If you're interested in Facebook's announcement this evening, you can watch the proceedings live here on the Forrester blog at 5 pm PDT.
The social media world is abuzz. Take one hot trend (geolocation) and add one blazing hot social network with a history of privacy missteps (Facebook), and you have the making for an interesting news story.
That's not the only reason curiosity is high about tonight's event--there's also a lot of money involved. While consumer adoption of geolocation check-in via services like foursquare and Gowalla is still nascent, there is little doubt that consumers will increasingly share their location via social networks. They share their profiles (who), their activities (what) and their hopes and wishes (why), so why not the "where"? And this data becomes yet another piece of the puzzle for advertisers wishing to build promotions, loyalty programs and more personalized and targeted advertising.
Then, of course, there's the foursquare vs. Facebook angle, which I expect will disappoint those looking for a battle royale between the heavyweight champ (Facebook with 500 million users) and the young upstart (foursquare with 2.5 million users). Facebook seems less likely to launch a "foursquare killer" and more likely to create a geolocation platform upon which others might build. Think of it this way: Facebook doesn't create social games, but instead creates the platform on which third-party social games thrive. Despite the Facebook vs. foursquare hype, the two are likely to end up more complementary than competitive.
As more marketers take to Facebook and Twitter -- and as users' friend lists on these networks continues to grow -- it strikes me that it may be getting ever harder for marketers to actually get a message through to their target customers. After all, if the average Twitter user follows several hundred people, and all those people post on average a few tweets per day, and then the average Twitter user checks in only a couple times per day and reads maybe 40 or 50 tweets per check-in . . . they're missing a lot of messages, right? If you assume that logic is right (though obviously the data points are all just ballpark guesses right now), it got me wondering: If a marketer has 100,000 followers on Twitter, or 100,000 fans on Facebook, and they post something, what percentage of those followers or fans ever actually see that marketing message?
I've collected the data around this and am in the process of building a model to find the answer to my question -- and I'll be writing a report about that topic this month. In the meantime, though, I'd love to get your thoughts on the topic.
- Do you feel as if it's getting harder or easier for marketers to get a message to users through social media?
- Which social networks do you feel are the most cluttered, and which are the least cluttered?
As you probably know, Facebook and Amazon are allowing consumers to connect the two sites. What I find most interesting is the care Amazon is taking to inform consumers what this will mean to them and why they should do it. Given Facebook’s repeated stumbles on issues of consumer privacy, the approach being taken by Amazon is one every marketer should note and consider. What’s important about Amazon’s approach is that it's not simply leaving the communication of important information to Facebook.
CNN, for example, lets Facebook do the talking. Below is Facebook’s standard "Request for Permission" page, which is the message consumers receive when they click the button to connect CNN with their Facebook profile. What does it tell users? CNN can "access my basic information," but what will they do with it? Will they share or sell it further? Will it be made available to marketers or other users? Will my list of friends -- one of the items mentioned in the list of basic information that will be shared -- receive information from CNN as a result of my actions? And what information will CNN send to Facebook -- every page I visit or only the ones I "like"?
We humans can have all sorts of addictions. Some researchers believe that addictions may be positive -- such as to jogging or meditation -- but of course many addictions are negative.
What about Facebook? There is no doubt that Facebook is addicting -- according to Nielsen, users spend as much time on Facebook as they do Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and eBay combined. But is this a positive addiction or a negative one? Is Facebook jogging, or is it heroin?
Microsoft has announced the release of Microsoft Outlook Social Connector, which will bring friends’ data from Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace into users' Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010. Before anyone says "Buzz" and discounts the value of this offering from Microsoft, I think we need to consider this not from the angle of yet another social platform or social aggregation tool but as a means of making our daily activities richer and more social.
The Microsoft Outlook Social Connector won't change the social networking world, but it isn't designed to do so. The Outlook Social Connector won’t replace any social networking behavior that we already have; you'll still check Facebook.com, use Facebook's mobile site and apps and make status updates via Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. Instead of competing with existing tools, Microsoft’s new plug-in is another step toward a more social experience where social data is organically integrated into our daily habits and activities.
The other day I authored a blog post many found interesting, infuriating or both: What Is The Value Of A Facebook Fan? Zero! I appreciate the great dialogue from the folks who offered feedback in blog comments and on Twitter. Because this is such a hot topic and because the feedback was so thoughtful, this seemed worth further exploration.
In that blog post, I suggested that marketers approach the question of how much a Facebook fan is worth as if the answer is zero. I said, “It is what companies do with fans that creates value, not merely that a brand has fans.” I went on to suggest that marketers should recognize a difference between potential value and real value. Like a coil that is compressed to store energy (an apt metaphor from my Twitter friend, Blair Goldberg), Facebook fans have little actual value until they are activated by the brand, just like releasing a compressed coil.
It is a question I hear several times a week: What is the value of a Facebook Fan? I’ve seen answers ranging from $136.38 to $3.60. I can’t blame vendors, agencies and consultants for trying to answer the question -- the hunger from clients is so great that anyone promising a simple answer is likely to get attention. The problem is that there is no simple answer to such a complex question. In fact, it may be best if marketers approached this question as if the answer is zero -- unless and until the brand does something to create value with Facebook Fans.
There are numerous reasons the question of Facebook fan valuation is problematic:
Forrester's Social Technographics® looks at how consumers approach social technologies — not just the adoption of individual technologies. We group consumers into seven different categories of participation — and participation at one level may or may not overlap with participation at other levels. We use the metaphor of a ladder to show this, with the rungs at the higher end of the ladder indicating a higher level of participation. You can find more background on Social Technographics and the concept behind it at our Groundswell blog.
Overall, engagement with social activities has increased significantly in the past few years. By the end of 2009, almost three-quarters of US online adults were participating in one way or another with social media. But how do users of Facebook and MySpace compare to each other when looking at how active they are? The following graphic shows that MySpace users are far more likely to be “Creators” — the group that actually creates its own fresh content.
We've also asked consumers in which categories they like to express themselves online. The behaviors of Facebook and MySpace consumers are quite comparable for most categories, but MySpace users score much higher on expressing themselves on music, video, or gaming online - true to their 'Creator' profile.
If you're still baffled, flummoxed, or concerned about Facebook's now-infamous privacy policies, here's a handy chart from The New York Times. (Thanks, Madiha, for the pointer.) While the diagram retains a neutral tone, it's hard to read the phrase 50 settings with over 170 options without having a "What the hell?!?" moment.
In defense of Facebook, they're no worse than many technology companies that devise confusing UIs, full of knobs and dials that users don't understand or use. These companies are still to blame for creating the circumstances in which a confusing UI is hard to avoid, so they're not completely blameless.
An apology to future generations
Here's where we venture into the idiosyncratic sub-culture of the tech industry, which is hard to understand if you've never been part of it. In spite of having big development budgets, a staff of seasoned professionals, and months to build a useful product, tech companies repeatedly build software that begs the question, "Daddy, why is your product so hard to use?" (Even weirder: usability is often inversely proportional to the price.)