Saturday, June 30, 2012

Valuing Facebook: Putting a Market Value on Memories

As most people know by now, Facebook recently went public, causing investors everywhere to scramble with the question, “How much is the company actually worth?” I personally find the valuation of Facebook to be extremely interesting, precisely because there are so many different theories on the growth potential, the marketing impact, the data that is being collected, the longevity, and what the future of the Internet holds. I believe that one of the questions that is being asked the most is, Can Facebook be replaced either by another social network or the next new thing?

I’ve gone back and forth, on my viewpoint, and currently conclude that what we mostly use Facebook for, keeping in contact with people, sharing lives, posting photos and updates, etc. can absolutely replaced by something new and likely will be. As a result, the time we care to spend on the network will dwindle, the advertising will dwindle, etc.

So yes, we may lose interest in Facebook to an extent, but the another important question is would we be willing to give up our Facebook page forever? Our first response might be, of course, it’s just social network page, it doesn’t mean that much to us.

But then we start thinking, of all of the memories that are stored within that profile. In retrospect, we might find that initiating the “timeline” was one of the Mark Zuckerberg’s more genius moves, forcing us to understand how, regardless of whether we were conscious of it or not, Facebook has been capturing a story of who we are, of how we’ve grown, of what we love, and of what we’ve done.

Our profiles have captured pieces of our past that we’ll never get back, notes, messages, status updates, and photographs, that take us back in time.

Then, of course¸ there are the profiles of friends on Facebook that are no longer in our lives or have passed away. People we may have loved once that we’ve lost. At times we find comfort in visiting their pages just as one might find comfort in flipping through old photo albums or visiting a grave. Maybe we’ve moved on from our pasts, and so we rarely go back or even want to, but there’s something about knowing it’s there, like the shoe box with pictures beneath our bed that we move from place to place and can never bring ourselves to throw away. 

But what if we had to pay to keep that shoe box, or that photo album? Would anyone of us do so, or would we surrender our memories without hesitation and have the box locked up forever? Personally, I would definitely pay something, but how much is an extremely difficult question to answer. Something tells me, however, that the more my timeline fills up, the higher the price will get. Of course, perhaps I am just an exception, too much of the sentimental type for my own good. However, something tells me that I’m not the only one. 

So as part of figuring out how much Facebook shares are worth, analysts are going to have to figure out how to put a “market value” on our memories, and I think this becomes a very interesting question. How do you really price the shoe boxes beneath 800 million beds?

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