The Only Way is … Facebook!

LMFM on Facebook

The Welcome page on Facebook

So yes we’ve had a lot of focus on Facebook recently … from the media industry in general (when was the last time you saw a TV or poster ad with a good old-fashioned but boring simple WWW URL ?) to the specifics of suddenly feeling that the Livemusic “Like” page is a bit ‘unloved’. It wasn’t even that long ago we didn’t have a Facebook ‘Fan’ Page at all (as they were called back in the heady days of 2010!) I think you’d have be living in a cave not to notice that Zuckerberg and pals have been making a serious land-grab for large swathes of cyberspace in the last 18 months or so …

Groups & Pages have been overhauled, FB Email & Places have been implemented, only Events remains a little neglected. I thought 12 months ago when one of my colleagues remarked “in a couple of years there won’t be the internet, only Facebook” it was a highly amusing and fanciful remark. Now I’m almost thinking could he be right!? In the same way that the new generation of ‘faux-reality’ TV shows like ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and ‘Made In Chelsea’ are taking over our TV screens … is Facebook taking over our desktop screens. Is it true to say that ‘The Only Way …’ to connect with your audience is… Facebook?

Ever since we had the advent of the Facebook ‘Messaging’ announcement through to the simple utility of ‘Using Facebook as a Page’ it’s been fairly clear that Zuckerberg & Co are upping their game. From assigning aliases to ‘Like’ Pages (which sounds a bit better to Corporate Boards than ‘Fan’ pages no doubt) to the ‘Messaging’ facility; it’s been clear that FB has been going for the jugular and pretty much on a collision course with the mighty Google. It had already seriously challenged Flickr & Photobucket with it’s basic Photo service (though I don’t think YouTube will be overly worried by it’s flakey video hosting service) … and the implementation of ‘Places’ felt like a sucker-punch to FourSquare (Although interestingly it still remains as a service and is frankly a lot better. But then so was Betamax.).

But what’s it really like trying to use Facebook (FB) as a serious marketing tool and a a way of connecting to your audiences in practice?

I have occasionally written off Facebook as a serious marketing tool and nothing more than a gossip hub … and it remains to be seen whether it will really have a longevity as something to connect to your base audience (though admittedly clicking ‘Like’ is the sort of simple advocacy that none of us could have foreseen as becoming all-important in 2011.) The main problem is that the whole platform feels like quicksand and is about as stable as Mariah Carey after (yet another) bad album review. If I see that ‘Sorry there was a problem …’ popup once more I’ll scream. I assume this is mostly bandwidth issues – as the video service is particularly bad for this. But it feels like it’s something deeper.

There’s no doubt that FB is a fiendishly complex beast – I still find new features on a regular basis – and some of the user flow architecting is beyond esoteric, making one feel a lot of the time that the ‘releases’ are patchy at best. Features such as the ‘@’ linking mysteriously disappear and stop working … only to start working again ! This is pretty frustrating on a practical day-to-day level and I am reminded of some of the fairly clandestine Google ‘tweaks’ that screw up your carefully crafted SEO strategems occasionally. I was amused when watching ‘The Social Network’ recently when the actor playing Zuckerberg quipped “We’re Facebook, we never go down” … clearly he hadn’t hit reload repeatedly to be faced by the header strip and a big white expanse at least once or twice a day.

But whinges aside what is going on at FB? Are they really seriously making a play to ‘be’ the internet (at least from a personal user’s point of view?) Certainly a lot of brands and advertising agencies have already bought into using it as a portal to connect directly to their target audiences. And there’s plenty of scope in the implementation of iFrames opening up the door to really embed more complex content.

In the music industry it has also had an effect and almost come hand-in-hand with the somewhat inevitable, but no less disappointing, fall of Myspace. The only real thing that is missing from a Fan (sorry ‘Like’) page now is the ability to upload your tracks (although you can add videos.) I can’t see it being long before SoundCloud (which is much better for audio uploading anyway) releases a widget which neatly embeds into the fabric of your ‘Like’ page. Personally I haven’t seen it being used yet natively in FB (but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist yet!) but it’s the logical next step for the Band (sorry ‘Like’) pages. Or having said that Facebook has announced it’s own rather vague ‘Music’ proposition to be launched in August… and like the much-touted Google music a year or so ago, no-one really knows what it’s going to be about yet. Perhaps not even the dudes at Facebook.

