Business Strategy · Competition

How would you disrupt Facebook if you had unlimited capital?

Pardeep Sumria Lovely Group

December 6th, 2017

Lets say you have unlimited capital and the principal objective is to get enough FB users onto your platform over a 2-3 year time frame that more or less will lead to FB's obsolescence. This is intentionally vague to encourage creativity and also question what it is that keeps FB users on the platform in the first place.

Look forward to your thoughts!

Tarek Hassan Entrepreneur - Sales/Business Development/Marketing/Concept Creation

December 6th, 2017

pay everyone to switch over and to earn money for each person they bring on and connect with :)

Jay Dawani Founder & CEO @Goofy Goldfish Productions, former pro athlete, disruptive innovator, marketer,

December 6th, 2017

Well, for starters it’s not about how much capital you have, it’s about connections. The only way to compete and potentially take on/down Facebook is to tap into the network effect like they have. Marketing is essentially capitalising on negative emotions, which is what Instagram does well too, similar to Facebook. When you’re on Facebook you’re always the cool kid who’s invited to the party, you never feel left out. That’s the real value users get. A lot of people feel left out, and start to feel depressed, in comes Facebook, and everyone is a part of everyone’s lives, they feel included. That is an extremely powerful benefit to users, that’s why people check the app 10+ times a day, they’re always in the know. And the fact that it’s free and literally everyone is on it allows it to scale with ease. However, Facebook’s real power is in the data they have on all their users and how efficiently they can market to products to their users. To reach x an number of users used to be a tremendous challenge but as a result of the data they have they were able to pinpoint exact users and what they respond to to such an accuracy they started saving companies hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars; they are second only to google. At this point they’re more a marketing company than a social networking company, as that is their primary source or revenue. And because so many companies and celebrities and such use Facebook so often it would be extremely difficult to compete with them unless you have what Peter Thiel refers to as a 10X improvement on Facebook. If you can create a social value proposition greater than that of Facebook, start niche and then scale from there, you may have a chance but at the rate of their growth and how much they add to their platform; it would be difficult to find a gap. However, if you were hell bent on it, hypothetically, you would want to invest that large sum of money into data mining and working with a research time of statisticians, behavioural scientists and psychologists to identify those pressure points that people respond to and create exceptional human centred design and a unique yet robust offering on your platform and generate lots of data to monetise and invest that back into your growth. That’s my view on it.

Alex H Always tinkering, always building.

Last updated on December 8th, 2017

I don't think I'm being pessimistic when I say that this would be more or less impossible. Unless in this theoretical case you had truly unlimited capital and could promise to, say, offer every user a significant sum of money if only they would switch to your platform (but here you might be better off ending world hunger/disease/etc.), then trying to overtake facebook, at least in only a few years, would be an exercise in futility.

This isn't to say that facebook will always be THE social network. But all things point to the fact that, at least in our lifetimes, it's probably here to stay. At the most basic level, they not only have the scale, and the infrastructure, and the talent, and the money, and the partnerships, but also a place in culture. Facebook is what's familiar, what's been adopted on a mass scale. Facebook is what so many people depend on in both their social and professional lives. Facebook achieved something that's never been done in human history, let alone in business. There's a reason it's been called The Social Network.

But let's play devil's advocate for a moment. What would it really take to push facebook out of its position?

Capital? Well, aside from the Oprah-style-money-handout mentioned above, maybe...if you were playing a very, very long game, and had something of a mastermind plan.

Platform features? Not likely - even if you had some brilliant new feature to offer users of your own platform, facebook could follow suit very quickly, and closely trailing and subsequently copying competitors in this way is a very viable business strategy.

Privacy? This goes hand in hand with platform features, but as it stands now, people aren't concerned enough with their privacy to jump ship. User behavior and data is too profitable to not collect, so this won't stop anytime soon. And again, people, on average, cast privacy to wind. And when something turns people's eyes and ears to privacy, usually some loose form of it, or even the illusion of it pacifies them.

