in Marketing & Media

Deconstructing Facebook

Has anyone noticed a massive surge on Facebook lately? I have and bet that other social networks are now scrambling to respond, especially in light of Facebook’s opening of its API. That has released the floodgates of partner enhancements, add-ons, and functionality to integrate a myriad other data services deep within and beyond the Facebook platform. And each of these individual and distributed advancements has one common theme: the inherent tendency to spread virally, luring people back into the network. For example, I have Twitter syncing with my blog, as well as my Facebook profile; I can update twitter on any one of those three platforms, and all three will update instantaneously, encouraging tighter integration with my disparate networks.

Being a newbie on the service, one of the most noticeable characteristics is that the site is designed for a better user experience — versus to game the current publisher system that rewards pageviews and ad impressions. I’m all for monetizing and advertising, but some of the largest social networks have suffered terribly from pageview addiction, resulting in near intolerable user experiences. While advertising on consumer-generated media platforms is still in its infancy, advertising on Facebook– for me — has been pleasantly subtle and, fortunately, not risqué or pornographic (even though I exposed my 18-34 male status to the Facebook profile database). Moreover, I’ve yet to be spammed; I’ve only been bombarded by genuine friends and contacts, and nearly 100 of them in the last day or so.

Beyond my initial observations of Facebook, what makes it tick? Jeff Jarvis recently noted that:

…a powerful newspaper publisher beseeched Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder of the hugely successful social network Facebook, for advice on how he could build and own his community. The famously laconic Zuckerberg replied “You can’t.” Zuckerberg went on to explain that communities already exist and the question these magnates should ask instead is how they can help them to do what they want to do. Zuckerberg’s prescription was “elegant organisation”.

Jarvis is correct about enabling people in an elegant, organized fashion. But Seth Goldstein considers what’s at stake in its success as a social operating system, or platform, well into the future. He notes three axioms deeply inherent in two of the most successful digital media platforms, Microsoft Windows and Google:

  1. wide distribution
  2. application developers making money
  3. good tools

Seth then considers Facebook:

  1. Wide distribution? YES
  2. Application developers making money? NO (not yet)
  3. Good tools? YES

Seth’s conclusion: “the question for establishing Facebook’s value as a platform is no longer whether Facebook itself can make money but whether its developers can do so.” I think that eventually will happen, though it will take some time to figure out the right model. It could be advertising, but also could be something else. But it will happen, for the concentration and impact of human attention is too great.