Today, Facebook and MySpace announced a collaboration. MySpace users can now log in using Facebook and leverage their collection of Facebook "Likes" to instantly create a highly personalized entertainment experience on MySpace. On the one hand, this is hardly earth-shattering news: MySpace already announced and launched its new entertainment-focused mission, and Facebook has been integrated into more than 1 million Web sites. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything interesting about today's news:
MySpace is reinvigorated and innovating rapidly. For a site that hadn't changed much in years, MySpace is suddenly looking awfully innovative. Of course, it needs to be; News Corp. has made it clear that MySpace quickly must demonstrate success, and MySpace is taking this challenge very seriously. In the past three weeks, MySpace has announced its new format, launched it and already rolled out its first major innovation with a partner.
Facebook made yet another big announcement today. The company introduced a new communications systems aimed at enhancing digital dialogue between friends and family. It isn't yet live, but you can request to be an early user of the new system here. To get a sense of what Facebook's new messaging platform is about, check out its official 4-minute video at the end of this blog post.
Since it involves a new Facebook.com email address, some people shrugged the new functionality off as a weak email tool. They're right — but that's like complaining an apple makes a poor orange. The new platform is a poor email client because it isn't intended to be an email client. Instead, this is a new form of communications; as Mark Zuckerberg said (more than once) "This isn't email," and he's right. Here's why it's worth paying attention to the new Facebook messaging platform:
It's a Gmail wounder. There's been a lot of buzz about Facebook's messaging platform being a "Gmail killer." It isn't, but it's certainly going to wound Gmail and other popular email clients. With the combination of individuals’ social graphs and Facebook’s new functionality, Facebook will succeed at pulling away some time and attention from Gmail, but it won't kill Gmail or other email clients. Facebook isn’t interested in being a management or response tool for your flood of bills, email newsletters or other communications; instead, it’s about facilitating and enhancing your personal relationships. Facebook wants to be the platform for personal communications and leave the boring stuff to Gmail and others.
We’ve launched four specific areas of focus (although you can always suggest more). Will 2011 be . . .
The year location-based services go mainstream?Thus far, checking in from real-world locations has been an activity reserved for early adopters, but this behavior is growing, being spurred on by innovation from foursquare and Facebook. Will this be the “hockey stick” year for foursquare, where growth kicks into hyperdrive? Or will Facebook roll over foursquare as it did MySpace? And what will it take to hook the masses in the check-in craze?
The year of trust?Trust has always been an important brand attribute, but in 2011 it will become crucial for brands to earn followers, affinity and advocacy. How will brands earn trust in social media channels? How will trust be measured? What happens to brands that lose on trust? What steps will Facebook take to earn more trust as the social network continues to integrate itself into consumers’ surfing, social and mobile habits?
There's a big announcement coming from Facebook on Monday. It is rumored that Facebook will unveil a new email and messaging platform, although the announcement could also or alternatively relate to mobile chat or Skype. If Facebook tackles email (which seems inevitable, whether next week or next year), it promises to change the way consumers think about digital communications.
If that sounds like a big statement about a company that's already had a profound effect on consumer communications, consider for a moment how the Web changed information gathering. When people needed information prior to the advent of the Internet, the operative question wasn't just "What do I need?" but "How do I get it?" The "how" affected everything: If I turn to the encyclopedia on my shelf, I might get old information. If I turn to a single source, I might get biased information. If I need to get into my car and drive to a library, it will take a great deal of time and effort. And if the "how" was sufficiently difficult or murky, I might simply give up.
The Internet changed that — it provided a single "how." The browser became our window to whatever data we needed. Of course, we still needed to find that data on the World Wide Web (which is where Google and other Web 1.0 solutions stepped in), but once "how" turned to "what," it changed everything. Consumers who saw the benefit of instantaneous access overcame the relatively extreme challenges of early Internet adoption (such as slow speeds, expensive PCs and costly ISPs) and adopted the Web in huge numbers in a relatively short period of time. That's the power of eliminating "how."
The value of Facebook "Likes" is supposed to be clear: My friend likes something, and that is valuable and persuasive information for me. This is the idea behind Bing launching social search — if my friends have liked something for which I'm searching, that will be more relevant and helpful information than just another one-size-fits-all search engine results page. It's also the idea behind Facebook's Open Graph — if you visit a site and see that a friend has "Liked" it, you are more likely to pay attention, spend time, and complete a transaction.
But as we all know, a "Like" (with quotations) does not necessarily signify a like (without quotations). An interesting ExactTarget study demonstrated that people may "Like" a brand for a wide range of reasons: to learn about discounts, to earn freebies, for entertainment, to gain access to exclusive content, and — of course — to show support for the company to others. Just look at the list of companies you follow on Facebook — do you like them all equally? Are there any you've followed even though you really aren't a true fan of the organization or its products? The disconnection between “Like” and like will only grow greater in the coming year, as brands looking to expand their pool of Facebook friends reward new fans and followers (an activity I compared with the “black hat” tactic of buying links in the early days of search engine optimization.)
Today Facebook announced three mobile enhancements for Facebook Places, including new functionality that developers of mobile applications may incorporate into their products and a powerful new (and free) platform for connecting mobile consumers with relevant ads for nearby businesses. Today's pronouncements demonstrate the ambition and vision Facebook has for itself in mobile computing and socializing over the long term, but in the immediate future Facebook now is poised to bring the wonders of checking in to the masses.
Chances are, you are NOT reporting your location (aka "checking in") to your friends and followers in social networks. According to Forrester data from earlier this year, just 4% of US online adults have ever used location-based social networks on their mobile phones. Simply put, there hasn't been enough WIIFM ("What's In It For Me") to entice and retain the typical consumer. Now, Facebook is set to change that, lowering the bar and improving the WIIFM for a wider range of consumers. Average Facebook users who previously felt "checking in" was better suited for narcissists and techies can now realize benefits from location-based services (LBSes, also known as geolocation) via a larger and richer set of offers and deals.