Why Facebook wins the Social Network Battle. On Flirting, Sex, Porn and Mr Rogers.


Facebook social network

Facebook social network

Earlier this week I came across an interesting study on social media around the world. The presentation is packed with social media data but if you go through the slideshow, you note that the researchers basically conclude the following:

  • There’s one big Network: Facebook.
  • It’s flanked by a few smaller nonetheless successful players: Twitter, LinkedIn.
  • We must keep an eye on smaller, locally succesful players like Vkontakte in Russia and Eastern Europe or Hyves in the Netherlands.
  • In addition to the researchers findings, we want to point out that locally succesful social networks might be thriving these days, but the chances are high that they are to be beaten by Facebook – as happened in the Netherlands with Hyves. The below image shows the decline for Hyves in favor of the Facebook growth.
Facebook bigger than Hyves in the Netherlands.

Facebook bigger than Hyves in the Netherlands.

The research report makes a similar observation: “The Big will get bigger – The small will become smaller”. This doesn’t have to surprise you that much. It’s like with people: the rich get richer while the poor become more poor every day.

Big to be bigger, small to become even smaller.

The value of a social network can be determined by the size of that very network (user base). Now, as the study points out, Facebook is the only one that has an adoption rate higher than 25%. If we think about the mainstream social network battle, this theory suggestst there will be only one mainstream social network: Facebook. I’m so sorry for Google’s tremendous efforts.

Google intelligently trying to give you a hint about it social network Google Plus

Google intelligently trying to give you a hint about it social network Google Plus

Facebook & LinkedIn: why are they ‘big’?

When you’re dealing with the adoption of innovation, one needs to realize that adoption is a human personality trait. Some are early adopters, others are laggards – lacking behind in adoption for every single technological novelty. According to Mr Rogers innovations always diffuse according to this model.

Speaks for itself that this diffusion is boosted when the innovation is actually making life more comfortable, taking away a pain or getting things done faster. Ideally the innovation continues on the path paved by older media so to boost the adoption. Actually, those new media internalize the content of the old medium. This can be seen for instance in radio being “spoken news”; film being “theatrical”; websites being a “digital brochure or businesscard”; etc.

The question is: what pain does Facebook take away? Have we been on this planet for ages with a tremendous pain that is now suddenly being solved through Facebook? How were we able to life before? What pain does LinkedIn take away? How did we do business before?

Facebook and LinkedIn have clear goals

In the case of LinkedIn there’s the obvious advantage of being a functional, B2B platform. And yes, it takes a way some pains related to networking, human resources, etc. It’s a great addition to business.

However, when looking at Facebook, what things did it make easier? I agree, sharing videos, pictures and status updates is very easy to stay in touch with your globally dispersed friends. However, there are other platforms that offer the same function. So why did exactly Facebook win and no other social network allowing to fulfill the same need?

Well, I believe the answer is in the very fact that Facebook was build for the Flirt!

Flirting is the act of demonstrating playfulness, romanticism or sexual overture by one person to another so to subtly indicate an interest in a deeper relationship with that other person. If you have a closer look at the very origin, growth and current usage of Facebook, you might notice that almost everything might come down to facilitating flirts.

The Digital Flirt = Facebook’s Killer App.

Facebook was founded to find and connect with people based on their “face picture”. Facebook made it possible to see who your co-students are, what they are doing without actually engaging but deploy it to set up an offline flirt strategy or charm offensive. Furthermore, the evolution of the platform always favored this aspect. Private messages and IM are perfectly suited for the flirt. Just think about it.

Summarized: Facebook is build to support our natural drive to have sex, to flirt.

Twitter: a flirt challenger?

The report points out that Twitter is a growing challenger. However, it might never reach the popularity like Facebook. Having nothing but 140 chars (minus room for images, links, etc) makes it a lot harder to flirt. But it’s possible though.

But there are bigger opportunities with Twitter. Its difficulty though is that this social network requires the individual to define its own medium goal. Not every individual is able to do that. But for some the twitter goal is about flirting, for others it’s free texting, for others it’s a personal teacher, etc.

Why did I ramble on about that? Well, flirting is a precursor to sex (if you are lucky).
Sex is a rather important social driver.
And sex is closely linked to porn. And porn is important to frame innovations.
And the softie in me believes flirting could be as valid as porn to frame tech-human innovations.
But You should always keep an eye on porn when discussing innovative technology.

iPhone innovative technology diffusion without porn

iPhone innovative technology diffusion without porn

History has proven that porn and sex are often the key social driver behind the diffusion of innovation. Yes, it’s pretty strange that the iPhone was adopted so fast without supporting porn. But then again, the iPhone was adopted through a range of “taking pain away apps” to be easily installed through the app store. In the iPhone case, it’s not about the hardware but more the software ecosystem Apple cleverly set up. As might be clear, it’s not always about porn. But often enough it is.

Mr Rogers & The Adoption of Innovation

When we are talking about new communication technologies we often tend to focus on the technological aspects. It’s true that without the technology at stake, things wouldn’t be possible. But technology by itself doesn’t do a single thing as well.

To frame innovations, one needs to look at the social factors that determine whether a technology shall reach mainstream or not. Next to that, there’s always the economic reality check. Having an idea and a technology is one thing; to turn that into a viable business is a whole different story.

Specialist often point to so-called “Killer Applications” to explain the break-through. Well, in fact a killer application is an application of the technology that has social relevance. In the case of Facebook the social relevance is flirting. In the case of LinkedIn the social relevance is business networking. In the case of the VCR, it was porn.

Rogers Diffusion of Innovation

Rogers Diffusion of Innovation

The importance of porn in the VCR battle

The diffusion of the VCR was related to 2 phenomenons, to know TV viewing and Film. Especially the latter is important to understand why VHS tapes won the battle – even if they were in a technological sense a lot less powerful than their competitors at Betamax or V-2000.

  • First application: time-shift in TV watching: new medium takes content of the old. This boost adoption since people are used to the content.
  • Second application: Film. And here’s where porn comes into play. The Film Industry (A-movies, blockbusters) were not very willing to offer their movies through VCR tapes. On the other hand the “secundary” Film Industry (porn) were very willing to spread their videos via the new technology. As a result video rent stores popped up and mainly had videos with porn. Most of those were VHS (65%), then Betamax (25%) and finally V-2000 (10%). So this VHS technology concquerred the market while clearly not being the best technology. Porn won!
  • Flirting wins! That’s people, that’s mankind, that’s a monkey brain.

Who’ll beat Facebook?

In short term: nobody. Most people basically hate change. It seems mankind is born with a love for status quo. So why on earth would they want to change their social network? It has been a big thing already to just get on it. But the opportunities for the digital flirt eventually got everyone on board. Now that we’re all on it, who’s going to swop? Most of us aren’t. Most of us love status quo. Most of us hate change.

People don't like change in general.

People don't like change in general.

9 Responses to Why Facebook wins the Social Network Battle. On Flirting, Sex, Porn and Mr Rogers.

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