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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Things Facebook Does Not Know About Social

Human is a social being. Since primitive society, human need others to survive. Even today, in order to solve more and more complicated tasks, social needs have become even much stronger.

Since the beginning of the internet, people at any other corner of the world are able to connect with each other. Social capability seems to have been enhanced by the technology of the internet, especially when mobile internet become the trend. During the past decades, there were many social networking tools available on the internet. Just like flowers bloom and fade, some social networking applications no longer exist nowadays. In recent years, Facebook seems has become the biggest company and service for social networking. However, no matter how luxuriantly it blooms, it is fading. Younger generation no longer like Facebook, older users have been losing, user engagement has been decreasing. Why is that? Because there are things about social Facebook have never really understood.

1. Social is not to contact people we know but to know strangers

When social is a verb, it means to reach out, to make new friends, which also means to know strangers, instead of to communicate with a person we have already known. However, most social networking services including Facebook had just made themselves communicate tools, to allow people to connect with those old friends, instead of an effective tool to make a new friend. At the beginning of Facebook, Facebook encouraged users to send out group emails to their email contacts, which means, to connect with people they have already known. People have ways to communicate with old friends, but people lack effective ways to make new friends. Most people have more or less inner shyness, even though everyone needs to social to bring them companionship, make them feel belonged, help them solve problems together. Such tools are still lacking online. Facebook is not doing well in helping people to make new friends; in other word, Facebook is not good at social(verb).

2. Social is always one degree instead of six degrees

Of course, many social networking sites including Facebook were based on a so-called Six Degrees of Separation theory, which means theoretically, we can connect any two persons in the world with six, or fewer, social connections. Hence, Facebook came up with many such friend suggestions for a friend’s friend. However, how many people have really even talked online with those friend’s friend? Even though those people remain on our contact list, but they are still a stranger, and 99% of them we have never even chatted a single word. By default, people only think those who we have met or have personally communicated are a real friend. Which means, a friend’s friend, before he/she moves up to one degree, is not a real friend. Facebook and other sites’ friend suggestion do not really work. Linkedin’s friend suggestion seems to work a little better, since people can view the other one’s background info, and willing to connect for the good of career advancement. But in this case, when people reach out to make a connection, it really does not have to be a friend’s friend. Even in this case, only those who have arranged offline meetings or personal conversations will become a true contact with each other. In a word, you need to enter the other one’s mind to be their true friend/contact.

3. Social needs common languages instead of relying on old memories

Most social networking app just helps users to stay in touch with old friends, especially old schoolmates. But, frankly speaking, if those old friends are no longer in the same city, we really do not have much more common languages to talk about. We live in different cities, we work in a different company or even different industry, we have a different lifestyle, honestly, we do not think of each other anymore, and we barely chat online anymore. It does not mean we are no longer friends, I am sure when we meet we will still be so excited and hug each other and all the old memories will come back again. But until that, we do not have much interaction online because we do not share many common things in daily life anymore. We cannot always live in old memories; people are always live in the current. Sometimes we might give a thumb up when an old friend posts his/her family photo there, but we barely talk much now. That is why Facebook user engagement is dropping and they still do not get it.

4. Social is to interact with each other instead of to read and watch

In order to save its dropping user engagement, Facebook came up with a timeline, with videos and news and feeds… Almost all the social networking companies including Facebook have become social media companies. It is nothing wrong about having some media content, but it also means Facebook has been failing on its networking side. The reason people need to social is that we need each other, is because we live in a community. Hence, people have such needs to make friends, to get to know more contacts, to make an appointment, to arrange meetings, to have coffee together, to sign a contract, to discuss ideas, to make payments or receive invoices, etc. All these social activities are part of social, are what people need to interact. However, when companies like Facebook moved away from social networking to social media, their networking features have been weakened. People do not have to interact with others when reading media content. In real life, it may happen when sitting on the toilet, when lying in bed, it is more personal. Even though social media sites allow people to comment or like to re-post, but that is not a vivid discussion. And many other social activities and interactions have been ignored.

5. Social is more local than long distance

Even though the internet is capable of connecting two persons at any corner of the world, social is still a more local thing than long distance. Even with so many online communication and collaboration tools available, people still prefer to work with others face to face. Not to mention, people also need to hang out together, party together, and so on and so forth. Besides, as mentioned above, local also means both parties have more things in common, hence they have common languages. You would not greet a friend online and start the conversation with “What a beautiful day today.” Right? Social is between two persons, which means it has many emotion involvements. Body languages and facial expressions enhance social efficiency. No matter how good quality a webcam is, it still cannot replace offline physical contacts. In terms of local connections building up, Facebook is also not good at this. Just from its name, Facebook, it has determined that it is mostly for schoolmates, instead of to make local contacts.

