Why Marketeers Are Too Excited About Facebook


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…

GapingVoid on Facebook

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…

Nike, is it Supersonic?

Nike Supersonic

Right now you can’t move in London without seeing some kind of ad for Nike Supersonic.

According to the blog spam I got the other day:

“Nike is launching an exclusive invitation only event for 3,000 people in London to push their pace through the sound barrier with Nike+ Supersonic. 1,000 runners and 2,000 of their guests. One night of music fuelled speed.

On the night of 17 November 2007 at a secret London venue, London’s fastest 1,000 will sprint a floodlit 1K course, cheered on by 2,000 of their mates, ending with an invite-only, exclusive gig.

Contenders compete for tickets at four weekly 100m speed trials across London throughout October, starting on the 12th in Finsbury Park. Each trial will feature live DJs, athletes, celebrities and Nike gear. The fastest 1,000 runners from the trials will get the opportunity to compete with two guest passes.

Pre-registration for trials, videos, ring and alert-tones can be downloaded at www.nikesupersonic.com which will continue to be updated with more information for the next couple of months.”

For me, another great example of Digital Agencies sucking at blogger relations. Nothing personal.

I’d had a word with myself about not writing negative things about campaigns and only writing nice things. But being as I got a horrible piece of blogger outreach only a day or two after my post, I feel like I’ve been given permission to comment. And comment I shall. (I’ve tried to be as balanced as I can).

What I like about the campaign is their use of MySpace. Setting the microsite inside MySpace does some good things. It makes it connectible and commentable and sits it inside a ‘relevant’ social network.

Unfortunately the microsite is nothing more than a big flash movie with not much to it. A very nicely produced flash intro. Really very nice. But it does feel a bit, well, shallow. Oh and there’s some downloads.

They’ve also done a great job of getting it ‘out there’ (aside from the impersonal and heavy handed blogger stuff). But even that seems to have worked given the coverage they’ve got. Being a big sexy brand like Nike means you can get away with a lot…

But the online stuff isn’t bad. It’s what’s missing from the campaign that I feel a bit funny about. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a replacement for, or an evolution of, Run London. But to me it feels like neither.

run londonLike many people I’m a big fan of Run London and lots of the stuff that was done around it (especially some of the online and mobile things). But what made Run London brilliant was the sense of empowerment and the fact that it was based around an insight and an event that ALL runners could feel inspired by.

Supersonic feels really ‘elite’. As a rubbish runner it has no relevance to me. I don’t want to go and turn up to an event and fail. Nobody likes to fail, and I’m guessing that only people who think that they’re good enough to run 100m very fast will bother to turn up.

Even the design feels ‘elite’. Using light graffiti and moody effects makes the whole thing feel a bit ‘techno sphincter’ (sorry that’s a phrase one of our clients brilliantly used to describe that macho matrix-esque design aesthetic)

Maybe there’s reasons why mass participation isn’t the objective this time around, but the whole thing leaves me cold. A real shame when the Run London stuff had me all warmed up.

Lots of style. Odd substance if you ask me.

BT luvs Bebo

TechCrunch report: Bebo Shuns $550 Million Acquisition Offer

San Francisco based social network Bebo, which recently raised $15 millionfrom Benchmark Capital, rejected a £300 million ($552 million)acquisition offer from British Telecom Group “a few weeks ago”,according to an insider on the transaction. Bebo’s asking price? North of $1 billion.

Sounds like another big media company trying to pay big money for something they don’t understand? Maybe? But then you read something like this:

Hitwise research shows that users of social networking site Bebo generate more than half of all UK visits to VoIP provider Skype.Visits to Skype from Bebo make up 56% of the VoIP site’s total visits.

From mad.co.uk (appears to be subscription only – although I accessed it earler ?!?): Half of Skype visitors come from Bebo as young users adopt VoIP

If you can’t get in to mad.co.uk you can read about the Hitwise analysis (where I think their figures came from) at: Heather Hopkins – Hitwise UK: Skype, Bebo and Vonage – Why Skype Visits are Through the Roof

Heather says:

Earlier this month, Skype and Bebo announced a partnership to take VOIP social. The partnership allows users to host “Skypecasts” with up to 100 participants on the same call and we have already seen a massive impact on Skype’s traffic. Last week, 58% of visits to Skype came from Bebo

Be interesting to see how much real uptake there is of Skype through this.

Maybe their valuation isn’t so crazy after all…

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