My Facebook activity — and I suspect yours — has stepped up over the past four months, seemingly due to a tipping point of sorts being reached in the late spring as more Forty- and Fifty-Somethings in the interactive/tech space flooded the former college network looking for insights and value.
As I told the audience at last week’s WPP Strategy meeting, you can’t accurately fathom the essence of Facebook unless you are a 19-year old freshman and are using the system at its naturally intended level: a replacement of the paper facebook that was de rigeur in the freshman welcome packs when I arrived at college in the fall of 1976.
My college roommate — a professor of archeology at the University of Kansas — actually uses Facebook the way a contemporary student would, posting pictures of our 25th Reunion (which I blew off), staying in touch, sharing videos of Burning Man, and adopting and rejecting new applications at a furious clip. But the rest of my network …. with the exception of some natural networkers like Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard, and interactive marketing pundit Joseph Jaffe, the typical Facebook friend in my network seems to be using the system as a semi-rolodex replacement, or a scalp-collector the way early Linked-In fanatics collected gross contact counts as a validation of their self-importance (until Linked-In wisely capped the reported contact count at 500+)
The usual cliches about Facebook being a time sink are true, and even though I compulsively check the thing, and even listened to a Jaffe podcast through it this morning (Across the Sound), I haven’t felt the utility of it click the way other addictive online apps (Google Reader, Google News, my own blog) have hit me.
I have spent a lot of time analyzing the economic value of marketing within Facebook, requesting rate cards and looking at the efforts of competitors and top brands such as Southwest Airlines in creating sponsored groups. While I have subscribed to, and monitor relevant grassroots groups that have cropped up around our brand terms, I haven’t seen a large amount of activity nor urgency in diving in with a seven-figure investment.
One thing is perfectly clear to me as I use it — display advertising has a very very hard time vying for my attention inside of a tool that is all about news and utility tailored to me and my interests. That same display advertising, in the context of a flat media page — say a news story on Marketwatch.com — is slightly more compelling or attention getting given the linear, one way experience of an HTML web page impression. If I can’t engage with the content then the ads pop out a bit more. Put that same ad in the middle of my profile page, and it suddenly is competing for attention with everything from my iTunes utility to my Facebook inbox.
I won’t delve into MySpace as a) that rivalry is overstated in my opinion, and b) I don’t use MySpace enough to feel informed about it.
I know I embarrass my daughter to no end by being on Facebook — I was her “friend” for about a month before she “unfriendeded” me — and I don’t blame her. I’m an invader, not a native, and nothing is uncooler than inviting a parent to a party. I guess if I want to understand how to market in Facebook I need to hire her or her ilk to insure it is done properly, otherwise the brand could come off looking like an old lady in a mini-skirt.
Now, to see if there are any Facebook gadgets so I can integrate WordPress ….