What about time? I said above that, in our lifetimes, facebook is probably here to stay. But this could be wrong. Maybe some catastrophic data/privacy breach occurs and leaves a lasting, bad taste in people's mouths. Maybe culture and social consciousness somehow shifts, and everyone becomes hungry for a social network that is private and decentralized (there are already social networks being built on blockchain). Maybe, against all odds, people just sort of get tired of facebook, and don't enjoy using it anymore.

Years ago, I would have said that people growing tired of FB was a possibility for the not-so-distant future. Now I say no way. You have to realize that Facebook is different from many of the products people use in that it's actually driving behavior, shaping behavior, modifying behavior, and creating behavior, as opposed to simply fitting into how people act. Facebook is not merely social-connection, it's also social manipulation (for pay, when you think about their business model).

In the future, I think facebook's presence, whether by way of the platform itself or companies FB owns, is only going to grow. The same goes for a company like Google, or Amazon. VR is coming. AR is coming. While it might take some time for these things to become prevalent within everyday life, they will. And not only will this mean people spending time behaving/doing things in ways they haven't before, it will also mean new questions/situations to navigate, e.g. "Does virtual reality sex constitute cheating?" This alone illustrates the depth of influence these technologies and the companies that drive them do and will have.

So, Facebook is something more than a social network that could be replaced. You would need not only capital, but an unknown amount of time, and mass influence. And even if your capital were unlimited, and even if you could start working on a gargantuan strategy, mirroring all that Facebook is involved in and developing, you'd likely still hit a limit so far as how quickly you could deploy your capital, and how quickly you could achieve conversions/adoption. New social networks are certainly viable - it's not as if Facebook is the only name in actually connecting and sharing aspects of your life with others online. But Facebook is a bonafide titan at this point. To say it would be a massive undertaking to dethrone FB is to make a terrible understatement.


December 7th, 2017

My personal opinion:

Social networks will evolve and Facebook knows that if they don't control they will go the way of friendster and myspace. FB's acquisition of Instagram proves that they know they can't stay "cool" when your grandma has more likes on FB than you do. So they diversified into the younger "demos" by purchasing the Pintrest killing Insta.

So how do you carve up a multi headed hydra?

1. Balls of steel (prepare for lawsuits as you grow.)

2. You can't out "buy" or "innovate" FB right now. Any of your normal competitive advantages will be null and void, as they are better connected and have unlimited pockets if cash.

Granted you can likely can out innovate them for a few weeks before they offer a service that directly emulates your great idea. (Snap Chat is learning this.)

I would say you need a bunch of luck and varying degrees of the following strategies:

1. Create a environment of distrust between the end user and the FB brand. Facebook has always had a "we don't care about your privacy" approach. But people have accepted that their innermost details are for sale to just about any bidder. So this is going to be an uphill battle from the start. But the pendulum in society swings two ways, so the privacy issue is about to get a boost again once net neutrality implodes. Ride that wave.

2. Make a "private social network" A social network that protects the end users data, until some jerk uses it to exploit others and the government comes knocking. (Then they force you to collect data on users through court order.) Even then you could not target/advertise to them, which means you would have to find another revenue stream to keep the doors open. (And when you find that you will find one of the FB social networks emulates that.) Making no money is unsustainable, so get creative!

3. Lobby. Get a strong force in the government of your target audience's countries and figure out how to regulate FB out of each area. Again they have unlimited capital, but so do you!

Antitrust laws look like a good start, AT&T used to own everything, the government didn't like the way things were working so they broke up "Ma Bell"

Be the monopoly busting social network. Let the lawyers get rich.

4. Natural death: Very few companies in tech can last for 25+ years, it's usually when they are a monopoly that they get to "own" the space. But usually the large mega companies can't innovate as quickly. Facebook doesn't care, it buys up the innovators before they can become a problem. But it is still a very large company that eventually will trip up. It's just when they do, how could you use it to your advantage?

Looking forward to reading other's ideas on this fun exercise.

Aswin Bandaru Cofounder & Managing Director

December 6th, 2017

What it appears to me is that FB's platform is very creative, appealing to the way folks want to communicate, even though not exactly the same, MySpace didnt pull off, despite it had a headstart! Perhaps the answer lies in the communicative needs and wants of the users.

