Why Facebook is Not Apple: The Difference Between Good Ideas and Visionary Leadership

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Apple VS Facebook

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The world watched, first with anticipation and now with horror, as one of the most celebrated accidental innovations, Facebook, launched its IPO. Going in with high hopes, many investors felt the success of this IPO would set in stone the viability of social media as a bona fide business venture and not just a passing fad. Unfortunately, with Facebook’s stock falling nearly daily in the last two weeks, many are wondering if this may be the end of an era.

It comes as no surprise to me that this social media monster is having its share of troubles. The problem, I believe, lies in the difference between people who can come up with ideas and true innovative leaders. Though Zuckerberg may have stumbled upon an incredibly ingenious concept, he lacks the visionary leadership ability game changers like Steve Jobs so naturally embodied.

This is not to say Zuckerberg lacks genius, or even ability to innovate. However, Facebook’s birth story does lack the spark of innovative vision Apple boasts. As a result, Facebook is struggling to establish itself as a viable business endeavor.

zuckerberg looks at facebook ipo

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So what, you may ask, is the difference between success and failure in innovation? I believe the difference lies in purpose. Unlike the majority of innovations that have come about and changed the way our world operates, Facebook has yet to prove itself to be a product that makes a difference.

Undoubtedly, life has changed due to the introduction of social networking; but has Facebook changed or bettered the lives of millions worldwide? I’m not so sure.

Zuckerbergs friends

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Let’s face it, the purpose of Facebook was to allow an elite group of Ivy League coeds to communicate with others in the “in crowd.”

Flattered by its overwhelming popularity, Zuckerberg began to share it with other colleges and universities, high schools, and eventually the world. However, the focus of this grand experiment was not to create a truly great, world-changing invention. Its sole purpose was to socialize with one’s peers. It’s no wonder that the population latching most heavily to this social experiment has been that in the under-13 crowd, a population most concerned with what its peers think and say. What has been the result of the wild popularity of Facebook as a social medium? Just that – wild popularity and nothing more.

 

Steve Jobs Profile Art

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What today’s world needs more than ever before is innovators with vision and a desire to change the world. It needs people unafraid to be “outliers” in the scheme of life; visionaries who are more concerned with solving problems than achieving mad popularity.

Up to this point, Facebook has not provided any solutions to world problems other than how to spend a few idle moments. It is for this reason businesses have struggled to find a use for Facebook in their ventures. It is why Facebook’s stock is struggling today.

The real mistake here is not the invention of social networking but failing to arm it with a vision and a purpose. Zuckerberg never set out to change the world. Perhaps this is the reason he has not.

For Facebook to survive, it must prove itself useful in making the world a better place to live and work. This is the only way it will be able to sell itself as a viable business venture. Facebook’s purpose will have to change, and change quickly.

steve jobs showing off mac

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Though Apple products such as the iPod and iPhone lend themselves to plenty of enjoyment, their purpose is greater than just mindless entertainment. They change the way people live and work.

Steve Jobs had a genius for predicting and addressing needs people didn’t even know they had. As a result of his forward thinking, Apple products have become successful as luxury and business conveniences. Facebook must also find some synergy between its founding purpose and one that will benefit people’s lives and work to stay a float.

 

  • http://www.mininggems.org mark

    Whatever the mantra is at Facebook, it seems to be at odds with the two things that drove Steve Jobs and thus Apple – focus and simplicity. If one looks to products such as Path, then you’ll find a mobile platform that has a clean user interface. Facebook is struggling to be the epicenter of the internet, the first and last place that everyone goes to when they connect to the internet. With each new company and person who stakes a claim in a Facebook space, Facebook has a toehold on that vision. However, it is becoming too complex for its own good. Google+ has a cleaner user interface, but I think it has its own issues with simplicity and focus as being part of a larger whole that is Google. Nice article, by the way.

  • CAMMY H.

    All very true. I won’t say I didn’t LOVE Facebook when it came out, but it’s just as you say, lacking focus. As a result, I have found that I much prefer the use of Linkedin and twitter. Both also have a lot more viability for use in business and marketing.

    As to Google+, I agree – the interface is much more attractive and clean, but I have yet to really fall in love with it. It seems ironic to me that I can’t seem to latch on to it, as I think every other Google product is absolutely inspired.

