Sunday, August 22, 2010

Facebook's killer app is here. No, it's NOT places.


Image courtesy: Mark Krynsky | Flickr

Rewind to 1999. I was working in an advertising agency then, running their web & interactive services division. It started then: the footer of almost every print  advertisement, the last frame of any TV ad, and the last 5 seconds of a radio spot- were reserved for the company or product's URL. No marketing manager worth his 4Ps would be caught dead without a URL. And web design shops were sprouting up faster than mushrooms.

Now imagine if someone (say, Google) had the power to display advertising on each and every one of those company & product websites and of course, charge for it. Sounds inconceivable?

Back to the present...

Notice something about magazine ads these days? The product URL, while still popular, is fast being supplemented, and in some cases entirely replaced by a new kind of URL - that of their facebook fan page!

This year, in a period of about 6 months, the number of facebook users grew 25% - from 400mn to 500 million! 500 million users is over 25% of the world's online population.

But there's a more fantastic statistic on facebook:  300% growth.

When we were going through facebook fan pages (for our app, Eyes And Feet) in March, we counted approximately 4mn facebook fan pages. This month, we counted 16mn. That's a 4 fold increase in 5 months. And this number will only explode - especially with the launch of facebook places, and businesses being encouraged to 'claim their place' and convert it to a 'facebook page'.

Facebook's "global domination plan" has been here all this time & staring at us in the face- it's Facebook pages!

As Facebook pages become more ubiquitous and as more brands, products & businesses mention this as "their URL", that's more power to Facebook. The big big big difference here is that the pages are hosted on Facebook, by Facebook! That's NOT the same as your 'under your control' webpage on your friendly neighborhood web server. Facebook's recent announcements to do away with boxes on fan pages, the changes in tab widths, improvements to FBML, are all steps in this direction - to help make your facebook page your new brand URL!

And once your Facebook page is an integral part of your brand, would you want other products randomly advertising to your customers on your fan page? Only, it's not your choice anymore - Facebook reserves the right to display anything they want on "your" page, and there's nothing you can do about it. Unless you pay...

I won't be surprised if, as a part of their fan page monetization strategy, Facebook charges brands for 'no ad fan pages' depending on the number of fans they have. In fact, I think something of this nature may already be happening. The five leading brand fan pages on Facebook are Starbucks, Coca Cola, Oreo, Skittles & Red Bull. Oreo's fan page looks cluttered - thanks to the 'random' ads on the right. None of the other 4 seem to have ads!

Hmmm. Welcome to the new www. Guess who Verizon will have their next net neutrality conversation with.

[written by Lux, founder of Eyes And Feet - Get more customers from social media for your local business]

11 comments:

  1. I'm afraid that's going to make them just the new MySpace!

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  2. But I said that a while ago. Ah, but for the wisdom of hindsight (claimed and actual) sites like myspace, tagged, bebo, hi5, friendster, some of which I have some active and some inactive memberships, but their strategy is obviously to keep you on their website and that's almost as problematic as it is advantageous - mostly because of server load and lag [bandwidth] and the more people are looking at the same thing the slower it will be.

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  3. back to AOL... facebook is a fad.

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  4. @Lorenzo @Steve: Yes, this is 'MySpace' in some ways - but with 500mn+ users, we're pretty much in unchartered waters now. This scale (by a destination site, so Google doesn't count) of userbase & engagement has never happened before. And Steve, I think scaling will be the least of their problems; their engineering seems quite capable of managing the scale they're seeing (unlike, say, Twitter who're finding it more difficult)

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  5. @Dan: If this was 2008, I'd have agreed with you. I think I was wrong then (that facebook is a fad). My personal views aside, I think it went past the 'fad' milestone some time ago.

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  6. related: product channels on YouTube

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  7. Delete your Facebook account here: https://ssl.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account

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  8. Lux,
    I agree with you on the importance of Facebook Pages for a company and brand. But most brands have a page for the sake of having one. They have thousands of followers, but there is no interaction with the consumers or fans of the page. If there are any postings then mostly its used as a noticeboard to put PR info, commercials etc.

    Businesses are yet to realize the potential of using pages or most social media. One of the articles I recently quoted "Social Media is not the end, it the means to reach an end". Companies have to change from the attitude of we too are doing social media and move on to use it to reach a business goal or end.

    I am sure that is where Eyes and Feet come into play :)

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  9. @Beemer: I wholly agree. In fact, it's just like 10 years ago, when businesses discovered the web and their websites were (to quote an oft used term) "brochures on the web". Like any new medium, I guess people need to get accustomed to it - and that's just about happening now with social media. With all the noise, we often think it's quite evolved - but it's actually still in a state of infancy. And yes, certainly hope you're right on EyesAndFeet's role in catalyzing this.

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  10. Excellent observations. That said, any marketer worth their salt understands that you have to own your own real estate. There is danger in the trend to trust facebook with your content. It will be interesting to look back 5 years from now.

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  11. Good points, Kate. What do marketers do, though? If 500mn+ consumers are on FB, they obviously need to hitch their wagon there too. And yes, looking back 5 years from now will be interesting!

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