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

December 7th, 2017

I largely agree with Tarek Hassan. Now that there is a large valuable network, you have to provide something substantially more valuable, because Facebook may be good enough.

MySpace had substantially fewer active users, and they spent far less time per day on the site, so there was still a huge reserve of non-users who could adopt Facebook before seeing anything else. This was particularly true by initially targeting college students as they hadn't developed loyalty to a previous solution.

In contrast, about 2 Billion people are already familiar with Facebook and that's probably most of the people who have internet access at all.

So, if you had unlimited time as well as unlimited capital I would start by catching users even earlier than Facebook does. Also, I would look for a platform change, since everyone who adopts a new platform will be looking for solutions that do the same for them on the new platform as what they were able to do on the platforms they shifted from.

For instance, there were several companies that were leaders in packaged box software who lost leadership positions when competitors focussed on the new Web applications. And when smart mobile devices came out some of the leaders in web applications lost out to native apps for the new tablets and phones.

So watch for the right moment when a big platform shift is about to happen. For instance, if everyone is going to wind up with TWS bluetooth headsets in their ears and voice enabled assistants, you might win with a great solution focussed on voice command driven UIs. Or if people wind up with Augmented Reality glasses on their faces and do more communicating with video than with text, then be the first "messenger" for AR. etc.

The time to get people to learn something new is when everything seems new - either because they are young and inexperienced, or find themselves in a new environment where everything is new to them.

Greg Ebert Entrepreneur, Technology Futurist and Innovator

December 10th, 2017

With unlimited capitol, you buy them. =) FB has name brand and is trusted for what it does.

You might need to pivot the entire technology surface from web pages to virtual world interactions. While 2D surfaces are cute today, multi-dimensional user interfaces, in theory.... would be ergonomic and very immersive.

With unlimited funds change the interaction surface with similar functionality. You have to cater to what the consumer wants and trusts.

Rich Guess IT Leadership, Product Management and Design, Music

December 11th, 2017

Pursue the cultural differences of the rest of the world. As a percentage FB has North America completely wrapped, investing in other cultures would allow room for a different feature set. Then, it may be possible to come back around to North America after you have conquered the rest of the world and knock Facebook from the throne.

Jagadeesh Dk Entrepreneur, Professional Tech Freelancer.

December 8th, 2017

The idea seems good but the motive behind it is completely wrong which is stopping you from having the solution for your question by yourself. Facebook is a platform that has been connecting individuals from quite a long time. When it was first launched, it was cooler to connect with other students around the campus and nobody else was offering a web service like that. Eventually they grew to a point where other people would join it because most of their network are sharing their moments on the platform and they want to be a part of the community to share moments with each other. Meanwhile, so many other social platforms have emerged, some of them having a good growth as of this time now and some simply shutting down because of not being able to keep up. ( Not because of the capital but lacking innovation and user needs)

You would have to change some of your principles if you want to compete over Facebook:

1. You don't have to think about the process of luring users from one platform to yours. People who test around various services do not stay on using your service if you apply your principle.

2. Know the strategies employed by Facebook. Before you ask anyone of us in here, there is a lot of information available on the web, googling such will provide you enough data that you can harness.

3. Bring out the pros and cons

4. Before you go out to build your platform, question yourself and many others why would they use your platform in the first place? ( What's your USP? )

To conclude, Facebook also loses its users everyday. If you look at the rate of daily users signing up, the people who leave Facebook are negligible. You seem to understand Facebook as a social platform only but do not see the other businesses that it does with the data they have acquired until now. My advice would be to research, react and engage for anything you would do further.

Promotional content: If you really have unlimited capital, why don't you get in contact with me and take a look at the works we are trying to do and see if you can invest?

Apart from that, all the best on your future ventures. Cheers!


December 10th, 2017

Create a Crypto Currency like Bitcoin. Support it till its worth more than bitcoin. Create a Social Media platform to compete with facebook. Be a bank thats asks no questions and allows transfers on your platform, then bribe everyone over with your currency.