How Facebook Nullified Potential Competitors

Ever since Facebook overtook MySpace, there’s been background conversation on what the next big social phenomenon will be. The fabled “Facebook Killer” is elusive. Google is certainly working to be a prime competitor with Google+. But when Facebook introduced OpenGraph it did something very smart. It turned potential competitors into added value for the social network.

Tumblr recently gave users the ability to easily share posts to Facebook, allowing them to appear in Timelines, News Feeds and Tickers using a feature called “send to Facebook.” Facebook receives more content shared to user Timelines, while Tumblr generates awareness and traffic from Facebook.

Instagram shifted from posting photos to Facebook using Instagram-hosted URLS that sent Facebook users to an Instagram website to see a full photo to showing the full photos on Facebook. This means users don’t have to link off-site. Photos are now added to a photo gallery and hosted on Facebook. Instagram is feeding the already heavy photo-sharing Facebook with more content. The relationship benefits Instagram by making it deliver a better experience to Facebook’s massive audience, boosting awareness. Facebook gets photos from a photo-sharing service with fast growth that could have potentially given Facebook some competition in the photo space.

Foursquare was supposed to be killed by Facebook Places, which didn’t happen. Instead, Foursquare’s won the battle over the check-in, but it didn’t take everything. Now Foursquare serves as a data source for Facebook by allowing users to share their Foursquare check-ins with their Facebook connections. Facebook Places didn’t take over, but Facebook still gets the information, while Foursquare reaches the Facebook audience.

Pinterest became what appears to be an overnight sensation, but the reality is it probably wouldn’t happened, so quickly at least, without Facebook. Allowing users to share their Pinterest activity on Facebook has meant more visitors, an increase in membership and more interactions with the website. Pinterest was poised for success, and Facebook offered a mechanism to find success much faster.

All of this only scratches the surface. Other platforms like Zynga, Fab, Spotify, Pandora and Foodspotting have integrated with Facebook. This means Facebook doesn’t have to develop a gaming platform. It doesn’t need a music offering for users. It has it all because others feed into it, making Facebook a better platform and allowing contributors to leverage Facebook’s massive audience.

How the Pieces Come Together

Facebook’s focused on being the necessary hub. To gain traction, awareness and usage, platforms are feeding Facebook, which means Facebook can be a partner with platforms that would otherwise be competitors.

This is something brands can and should think about when approaching social media. Sometimes it comes down to a decision of whether or not a brand should create something new or leverage what already exists. There’s an opportunity for marketers to understand what their consumers already care about and then build experiences around that versus trying to create an experience or message that isn’t already there.

When it comes down to it, Facebook’s biggest competitor is itself. Everything from privacy concerns to the ability to migrate data will make or break Facebook at this point. As long as it doesn’t anger its user base too much, Facebook’s sitting pretty.