The Holy Trinity of social media, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (FLT) must die, change, go away, evolve, transform and/or mutate. These gods of communication have only been around and used heavily for the past 5-7 years.  In that time, they have set the barriers to entry into the cool gang very high indeed. Google has bulldozed it’s way in, but is still standing at the other end of the playground.  Any other challengers are being bought off from the other side of closed school gates, or picked off by aggressive recruitment practices, which undermine their ability to challenge.
But challenge they must. The rewards are gargantuan, and the status quo cannot remain. Think of it this way; can you imagine having a Facebook account for your entire life? Really? How long did you have your MySpace account, or even your gym membership? LinkedIn wasn’t the first, and Twitter won’t be the last. Other names and brands, logos and communities will come and go.   As I write, LinkedIn is leaking and Facebook is eroding. The millions of newly created accounts are being outweighed by the volume of existing accounts becoming inactive. Many people simply cannot be arsed anymore. These zombie accounts are still being counted, of course, but it’s activity levels which advertisers want, and will pay for. Why ever would an advertiser bother sending a marketing (spam) email which is immediately identified as such, and never opened, never mind responded to? Twitter can be personal, but of course it’s also a utility; just something businesses use to get messages out there. I have 11 Twitter accounts, and only use 4 of them. Only one of them is me though, and I only give it intermittent attention. I have no idea why 2,200 people choose to follow me, and I certainly don’t read the 900 accounts I nominally follow. 
If (when) a new network appeared on the scene, it would really need to get up to speed very quickly, and have the functionality we’ve become used to with the others. The Big 3+1 are putting mistakenly huge resources into stopping that happening, when what they should really be doing is building the new networks themselves. When Amazon was developing the Kindle, Jeff Bezos reportedly told the engineer in charge, ‘Your job is to kill your own business. ‘I want you to proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.’ 
As well as protecting what they already have, they should continue to take risks and challenge the very models they have established.  If they did that, they could keep ahead of the “new thing” curve, maintain their relevance, and facilitate migration from say Old Facebook (for your mum) to New Edgy Facebook (where the cool kids can bitch about old Facebook).  Buying up challengers, just to close them down cannot be sustainable. Managing the churn is the very best FLT+G can hope for, and they’re in the perfect position to do so. Commanding the sea to stop simply won’t work – moving further back, in time with the tide just might work.
Update: Facebook announced in Feb 2014 that it will purchase WhatsApp for around $16billon. WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton was unsuccessful in applying for a job with Facebook in 2009. He is now in receipt of c.$3billion of Facebook cash.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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