Is a backlash growing against the 900 million user strong social media network?

Facebook’s IPO stirred up the naysayers (e.g., “Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years”), even before the public offering failed to live up to the hype. While the social network’s white-hot success shows no immediate sign of flagging—can 900 million users globally really be wrong?—a backlash has been building. Our Things to Watch list for 2011 included Facebook Alternatives (“Social networkers will be exploring more niche communities or alternatives that offer greater exclusivity or privacy”). And in advance of the IPO, an Associated Press/CNBC poll reported that close to half of Americans say Facebook is a passing fad, and General Motors pulled $10 million in advertising due to poor click-through rates.

There are a few key reasons for Facebook fatigue. Some members have been put off by privacy and trust issues (how personal stats get shared and leveraged), while some, even Millennials, are tired of keeping up with a vast web of people. Strategically, critics point to Facebook’s sluggish adaptation to mobile as a sign that it’s failed to innovate fast enough while other, cooler communities gain. Among other things, these aim for greater relevance or immediacy by focusing on the interest graph—like Pinterest, Gogobot (for travel) or Fancy (more consumerist)—or tapping into the “SoLoMo” trend, combining social with local and mobile (for example, Banjo and Highlight send alerts to a user’s mobile device when social media connections are nearby). The long-awaited open-source network Diaspora will let users own their data when it launches, possibly later this year.

Rest assured, Facebook isn’t going anywhere in the near future. But the seeds for Social Media 2.0 have been sown, and marketers would do well to keep an eye on those green shoots.

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