Fanboost folly?

Likes courtesy Telegraph

Or – what goes up, must come down. Facebook will lose 80% of its followers by 2017. That’s according to some proper, scientific research conducted by a couple of clever chaps at Princeton University.

The paper compares the rise of the social media site to the spread of bubonic plague; after a period of intense proliferation, those initially excited by the site lose interest in a similar manner to people building up immunity to illnesses.

The research points out that the same fate – extinction – has befallen other behemoths of the new digital world, albeit with falls from not quite as great a height. MySpace, anyone? Bebo?

The demise of those sites didn’t spell the end of social media, of course; it simply marked the arrival of a new empire – Facebook. But while Facebook naysayers have never been in short supply, the company’s top brass have reportedly already acknowledged a decline themselves, saying: “We did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens.”

Let’s face it, when your parents – and in some cases, grandparents – are using the site, it simply isn’t cool anymore.

And herein lies the rub. Formula E promoter FEH is convinced that using social media will be the best way to involve young people in the new sport. Social media has certainly proved a great marketing tool, with its ability to quickly reach a huge audience with easily updated messages and very little cost.

But if Formula E weds itself to social media platforms that are – according to the research – by their very nature destined to die (and soon), what does that mean for its hotly-debated Fanboost feature? Does it mean a three or four year cycle of continuously cultivating presence on whichever site could be the next big thing? Trying to forecast the next digital wave isn’t easy to do. (See dotcom bubble, burst.)

Does it mean, assuming that the incoming media wave can be successfully spotted and ridden, trying to migrate loyal fans to a new platform? That could be a long, thankless task.

Or does it mean that, once a site is in decline, Formula E will echo today’s throw-away society and simply bin existing fans in favour of a new generation? Is Formula E destined to become something akin to Lego – great fun up until a certain age, and then put aside for something more, well, grown up? Or like the greying pop star who keeps exchanging wives for younger and younger versions?

It’s a tough call. Formula E is desperate to be the future, but it might just be trying too hard. Focusing on advancing technological innovation is a pretty good sell in itself, as is the ironically old fashioned idea of wheel to wheel racing where it is the driver, not the machine, who makes the winning difference.

Of course, for all the plague analogies and predictions of impending doom, even at 20% of today’s figures Facebook would still influence 250million people – 50million more than use Twitter. That’s four times the population of the UK. And that isn’t to be sniffed at, whatever the long term trend.


Image courtesy of the Telegraph.

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