Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a project called BubbleVine.com – it’s an online classifieds utility for college students. I’ve invested a lot of time designing the site and thinking about the future direction of it. I guess technically, the time and effort spent on the site is considered “work” but I almost feel a little guilty saying that because I found the entire process fun, rewarding, and unlike any other kind of “work” I’ve done in the past.
Just recently, coincidentally the day of my graduation, Facebook launched their version of an online classifieds called Marketplace. It is another addition to the Facebook realm on top of their numerous, already existing divisions (such as photos, invitation, blogs and so on). Initially, the new feature didn’t bother me at all because for the longest time, I’ve known that Facebook was only weakening their identity of a brand by branching out in so many different directions – they have integrated their own versions of photo sharing (like Webshots), invitations (like Evite), and notes (like Livejournal) into what was once strictly a social networking site for college students. However, the rational side of me stepped in and said that Facebook had a huge advantage for the success of Marketplace versus me and Bubblevine. I think there’s some truth to that, but I rerationalized the situation and I still think I might still have a chance of coming up on top.
In Al Ries’s, 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding, he explains that you can’t be everything to all people. He used Yahoo! and Amazon as examples and I completely agree. It’s all about consumer’s perception. Once the perception of a product is established in the minds of the consumers, it’s done. It’ll be nearly impossible to change, shift or adjust what they think. So in the case of Facebook, well, they’ve lost their unique position. The once sucessful college social networking site has evolved into a big mush, just like Myspace. They’ve fallen into vanity, as Ries calls it. They got too confident. Just because they succeed in one area, doesn’t mean it’ll happen in another, especially when that particular area already has a category leader. Facebook is no longer the college social networking site. First of all, anyone can join Facebook (which ruins the whole Facebook concept) and the newly added divisions in the site are all just mediocre. What do you think of when you hear Facebook? You probably had to think about it for a little bit – and that’s a problem. Personally, I think of how whenever I log into the site, how overwhelmed I get by the million things going on in the site.
Anyway, I think Facebook could have done something other than expanding out horizontally in attempts to strengthen their position.