Observing my own consumer internet habits over the past ten years, as well as those of my sister’s, I’ve realized that us Internet-natives are a fickle bunch. We have very little, if any, loyalty to digital social products.
This should worry Facebook. Services like Instagram and Snapchat have demonstrated that you can (more or less) recreate their network overnight. You see, the fax machine (network effect) analogy breaks down now that the fax machines are free (apps) and you can carry their cords around in your pocket (iPhones).
If I were Mr. Zuckerberg, I would turn to Nike for strategic inspiration.
The Air Jordan Approach
The Jordan XVIIs hit stores on March 24th, 2002. Despite being more expensive than most shoes, nearly everyone who played lunchtime basketball at Lincoln Middle School picked up a pair.
My flag football coach at the time, Jose, wore the Jordan XIs though. They came out in ‘96 and looked a lot different than the XVIIs, but they were the shoe to own when he played pickup basketball in college.
So despite being many years older than me, my coach and I wore the exact same shoes. Hence, the brilliance of the Air Jordan Approach:
Create an independent product brand, one which is propped up by the legitimacy of the corporate brand, and continually reimagine the product in order to maintain its novelty.
The Air Jordans were the basketball shoe to own in 1996 and 2002 because, well, the Air Jordans in 1996 and 2002 were different shoes.
The Facebook Approach
I know what you’re thinking, “Facebook already does this dummy! Poke! Camera! Messenger!”
It’s not the same. Imagine if Nike’s product line included The Nike Basketballs, The Nike Tennis’, and The Nike Skateboardings. Nike wouldn’t be Nike! Instead, they have the Air Jordans, Roger Federer Zooms, and SB Dunks.
Do you think the skateboarders who spent lunch time grinding the bleachers in SB Dunks wanted to identify with the same brand as me? A “jock” playing basketball? Heck no. But I wasn’t wearing SB Dunks, I was wearing Air Jordans.
Funny thing is, we were all wearing Nike shoes, after all.
The Anti-Graph Search
Similarly, do you think me, my Mom and my Sister all want to share and connect with people in the same ways? Of course not (see: Snapchat).
Mr. Zuckerberg, you know those 70 engineers that you had working on Graph Search?
Take ten of them and task them with rethinking online dating. Call it Bar, put the Facebook logo in the footer.
Then take another ten engineers and have them figure out why half of my friends can’t find jobs, even though the other half are working at firms which are hiring. Call it Cover Letter, put the Facebook logo on the About page.
Rinse and repeat.
Hopefully, when I’m a volunteer flag football coach my players and I will think Facebook is cool too.