate for its inflated purchase price. But that’s his problem.
Facebook’s collapse is more potentially intriguing because it has dominated social media almost as monopolistically as Google has controlled search, because it remains a major source of news and because its older audience is more demographically conservative.
A new management team could upend a lot of existing practices, but isn’t likely to make it more open.
The outright collapse of Facebook could potentially open up the market to conservative companies and make way for user choice. At least that’s what should happen. And yet I suspect that in this marketplace, it’s more likely to be replaced by yet another monopolistic monstrosity.
There’s a third possibility though which is that social media will matter less.
Conservatives turned over their brand, their presence and their audience to social media companies with disastrous results. While some influencers and some sites that trafficked in influencers as a subscription revenue source became highly profitable, the movement was gutted. Censorship quickly showed the folly of moving from sites and platforms controlled by conservatives to those owned by a single monopoly.
On the Left, digital media went through a similar shakedown with a similar realization.
Social media is socially unhealthy and politically disastrous. On the conservative side, it spawned influencer grifters who have misled the movement and hijacked it for their own agendas, renting it out to influence operations both foreign and domestic. On the mental health side, studies have pretty clearly documented how damaging immersion in social media can be. Especially for teens.
I don’t anticipate it going away tomorrow. Much as Facebook won’t vanish overnight. But without a single company operating at monopolistic scale, perhaps social media will become a less dominant presence in our lives.