Facebook won’t go the way of MySpace – but it won’t be the force it is today forever – the signs are already there. But does that mean that social networking is all hype? What does the future of social networking look like and what relevance will it have for purchasing and finance professionals?

Facebook has peaked

Facebook has peaked. Well in the US anyway. That’s kind of a brave statement to make as it’s been said many times in the past and the the assertion proved false, but we think that this time it’s real.

Between the beginning of May and early June, total monthly active users on facebook grew by 1.7 per cent, taking its total to 687m, according to a report in FT Tech Hub. But in the US there was a drop for the first time in a year, from 155.2m to 149.4m during the month of May according to the article. Canada also lost 1.52m users, while the UK, Norway and Russia lost “more than 100,000”.

Purchasing Insight logoThe soothsayers have compared facebook to MySpace suggesting that users are fickle and will, one day, turn away.  This is the wrong interpretation. MySpace became bloated with multimedia content thrown together by users on a platform that couldn’t cope with it’s success. Facebook’s platform, like twitter, is scalable with a minimalist user interface. No, a better comparison for facebook is Amazon.

Build it and they will come

Amazon proved that people were prepared to buy on-line, that if you made the process simple and the price compelling customers would buy. They grew rapidly and stole market share from a sceptical established competition. Now, over ten years on, every business has an on-line channel. facebook is the amazon of social networking they’ve proved that if you build it right users will come in droves but it’s now proved and proved again by twitter, linkedin and numerous others.

But facebook is too generic. I’m happy to keep in touch with close family but it doesn’t serve my needs as a purchasing professional. Linkedin special interest group satisfy my professional needs to a certain extent but there is still a vacuum for properly focused professional social networks.

Far from seeing the use of social networks diminish it is more likely that we’ll see them thrive but in the same way that amazon’s growth was checked by retailers developing their own on-line channels, so we’ll see the specialist social networks emerging serving the needs of special interest groups.

The B2B world id ripe for some specialist professional social networks. In fact, they’re already there waiting to be used. I’m not sure they know it themselves yet but the e-invoicing and e-procurement networks have a great opportunity to begin to fill the vacuum.