How Facebook and Twitter are failing early adopters

A survey from Gartner has revealed that, while social media usage continues to grow, early adopters are showing signs of fatigue. According to the survey, which gathered the views...

I have moved to Google

survey from Gartner has revealed that, while social media usage continues to grow, early adopters are showing signs of fatigue. According to the survey, which gathered the views of 6,000 people, “24 percent of respondents indicated that they were using their main social site “a little less” or “a lot less” than when they first started using it”.

Now this is very much in line with my own experience and anecdotal findings through friends and clients – and it’s close to my heart. For those people who joined Facebook early on, the buzz of having connected with friends, poked them, seen their holiday snaps, and chatted a few times has started to fade. Is this down to feed burn-out (i.e. too many irrelevant updates), or a lack of new and interesting features? Perhaps it’s just our usual habit of becoming bored with things after a while – or maybe we’ve run out of things to say?

It’s probably a mix of these things. early adopters are, by definition, keen and savvy, so in my view, if we’re getting bored with Facebook (and possibly also Twitter), it’s because those sites haven’t developed with us. Instead they’ve done what big business always does: look for the easy customer – in this case in new territories – and, just keep cranking the same old lever. After all, if it ain’t broke…

The problem is: for many of us it is broke.

Look how Google+ has taken the best interactive elements of Facebook, added better privacy controls and a smarter UI and sparked our interest again. Look how better Twitter apps are than Twitter itself: the mute feature on Echofon that allows you to switch off overly chatty friends (or hashtags), or the multiple time-lines you can set up on TweetBot (both iPhone apps). Think how much better the usability is when you monitor your network updates and post-to-all through social media dashboards like Hootsuite or MarketMeSuite.

The large social networks have been failing their early adopters for a couple of years now. As a result, we ‘re leaving in droves. Chris Brogan is one of the highest profile figures to commit facebook suicide and shift to Google+, but there are millions of less prominent users who feel the same.  I’ve been pretty disillusioned with Twitters treatment of it’s 3rd party app developers, so I was pleased to see the launch of Heello. Admittedly, it’s a Twitter clone at the moment, but this is a market that desperately needs competition to regain it’s mojo.

Is competition the answer? Are privacy concerns an issue? Have we started to lose faith in our online friends and their recommendations? I’d be interested to hear some thoughts on this.

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10 comments

  1. Tammy Kahn Fennell Reply

    Hey Luke, 

    Thanks for the mention of MarketMeSuite.  I have to say I was pretty excited when google plus launched. I felt like a kid who wanted to try the latest toy..  But I have to admit, after a couple of weeks playing with it, I’ve shifted back to my warm and cozy Facebook.  But, I would argue, Google plus isn’t really a replacement for Facebook. My grandpa is on Facebook – it took a long time to get him on there so that I could show him pictures of my son with some regularity – Grandpa ain’t moving to google plus.

    What I HAVE found, is that as little as I check Google Plus, I check Linkedin even LESS. Early adopters tend to be savvy marketers, so for now, I’m finding more networking opportunities with Plus than Linkedin. 

    Agreed about post to all being necessary…  But where is Google Plus with their API? Same with Heello.  Twitter may not always treat their devs the best (nor Facebook) but at least there’s a way to build around them. LinkedIn, we are finding, has an absolutely glorious API – so even though I think they may lose some relevance with gplus, it’s the innovation around platforms that makes them succeed so who knows!

    ~Tammy, CEO @MarketMeSuite:twitter

    1. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

      That makes sense. Google+ is different now, but sure, I can see it going the same way as FB and Twitter over time. Perhaps is a natural thing. We use something. We get bored. We move on. It’s not the fault of those networks. But it does mean there’s a massive opportunity for other networks to spring up. I don’t see the 3rd party ecosystems around FB and Twitter “fixing” such a fundamental issue.

      1. Rewan Reply

        I’ve recently started reading Crossing the Chasm (after researching the basics), and I agree with Luke. I would have thought the fact that early adopters are getting bored of Facebook and Twitter was just a sign that they have both moved onto to the next stage of the bell-curve. The ‘laggards’ are still a long way away from adopting judging by a lot of the comments on certain blogs, so perhaps now is simply the time for the’ early adopters’ to leave Twitter and Facebook to the ‘pragmatists’ and find something else new and shiny to play with – as I understand it that’s what Moore says is the natural thing that happens in the technology adoption life cycle? I would say that Twitter and Facebook aren’t failing the ‘early adopters’, they are just outgrowing them…

        1. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

          Well – I’m pleased it stands up to theory as well as practice. 🙂

  2. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

    That makes sense. Google+ is different now, but sure, I can see it going the same way as FB and Twitter over time. Perhaps is a natural thing. We use something. We get bored. We move on. It’s not the fault of those networks. But it does mean there’s a massive opportunity for other networks to spring up. I don’t see the 3rd party ecosystems around FB and Twitter “fixing” such a fundamental issue.

  3. Digital I Reply

    I see the greatest problem with Facebook and Twitter as simply noise.
    Facebook’s endless barrage of game app updates (I’ve had to unfriend the most egregious, since “Farmville” has apparently found ways to get around the app-block) is only exceeded by a flood of retweets of semi-useful information, injected in what appears some sort of secret competition for the most in a given time frame. 

    As Google+ expands it will inevitably suffer the same fate, and this is largely because I think that even the creators of these sites don’t really understand what they’ve built. It’s not uncommon in the non-interactive media (TV, film, publishing, etc.) to “spot a trend” and then make copy after copy of it, rather than trying to develop something that serves the market because it understands the needs of the market. People consume these products simply because there it is an alternative, but not necessarily because it’s a better alternative. 

    Facebook -to use a popular media description- is “websites for dummies”. It allows a web presence, with some simple customization functions provided via a handy “cafeteria menu”, to a populace that still can’t set the clocks on their VCRs (and of course, after 30 years most of us now have DVRs with self-setting clocks). Basically, it’s interactive TV, complete with commercials bearing the brunt of operating costs, and possibly the rest being carried by the resale of your demographics and contact information. 

    The initial motivation for the Twitter follower is the “false intimacy” of sharing information with celebrities and pundits, followed closely by the alchemical transformation of the individual into a kind of celebrity or pundit themselves. There are people using twitter to communicate, to reach an audience with a message, and to expand their “brand”, but there are also a lot of people who are in it for sheer vanity. 

    Google+, in the tradition of Hollywood and TV execs since the earliest days, has simply combined these two functions. I can imagine the pitch was “It’s like Facebook meets Twitter!!”. This is not competition, it’s cloning. Cloning is easy. The problem with cloning is that you get exactly the same weaknesses of the original, and if something comes along that attacks or exploits those weaknesses then your clones can become extinct overnight. 

    Mutation into an entirely new, and unexpected, organism is the better solution. Of course, if I had some idea of what that organism was, I’d be the next super-billionaire semi-celebrity uber-nerd. And if I were that smart, I wouldn’t be posting the concept in a blog comment.

    1. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

      Now that’s what I call a comment 😉 I think there are likely to be lots of new organisms – as we’re all moving in different directions (not just away from Facebook). Hopefully that’s the interconnected diversity we’re all hankering for.

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