The Benefits and Time of Facebook (or other Social Networks)
There’s a huge amount of fury on the internet at the moment over Facebook and it’s siloing of information. They’re being compared to early AOL, a walled garden, a black hole of information, a stain on society, and I can see why everyone would think this. Let’s be honest, the value in any social network that is looking to be hugely profitable is in the demographics and information that is stored there, and in generating as many ad impressions as possible.
And Facebook generates a huge number of ‘extra’ impressions – as Eric Rice points out, why send an email saying “you have mail at Facebook” if not to get you to the site and show you some more adverts. And with a huge number of people generating auto-referral messages all needing confirmation, is worse than email in making you actively have to do things to be seen to be doing things.
But through all this, people are writing plug-in modules as fast as possible. I guess the avalanche has decided a ‘volume winner.’
One thing I find interesting is what people expect to get from a social network – the big question I get asked when discussing Facebook is what it should be used for? Well two practical examples from Facebook have seen me back in touch with a friend from high school who moved to the states – from knowing ‘pre-internet’ to a name lookup in Facebook. The second is hooking up with an ex-Uni colleague now in San Francisco (yaay… another friend who’s moved to the Bay).
And through all this, I know that a social network, with proper targeting (and love) can be a great experience. I’ve been part of a small social network since late 2005, helping with the beta testing, and continuing to be art of it. It’s not on the Web 2.0 Luvvies radar, but I’ve got a great social circle, met many of them on my travels (primarily in the US) and it does what the Tin of Social Networks says it will.
And I think this is the way forward. Small, tightly focussed, with dedicated members – it’s notable that the network [deliberatly not mentioned here] charges a monthly fee, and people continue to stay there. That means there’s no churn for advertising or deal making, it’s a very traditional linear growth business (you know, like we had before the bubbles), and it continues to expand as fast it needs to.