Will Social Media Platforms make it to 30 years and beyond?

Jeff Bezos apparently said in an all-hands call that Amazon is not too big to fail. He predicted that one day it might do so because company lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not 100-plus years. What he said isn’t surprising. It’s what history shows, and it’s what’s taught in business courses. To illustrate, of companies in the Fortune 500 in 1999, 50% had disappeared by 2009, and of companies in the UK’s FTSE 100 in 1999, less than 50% remain in the index in some form today. Company survival beyond ~30-45 years requires exceptional leadership, exceptional foresight to capitalise on new market opportunities, an exceptional ability to transform and change…and luck! Achieving that combination is rare.

Last weekend the Badger’s nephews, 12 and 14 years old, visited. As they connected to our home broadband to play an online game on their tablets, the Badger asked what social media platforms they used. None! WhatsApp is the only thing they and their peers use to interact with each other. They don’t use, and aren’t interested in using, the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, and their views on these platforms were enlightening! When they departed, the Badger, with Bezos’s comments as a backdrop, reflected on the youngster’s views.

They were particularly scathing about Facebook, expressing distrust and describing it as being ‘for old people’. They were also scathing about Twitter, describing it as ‘not for normal people’ and describing tweets as essentially just random noise from wannabees. The Badger has no idea what shaped their opinions, but it was clear that opinions would not change any time soon! Facebook and Twitter started life in 2004 and 2006, so in terms of Bezos’s 30-year comment they are entering early middle age, struggling (see, for example, the recent item in TechMarketView), and will continue to do so if ‘nephew views’ reflect the sentiment of their generation.

The Badger reflected further and included thoughts about how his own use of social media had changed, ultimately reaching four conclusions. First, today’s tech-savvy youngsters are sharp and no fools in the ways of the world! Second, people behaviour is changing because of more security/privacy awareness and more awareness of how platforms use their data to make money. Third, the impact of social media overuse on mental health is more understood. Fourth, was that even with masses of global users, there’s a smell of decline in the air! Survival to the 30-year mark and beyond doesn’t feel like a sure bet!

As for ‘Facebook is only for old people’ comment, well the Badger asked what age was old? Twenty and above, apparently! My nephews pointed out that the Badger, therefore, was clearly a fossil. The Badger cheerily got his revenge…by changing the home Wifi password at a critical point in their game!

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