    Thanks for the comment and the compliment – I appreciate your insight as well :)

  • Tim

    Hi Cammy, your observation that ‘purpose is the difference’ is spot on. Facebook’s drivers are purely selfish … underlying the status updates, profiles and pages is a huge marketing database that its users unwittingly populate for free. Facebook exploits the human need for contact, acknowledgement and inclusion, and really does not give a whole lot back to its users. Apple has thrived on an obsession with user experience and the desire to be the very best. The real question for Apple now is whether the current leadership team can continue to drive that focus on the user, innovation and transcendent design in the same way Steve Jobs did.

  • CAMMY H.

    Thanks for your insights. I completely agree. Love your observation concerning Facebook’s exploitation of basic human needs. I have often observed/thought that myself. Though many could have criticized Jobs as a person, no one can downplay the genius he had for “knowing a good thing when he saw it”. It does make you wonder if the legacy will be able to continue. As you observed he had an uncanny ability to know the desires of consumers, and a passion to create quality products people would love. He will be missed.

  • International Professors Project

    Are their websites that succeed without a purpose other than social networking?

    Could FB increase its group and company pages for various purposes?

  • CAMMY H.

    I think it will definitely have to revise its game plan in someway. The thing I worry about though is how the brand has already developed its image as a free resource for fun and socializing. Its difficult to make money after starting from this premise.

  • Kate

    Hi Cammy, that’s a very well-thought article, glad I found it. You ask, “…has Facebook changed or bettered the lives of millions worldwide?” and I laughed because I thought, well, it’s killed the birthday card, the Christmas card and the love letter and so, no, I don’t think it has bettered the world…

    Kate

  • CAMMY H.

    I know what you mean! Its hard because I am just as social media crazed as anyone, but though it has served to be a great amusement, I can’t say my quality of life is better than before. If anything, it may be worse due to now having just one more thing to take my mind off of people.

  • Jo Garton

    The networking Facebook provides has allowed me to find people with whom I had lost touch- some of whom have not just been a social pleasure but a boon to the work environment. maybe I could have done this a different way. However, the one thing Facebook has been brilliant for is reminding me of people’s birthdays!
    (not a patch on my Apple devices though!)

  • CAMMY H.

    Good Point! I definitely have found an old friend or two. That, however, was not the intention of developing Facebook; rather, the accidental effect. That I think was the main point of my post. Facebook is largely reactive, not proactive. Most of its success has been accidental, not planned. As a result, I can see why it would struggle to set itself up as viable business.

  • Kate

    I’m enjoying this thread. You have clearly touched a nerve.
    Kate

  • CAMMY H.

    Thank you! I love meaningful discussion on relevant and current topics.

  • Ikechi

    I am afraid you are spot on. Facebook has not solved world problems and they have to think towards that angle. Great insight. I will share this for my friends to see and reflect on as well.

  • CAMMY H.

    Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it!

  • James

    Thanks for the post Cammy. Very interesting article. I tend to agree with the assessment that FB probably lacks focus and certainly it lacks simplicity. It would be interesting to see if Steve Jobs ever commented on FB before his untimely passing.

  • CAMMY H.

    I don’t know. I noticed however, in yesterday’s release of the new iOS 6 that they noted full Facebook integration now. Wonder if this is due to the passing of Jobs or not….

  • ChuQ Dennis

    I’m loving this article; a-must-read for staff at FB. But I really doubt if they’ll give attention since all virtually every innovation must get Zuck’s signature to pass. You know, FB is Zuck and Zuck is FB. I really think FB shouldn’t have gone public, this action have caused more choas.
    Thumb-up Cammy!

  • http://cammyharbison.wordpress.com CAMMY H.

    Glad you enjoyed! I agree, Faceboook should not have gone public – at least not at this point. Until that vision and focus is established it should have just remained a great idea. Trying to mix business with pleasure is difficult without foresight. The reactive thinking of Facebook’s past cannot be its present or future if it wants to continue to grow as a viable business.

  • learn more

    Thanks for this post. I definitely agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my brother so hopefully this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

  • markpic clone

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and also the rest of the site is really good.

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