When it comes to social media juggernauts, Facebook (FB) is the undisputed king.
During its meteoric rise, the company simply steamrolled existing social media platforms, like MySpace, LiveJournal, and others that you probably don’t even remember now!
Even when Google (GOOGL) entered the fray with Google+, Facebook easily parried the threat with a simple weapon – its massive userbase.
When regular users wanted to reach friends, they went to Facebook because that’s where everyone was. And when companies wanted to reach more customers, they had to advertise on Facebook for the very same reason. Google+ couldn’t compete, and it’s now being unwound.
But Facebook still faces threats from other social media platforms, and the company knows it’s just as vulnerable to an attack from a hotter rival as MySpace was when Facebook first came along.
The difference is that Facebook is doing something about it…
Innovate or Die
Facebook is focused squarely on both its current and potential competitors and is determined to prevent itself from suffering the same fate it inflicted on MySpace.
To achieve that, the company is ramping up its existing services and also creating new ones in order to keep all eyeballs squarely on Facebook, all the time.
It’s a smart strategy, given the emerging threats to Facebook’s dominant status…
THREAT: Medium.com: This is just one of the internet’s many blogging platforms, but it has some Twitter-like features that make it easier to find articles about trending topics. Only three years old, Medium is already popular with many freelance journalists who don’t maintain their own blogs sufficiently well enough to gain a widespread readership. It’s also becoming more popular as a reading platform, which is what will allow it to eventually challenge Facebook.
Facebook’s Response: The company is beefing up its “Notes” service. Even if you use Facebook, you might not be familiar with Notes. It’s basically the site’s blogging platform, but few people currently use it.
The word among Facebook followers is that the company is testing some new features here that will make it look more like Medium… but with the vastly greater reach of Facebook, of course.
One of these features will allow contributors to share in whatever revenue their posts might generate. Greater reach and revenue are two goals for many journalists and bloggers, so if Facebook’s revamped Notes section succeeds, there’s a slim chance that Medium will ever threaten it, since Medium currently has no revenue to share.
THREAT: Twitter (TWTR): Clearly, any conversation about social media without Twitter would be bizarre. Especially since the company is arguably Facebook’s biggest potential threat.
In addition to an explosion in its userbase over the past few years, Twitter has increased the length of Direct Messages that users can send privately to each other. It’s also added video and is increasingly trying to add advertising.
Twitter has its problems, as we’ve written about in the past, but there’s one area where it does beat Facebook – real-time coverage of breaking news from actual participants. When something big happens – whether it’s huge explosions in China or Bangkok, or other major events – the news is all over Twitter in seconds. The key, of course, is Twitter’s “hashtags.” The more people follow them, the quicker the news starts trending. Users can see pictures, videos, and descriptions of events as they’re happening.
Facebook’s Response: This is exactly where Facebook wants to take on Twitter. The Notes reconfiguration that I just mentioned is a big part of that. The key is that people on the scene of news-making events will be able to reach as many (or more) people as they can on Twitter… but with longer posts that provide more information.
Facebook is also testing a breaking news app. Business Insider reports that the company is creating the service for large content providers like news publishers, which will enable them to create notifications on people’s Facebook pages and even notify people by text when news is breaking.
Bottom line: Between Notes and this new app, the goal is for people to never have to leave Facebook when there’s a breaking event. That takes a lot of wind out of Twitter’s sails.
THREAT: Google (GOOGL) – YouTube: Facebook also has Google-owned YouTube on its radar. As you know, you can embed YouTube videos in your Facebook posts. But the problem for the creators of those YouTube videos is that there’s no way to monetize views on Facebook.
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Facebook’s Response: It’s boosting investment in embedded video. Embedding videos directly into Facebook will enable creators to add advertising or allow Facebook to do it. This will create a revenue stream for professional content creators.
Facebook also now allows its videos to be embedded on other sites, just like YouTube does. One difference, though, is that Facebook picks up comments from other sites and integrates them with the existing comments on a Facebook page. This enables advertisers and other content creators to track what people are saying about their videos in just one place.
While YouTube still leads in consumer-produced videos, they’re fading in importance as branded videos increase their reach and their quality. Indeed, some industry watchers believe Facebook has already caught up with YouTube among videos produced by branded content providers, such as advertisers and movie studios.
Can You Read Zuckerberg’s Mind?
In addition to challenging Medium and Twitter with Notes, Facebook’s reconfiguration here might also take on some features that LinkedIn (LNKD) offers. In time, Facebook could also challenge LinkedIn’s core function of connecting job seekers with employers.
And of course, whenever Facebook decides that it’s simply too time-consuming or expensive to beat someone competitively, it can just buy them. Instagram, anyone?
When it comes to the internet and web technologies, constant innovation is critical. Facebook realizes this and is doing its best to make sure that it’s ahead of any changes before its own business comes under threat.
If you’ve got even more to say on Facebook – and want to interact with your fellow readers in real time – it’s only appropriate that you should head over to our Facebook page!
To living and investing in the future,