I almost can’t bring myself to write about Facebook. Everywhere I go I overhear people talking about Facebook. From people in the street on their phones talking to people about how they’re going to Facebook them to arrange a night out, to press articles about the modern etiquette of FB, it’s impossible to escape. So much so that I’ve even heard of drinking games where if someone mentions FB they get forced to drink a shot of death-booze.
And if you work in ‘the business’ it’s also impossible to escape the avalanche of clients who desperately want to get their stuff onto/into Facebook. But why? What’s the big attraction? Here’s some thoughts:
Distilling down the Facebook story you get to a few things that really really excite marketeers:
- it has massive reach
- it’s hugely sticky
- the rise of it has been astronomical and if you keep extrapolating it’ll be bigger than the internet before 2009 (joke)
- it’s technically pretty tight
- people seem to love it
- people can be friends with your brand (surely the nirvana of marketing achievement)
- applications allow you to deliver trendy stuff like branded utility, brand experience, branded content, and all that jazz
But most importantly of all (for marketing people) Facebook has virality at its core. Every time someone does something their friends get to hear about it.
It’s almost like someone installed an ‘auto send to friend’ function onto the Internet.
Let’s face it this is what we’re all looking for isn’t it? Every time I enter a competition rather than me having to enter my friends email addresses to let them know that they should play too, higher powers decide that they ought to know and makes sure that they do (of course people can choose to turn this stuff off, but we all know how lazy ‘people’ are).
I was lucky enough to have a meeting with someone from Facebook last week and I think they’ve got an amazing pitch and I think that their description of Facebook as a social utility rather than a network is very smart. And actually very accurate and much more extensible than the notion of a social network.
If you look at the way that behaviour is changing you could imagine some people using Facebook as a replacement for email. Applications like Facebook really could (for some kinds of people) be a better fit for their communication needs than email (and IM and text messaging for that matter).
But when you start thinking about Facebook vs Email it takes you to an interesting place in marketing terms. The excitement and hype around Facebook isn’t a million miles away from the excitement around Hotmail when it first came out. Everyone was crowing about how viral growth of hotmail and it’s amazingly effective ‘sent from Hotmail, get your free account now’ signature line.
And pretty soon we started to see mainstream consumers using email to talk to each other and sharing things (even sometimes adverts!). So we tried to get involved. Creating email marketing campaigns, emailable ads, sticking ‘send to a friend’ on everything, and for a while it worked. And it’s still working for some people.
But I don’t think I ever recall a client, even at the height of global .com idiocy, asking for a ‘Hotmail campaign’ and deciding to ignore everyone else who had a different kind email account.
In a nutshell Facebook isn’t the magic answer. It’s exactly what they say they are, it’s a social utility. And the winners will be the people who understand that. The ones who are sympathetic to and respectful of what social utilities are, what they do, and why people use them.
Facebook is a set of amazing tools that we can all use to connect and communicate. Then once you’ve formed those connections the possibilities are vast. A bit like the Internet then, except for a bit smaller, a bit more organised and a bit more manageable (3 things that also make it appealing to marketing types).
I really hope that Facebook continues to thrive it’s a great thing. They just have to make sure that bad marketing doesn’t ruin it for everyone.
I suspect this one’s going to run and run. But I’d love to hear what everyone thinks…
Some more things worth reading…
As per normal Hugh manages to say, in one business card, what it’s taken me hundreds of words to express…
And definitely worth reading what Matt Dickman has to say about Fram (Friend Spam) over at Techno//Marketer.
Oh and this group about Facebook invading privacy is pretty hot right now. That’s the blessing/curse of social utilities if people don’t like things you hear about them pretty quickly too…