The Facebook Dilemma

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 4:21 PM

Originally Published 2007-08-23 16:22:13

facebook logoEvery since Facebook effectively opened its doors to the world last year (it used to be you had to have a dot.edu email address to join a network), there have been a plethora of articles and musings all over the place about how to capitalize on it.

One journalist even noted recently that he's blowing off LinkedIn in favor of Facebook. ArsTechnica recently had an article on how one of the huge differences between Facebook (login required) and Myspace -- turns out that Myspace attracts a lower socioeconomic class in aggregate than Facebook does (I did some digging, and I think this article by Danah Boyd was a major catalyst to Ars, SlashDot, and BoingBoing picking up the article -- blogrunner has a page with some relavant links to related blog posts and news articles). That makes sense, actually, because myspace has always been wide open, while Facebook, up until last September, has been segmented to only the educated (or becoming) part of the population. And in America, unfortunately, there's a lot of socioeconomics that goes into the availability of quality education, financial aid be damned. We can argue about causation, but there is definitely a correlate.

I've been a member of the network for over a year now, and my affiliation started the way most of the users joined up -- I met someone the old fashioned way (yes, that means in person, face-to-face, with real conversation and chemistry), she snapped a photo or two, and I wanted to see them. Are you going to post those somewhere? "Yeah, they'll be up on my facebook tomorrow sometime." And yet another profile was born.

Now, the relevance to this post to this blog as a whole isn't immediately obvious -- I'm aware of that -- but the fact that I've been getting Facebook invites from random bloggers and readers around the world who I really have only a tenuous relationship with means that people think there's value in (a) a large personal network, even if the relationships aren't particularly deep, and (b) most of the Facebook newbies aren't being all that selective about who they call a "friend". Both of these trends are something that I noticed on Myspace the first time I used the thing. That and the fact that the thing is written in ColdFusion and had (has?) more technical/scalability/usability issues than the clock settings function on your old VCR. It's gotten better, yes, but it's still amazingly slow, ugly, and difficult to use, especially when you consider that it is the canonical poster child of what we've collectively named "Web 2.0".

[Sure, this last point is debatable. While the geek in me says that Web 2.0 is all about usability improvements to web applications with technology like AJAX, the entrepreneur in me realizes that the power is in the network. Web 2.0 is not anything with AJAX, pastel colors, and rounded corners, it's any application that leverages user-generated content to improve the overall value of the app. Social networking as a genre is thus the killer app of Web 2.0. Offshoots of this phenomena that have become serious players in the application space are now included under the Web 2.0 umbrella, perhaps -- Writely, now known as Google Docs, comes to mind -- but while you might think that this has nothing to do with leveraging user-generated content, I'm here to correct that notion. Google's applications -- including gmail, docs, blogger, etc -- are still about leveraging user-generated content to the profit of the network owner. In Google's case, it's all about leveraging the AdWords platform across more content pages. More content means more ad inventory, which in turn means more impressions, clicks, and dollars.]

So what am I getting at here? Basically, I feel like my Myspace relationships are significantly less valuable than my Facebook relationships. I have segmented my online social networking profiles for the most part. Facebook contacts are people I have drinks and meals with. Sure, I have plenty of business contacts in there, but what fun is life when you don't mix business and pleasure? As anyone who has ever worked with me knows, I'd love to feed everyone under my entrepreneurial umbrella. Let's work hard, play hard, and make gobs and gobs of money while having the time of our lives. That being said, Facebook, for me, is primarily social -- there is literally no one in my network who I have not had a drink or meal with. Or would like to.

Myspace, on the other hand, includes "friends" that I've never met and probably never will. It includes lower level friends -- like the server at the local burrito place. Or that girl I went out with once back in '01 -- we've kept in light touch, but lost our respective phone numbers years ago. I don't check it often and I don't really care to. My inbox is full of spam anyway.

LinkedIn is segmented, too. There are probably only 2-3 people in my linked in network where I haven't actively moved around thousands of dollars with (or more), i.e., everyone in my network engaged in significant economic activity with me at some point. In many ways, that waitress at the burrito shop is a better "friend" -- I see her more often and she has a bigger impact on my day-to-day life -- but she doesn't belong in my LinkedIn network because I really couldn't speak to her employable skills other than handling a cash register.