6. Social is more mobile than PC

The difference between mobile internet and PC internet is that mobile connects two persons; while PC connects two machines. The mobile phone has become an extended part of the human body, it keeps moving together with the person who owns it, and it keeps engaging with this person. As a human activity, social is more keen on mobile than to PC. Facebook started with a website on the PC, even though now it also has a mobile app version, its DNA has determined that it can never be mobile friendly. QQ started from a desktop application, even it also has a mobile app version; it has still been replaced by a mobile-first product WeChat. Even though both of them have very similar features. Linkedin also started from the PC version, that is why Linkedin’s mobile app user experience is also so bad. If Facebook did not purchase Instagram and Whatsapp, I guess it may have already been losing the market.

7. Social always has an intention instead of random

Unfortunately, there is no pure relationship. When people social, reach out to make new friend, there is always a purpose, an intention. Some people reach out the beautiful girls or charming guys for sexual attraction; some people reach out to potential business partners for future opportunities; some people reach out to professionals for project collaborations… Or at least, people just want to make new friends for fun, for belonging needs, or for a companion. Tinder targeting at purely sexual attractions, and enlarged the photo for visual appealing; LinkedIn showcases people’s business title and resume for job and hiring. However, on Facebook, it has a little bit of everything. It has some photos; some users may have put a brief resume there. But have everything sometimes means have nothing. Because none of them really got emphasized. We can go to Instagram or Tinder to look at some people’s photo; we can go to Linkedin to look at someone’s resume; we can go to Tiktok to watch someone’s unique life moments; but what do we go to Facebook for? To watch the timeline with shared posts? To watch videos and news? To watch a friend’s friend suggestion without knowing what the hell why should I add her/him?

Facebook beat MySpace when MySpace was almost like a monster in the social networking world; WeChat beat QQ when QQ was dominating the China market. The terminator of Facebook will be a mobile-friendly, local emphasized, networking interaction enhanced tool. With such understanding, I build my current startup, Nearal. It is a local networking app available on both the iOS app store and Google Play for Android. Of course, when I presented to an investor and claimed that Nearal is going to beat Facebook and Linkedin, he laughed. The Nearal app is based on my understanding of people’s true social networking needs, and we also developed features all around how to satisfy people’ social needs. Of course for a startup our road ahead is still tough, but I know for sure someday soon Facebook will be replaced by a SoLoMo product like Nearal.

a. Nearal app helps users to know more new friends around

At the social page of Nearal, users can easily browse people nearby. With their profile image, name, profession, and their intention of what are they seeking for or offering.

Not like Tinder, which end up as a hookup app, and people only look at others’ appearance, Nearal app is trying to meet more of people’s social needs, which is closer to people’s real life. No matter if you are hiring for an employee with special skills, or you are seeking for a potential business partner, or you are looking for an experienced roofer to help you with your house renovation, or you want to meet more professionals of your own field so you guys can learn from each other, or someday can even give each other internal referral or something like that… Nearal is the right app for those social needs.

b. Nearal is very SoLoMo

Nearal is a social, local and mobile product. Nearal is aiming at location-based, helping users to make local connections, and users can easily make direct contact and become one-degree friends. Nearal is very mobile friendly, stay simple, and stay personalized, and providing features to meet users’ social networking and interaction needs. Nearal allows users to join or build local groups by profession or interest; Nearal also provides payment solutions for users to easily send an invoice or receive payments.

c. Nearal links online to offline

People cannot live in a virtual world. Online service should always serve offline life. Nearal is such an app that links online to offline. According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey, firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.0 percent. Small local business and local professionals are always the main groups, instead of big companies like Google or Apple. Nearal is positioned on such group of people and small business and targeted on serving local communities and local people. These groups were so difficult to advertise themselves; because most of them are not tech savvy, they also did not know how to manage their customers and scale their business. Now Nearal app is available and ready to help them.

As I am aware of, just as the investors laughed, I know as a startup at the early stage, we still have many challenges. And there are many chances we might fail. But I know our success will rely on everyone’s support. Please support us by giving me your valuable feedback and suggestions, or simply please just try to use our app and let me know which part you are not satisfied with. Appreciated!

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