This article was published on August 22, 2012

The only way that Facebook is going to grow its userbase is to perfect cloning

The only way that Facebook is going to grow its userbase is to perfect cloning
Drew Olanoff
Story by

Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

When you’re an “Internet” company that provides a free service, you’re not thinking about capping out on your growth. For a photo-sharing app, ten million users is an absolute dream and could lead to a very lucrative exit. However, when you’re a social network like Facebook, capping out is a very real nightmare that it’s very close to realizing.

Sure, nobody is crying for Facebook, even though its stock isn’t doing as well on the public market as everyone thought it would, it’s in the driver’s seat for everything social on the Web. However, there’s now only one place to go and that’s down.

I was counting on the fact that Facebook would be announcing that it hit the billion user mark during its first earnings call, but it didn’t happen.

International markets are still a very lucrative avenue to increase user numbers, but at this point, everyone in the world that has used a computer knows what Facebook is. The savior for the social network is that many people have come to rely on it for all of their communication, but will that last? That’s what Facebook is trying to nail down.

Monetize, Monetize, Monetize?

If you talk to people who have dropped a few hundred or thousand into Facebook stock, all they’ll say is “they really need to figure out how to monetize mobile.” Sure, that’s very true, but is that what a bulk of the company is working on? Doubtful.

Some lunatics analysts are calling for Mark Zuckerberg’s ousting, which is absolutely ridiculous. If someone really thinks that changing CEOs just to “figure out monetization” is a smart route, they shouldn’t be investing in technology companies.

What Facebook needs to do right now is Grow, Grow, Grow. What is its ceiling? Nobody knows, but I bet that Facebook has a pretty good idea. Getting to that number as quickly as possible has to be the number one priority for the social network right now, and pushing the man with the vision, Mark Zuckerberg, aside, would be a kamikaze nosedive to failure.

Put your headphones on and code

When you’re a company that doesn’t have a physical product, like an iPhone or iPad, it’s very difficult to come up with new features to bring new people to your product, while keeping your existing userbase extremely excited to keep “using.”

Timeline was awesome in my opinion, but the year rollout, which isn’t over yet, is an interesting way to roll out something groundbreaking. On September 21st, we’ll find out when we can all get the new iPhone and then line up to get it. Facebook’s approach isn’t creating that kind of excitement.

It needs to figure out how to emulate hardware and software companies, as far as product and marketing, really fast.

There’s a reason why Zuckerberg kept the company heads-down during the IPO process, because he knows that it wasn’t an event that will make or break his mission, which is to connect everyone and everything in the world. Engineers at Facebook need to simply push the noise away and hack.

Copy the masters

Facebook needs to learn how to build up excitement about future initiatives and features, and then roll them out at exactly the right time to keep everyone interested. If it doesn’t, then that userbase number might never hit one billion.

Some would say that figuring out how to keep a billion users around is a good problem to have, for Facebook, it’s the only problem. And it’s a huge one. When in doubt, clone what works.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with