I've gotten away from the business aspects of social networking a bit, I know, so I'll try to circle back and leave you with a few quickly digestible tidbits. As most of you who have my email address know, I recently decided to go back to school. I am doing so just for fun. This action has solidly moved me from Generation WTF (there's a solid 5 year gap between Gen-X and Gen-Y, for godsakes! What were you crazy demographers thinking? Hence "Generation WTF".) to Gen-Y. I am now in the habit of hanging out with Gen-Y folk that are full of hope, eager to learn, and excited about everything. It's amazingly awesome. In the process of this move, I've noticed a few habits that you'll really appreciate if the Gen-Y demographic is potentially in your client base.


  • Email is a given, but it's secondary. It's like text messaging, only longer and slower. Less intimate than a phone call, a text message, or a facebook message. It's equally private, and used with the same dependence as cell phones, but it is definitely NOT the primary method of interaction. I had an instructor give out his cell phone to the class the other day, telling us to text him if we were going to miss a class. Really. Email is not used to invite people to parties (sorry, evite), it's not used to organize meetings, and it's not usable for much other than notifications from older people or faceless entities (like Amazon or the University).

  • Person-to-person interactions where a phone call is too much (either in terms of commitment or time) are handled via text message or facebook. Facebook wall-to-wall conversations are the default, with facebook private messaging (essentially in-network email) filling the gaps where private data that you might not want to share with your entire network (or, perhaps, the world) is involved. Yes, the phone is still used, but those rules haven't changed in at least a decade (Yes, I know about Alexander Graham Bell -- phone habits definitely changed in the 90s when wireless phones became a required accoutrement for everyone old enough to carry a wallet).

  • Facebook is king. I now get an equal amount of email from facebook notifications as I do from clients and colleagues (yes, I'm still running my businesses). Like I do with email, I now just leave my facebook window open all the time when I'm at my desk or laptopping.

  • Myspace gets no play. Nobody mentions it, nobody uses it, and nobody cares. We all have accounts, we all check once a week, and we all participate, but it's only to keep up with the peripheral acquaintances and/or throwbacks who have yet to hop on the Facebook bandwagon. I'm not saying Myspace is dead by any means -- you certainly can't argue with their traffic, users, or mindshare -- but for the soon-to-be elite demographic portion of Gen-Y (with disposable income), Facebook is where you need to be.


Now if I could just come up with a nifty way to directly capitalize on this knowledge... without resorting to developing more of those (ugh) silly Facebook plugins. How many wall applications does one really need?

Comments

On 2007-08-31 17:10:01 Ana Yoerg said:
Have you heard about Spacelift? It's a new Facebook app that enables users to import their MySpace profiles onto Facebook so they donĂ¢€™t have to deal with the MySpace interface.
Pretty bad-ass, and pretty sneaky - getting MySpace users who can't be bothered with creating a new profile to convert.
Check out this article from CMSWire for more: http://www.cmswire.com/cms/web-publishing/facebook-and-myspace-may-be-batting-for-two-completely-different-teams-001641.php?r=a5

On 2007-09-01 12:52:09 Blogs for Money said:
"How many wall applications does one really need?"

That's one of the reasons I prefer LinkedIn over Facebook. Facebook is cool, but LinkedIn will always be more professional not being run by the community! :D

On 2007-09-02 08:44:06 Goyin said:
I always assumed facebook had a more educated, higher-class demo, just simply for the fact that its more familiarly known by college students traditionally. what did you decide to start to study btw?

On 2007-09-03 15:24:54 Sucker said:
I don't know if I check myspace even once a week these days!

On 2007-09-04 10:12:59 Patrick Burt said:
Great post m8. Like Sucker, I don't even touch MySpace anymore. It's seems a like a haven for those who want to remain semi-anonymous and facebook consists of genuine people.

On 2007-09-05 16:46:16 Johnny Fuery said:
Thanks for all the comments.

I'd like to know if anyone has ever gotten a job via Facebook. Seems completely possible...

On 2007-09-06 19:14:45 Thomas said:
I'm going to put this comment here although it doesn't comply with the article you wrote. Basically d@#!, I didn't know you were so business oriented. Thats good. I will tell you of a business I use to be in partnership with in person because writing it here might imply the wrong interpretations to anonymous readers and reputation means everything!

On 2007-09-07 15:41:20 TheGoont said:
I was a huge facebook advocate until it got opened to the 3rd party applications. They're like email spam that are now fully invited to clutter up my previously clean and simple facebook interface.

On 2007-10-30 03:16:54 Lou said:
You are a dumb, boring doosh.

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