Update: My post below created a great deal of discussion about Twitter Auto DMs and whether they are welcome and worthwhile or unwelcome and damaging to senders' reputations. Because of the diversity of opinion, I created a brief 10-question survey and invite you to complete the survey and then share it with your followers on Twitter. The survey should take less than 3 or 4 minutes to complete, so please visit: http://blogs.forrester.com/augie_ray/10-11-02-please_complete_a_brief_su... or http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CFSTQ3D. I'll share all of the data here on the Forrester blogs in a week or two!
Rewarding people for "liking" a brand on Facebook has created some eye-popping headlines. Bing offered FarmVille players three units of "Farm Cash" for friending the search engine on Facebook, and the outcome was 400,000 new fans in a day. Einstein Bagels offered a free bagel to new fans and increased its fan count from 4,700 to near 350,000 in three days. It's hard to argue with success, but could tactics like these come back to haunt brands as the next generation of search evolves in the coming years?
Bing recently launched a new social feature on its search engine. If you're logged into Facebook when you conduct a search on Bing, you will see specially highlighted search results of links or brands that your Facebook friends have liked. The "Liked Results" feature makes sense--it's as if your friends are beside you as you search and chiming in with their personal recommendations.
Facebook owns spectacular portions of its users’ time and has the right to use their data; this is the basis for Facebook’s significant revenue potential and is a great reason why we should hold Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to very high standards. But Facebook’s success is not nearly sufficient cause for the level of demonization that occurs today in popular media and among social media insiders. Facebook deserves the scrutiny it receives, but the excessive reputational lynching that is underway could result in outcomes that are contrary to the interests of both consumers and marketers.
How bad has the Facebook scaremongering gotten today? I opened my latest issue of Maxim to find “The 12 Most Dangerous Men in the World: Meet the Dirty Dozen who very well could be the last people you see before you die.” And there, stuck between the Mexican drug lord who uses severed heads as a warning to rivals and the Jamaican drug lord responsible for street battles, is Mark Zuckerberg. To be fair, the magazine was being comical, citing as a threat “annoying people from your past ‘friending’ you” and including Brian Austin Green in the same list; still the casual and easily accepted association between Facebook and evil is not without repercussions.
Today’s Bing news is very interesting, not because the new functionality that Microsoft and Facebook announced is terribly powerful, but because it demonstrates how the next great evolution of search will occur. In brief, Bing announced two new ways it is introducing social data into its search results:
Enhancing results with Facebook Likes: If you search on Bing and your Facebook friends have "liked" something related to your search term, you will see those "likes" highlighted within your search results. The idea behind this functionality is that something your friend "likes" will be more interesting to you than other search results.
Facebook profile search: Bing reports that more than 4% of searches are for people. Of course, trying to find a particular Bob Smith can be a challenge, which is why Bing will utilize your Facebook network to help you find the Bob Smith that is most likely the one you seek.
Yesterday Facebook released new tools to help improve users’ control of Facebook sharing and data. The reaction to these new tools has been generally very positive (and, in my opinion, deservedly so). But there's been some interesting buzz among social media gurus, particularly about problems with the new Facebook Groups functionality. These gripes seem to be based less on a consideration of how the average consumer will use Groups than on a set of use cases and problems unique to social media professionals. In short, I worry social media specialists are making the classic mistake that trips up marketers time and again: You are not the target market!
I believe there are three reasons that social media professionals may end up judging new tools based on their biases and not upon the potential use and adoption by the average consumer. These reasons are:
Social media professionals are Creators and Conversationalists: Creators create the content that others consume in social venues, and Conversationalists post frequent status updates. Social media professionals are (not surprisingly) big Creators and Conversationalists, but the average consumer is not--fewer than one in four online adults in the US have Creator behaviors and fewer than one in three are Conversationalists.
Welcome to the new Facebook. No, I don't mean Facebook the social network, although today's changes do represent some exciting new capabilities for Facebook users. Instead, I mean Facebook the company. The organization that today announced new features seems a different Facebook than the one we’ve seen in the past. Today’s Facebook is one committed to transparency and user control and mindful of its increasingly vital and high-profile position within people's communications and lives.
By now you may have heard of (or seen) the new features Facebook announced at its press event this morning. Here is a brief summary:
Download Your Info: You can download a copy of everything you’ve ever posted to Facebook. Go to “Account: Account Settings” in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook page to access this new feature. As an extra security measure, you will be asked to authenticate yourself before downloading your data as a ZIP file. This file will contain your posts, pictures, list of friends, events, notes and more (see Figure 1).
Applications You Use: To date, once you allowed a third-party application to access your Facebook data, you had no ability to see what personal data was transferred and had few options to manage the application permissions. Facebook is now offering greater transparency and control over this data sharing. Go to “Account: Privacy” in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook page, then click “edit settings” to review the applications you have authorized. You can see the data each application has accessed; if you are unhappy with the amount of personal information provided, you may easily remove optional permissions for an application or deauthorize it completely from accessing your data (see Figure 2).
Barring any unforeseen technical difficulties, I'll be livetweeting from the Facebook press event tomorrow, October 6, 2010. Facebook hasn't said what the event is about, but speculation is circulating about a Skype integration, an evite-like event feature, Facebook credits or enhanced social gaming.
If you're curious, follow me on Twitter (@augieray) or watch the widget below for a live feed of tweets from Facebook in Palo Alto, Calif. The event is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am PDT/1:30 pm PDT.
Something amazing has happened to social media in the past couple of years: Overall adoption of social technologies has effectively reached saturation. We're now at the point where more than 80% of US online users engage with social media - and although there's been some hand-wringing over the fact social media adoption has plateaued at that level, let's keep things in perspective: 80% engage with social media! That's as many people as own a DVD player or use SMS.
This kind of scale gives marketers the potential to generate reach through social media. Sure, it's a new and unfamiliar kind of reach for many marketers - rather than just shouting uniform messages at millions of people, they must engage directly with their audiences and then hope those audiences turn around and talk to and influence millions more users. But as we've proven, this new model of reach can also provide the same kind of massive scale that the old reach models did: Just a tiny handful of Mass Connectors will create 256 billion influence impressions in the US this year.
In many ways, The Social Network is as much about Facebook as Titanic is about the White Star Line. Certain aspects of the film’s fact-based but fictionalized plot may reflect badly on Facebook in a vague sort of way, but as with any great movie (and The Social Network is a great movie), the viewer is swept up in the human emotion of the story. In a world filled with real-life cautionary social media horror stories of people losing their jobs, their marriages or their lives, the tale of how a few geeks and freaks got caught up in an entrepreneurial frenzy, cheated each other, and destroyed their friendships is hardly an indictment of Facebook.