Another practicality of running a FB Group or Page is that your audience is pretty clear for everyone to see. Or is it? Sure people could look up your website traffic using Alexa or similar but no-one really trusted it totally. For some reason people trust that ‘XX,XXX people like this page’ number implicitly. Personally I’m not sure these numbers are that meaningful, as it seems pretty easy to enhance with minimal spend and effort … and let’s remember that’s not unique users, that’s people who supposedly clicked a ‘Like’ button one day and may never engage again with the page. It’s not a “real audience” in the same way that distributing 100,000 leaflets doesn’t mean 100,000 of them got read.

As ever, the picture is far from clear, it has been an interesting ride over the last 5 years with Facebook, and to some extent it has grown up a little and no-one has tried to bite my Werewolf for ages (or suggested we build an app so that people can bite each others Vampires, Werewolfs, Zombies, Mutant Killer Lamas or whatever). Pointless apps do seem to be on the decrease (thankfully) as are the requests by shell-shocked marketing execs playing catch-up asking you to build them. There is some real effort at proper brand connection and one thing’s for sure everyone’s very focused on their “Like” pages now (and the accompanying alias). From a music perspective the Events need to have the same overhaul as Groups and Fan Pages … and if Places isn’t going to just malinger then you need to be able to ‘use it as a page’ soon and start having more interactivity/reasons for “checking-in”. And of course we’re all waiting to see exactly what FB ‘Music’ really is … will it actually be a Spotify killer or will it incorporate Spotify? Or is it just another aggregator of Music news … or will it morph into a way for people to upload music content? For the moment it’s very low-level. Whatever happens, one thing’s for sure; I guess we’ll all be watching FB very closely. BUT since most of us are on it on a daily basis that’s not a problem!

Finally I do wonder where Twitter is in all of this, it has been very quiet for some time. Perhaps it is happy with it’s position of micro-blogging on trending topics largely with people you don’t personally know … or in actuality is that the real aim of FB’s ‘Like’ pages in that they allow people who don’t know one another to interact? I don’t think Twitter should be worried yet – but it is interesting to think when was the point when MySpace would have suddenly realised that Facebook not only had caught them up, but had stolen their ‘patch’ of cyberspace and finally put them to the sword (or more accurately panicked them into ‘falling on their own sword’ if the recent ‘own goal’ restructuring and re-branding is anything to go by!) Personally I wonder how much MORE time I’m going to be spending on Facebook in a professional capacity a year from now. I’m pretty convinced I won’t be spending any on MySpace, that is for sure!

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  • rick

    The Only Way is Essex … or The Only Way is Facebook. Not sure which is worse!

  • Anonymous

    Probably the Only Way is Essex … however Facebook might be around a little longer than the semi-TV reality!

  • Teresa McGovern

    Agree with your thoughts here. So what do you think of Google+ a contender to rival Facebook?

  • Anonymous

    Well as far as I can see it’s a direct response to Facebook’s ‘landgrab’ of cyberpsace (though must confess haven’t had the opportunity to have more than a ‘play’ with the interface as Google still hasn’t let me through to the trial yet.)nnI guess Google’s concern is that if Facebook continues to have it all their own way then why use google search or any other google services when everything you need is within the Facebook ‘world’. nnFrom the interface and the grouping mechanic (‘circles’) I’ve seen so far it’s kind of looking like a on steroids – in other words a serious social bookmarking app where people can _really_ share links and you can browse what activity others have been up to on the _whole_ of the WORLD WIDE web (as opposed to the ‘walled garden web’ of Facebook.nnThe ‘Plus’ (‘scuse the pun) is that unlike facebook you can segregate your professional &/or personal contacts somewhat so you only share some info (this has always been FB’s limitation as soon as it made a serious foray into being a more ‘grown up’ app) The downside is that most of your friends aren’t going to be on it … yet.nnWill it go the same way as Google Wave (which I confess I never really understood and seemed some kind of mutant love-child of a Netvibes – or even iGoogle – aggregator homepage and an IM)? I don’t think so. This time Google mean business and have isolated FB’s ‘killer’ app of the ‘Like’ mechanic and made it apply to the entire web (as long as you view it in a Google search string – which in effect is another walled garden I suppose … )nnAnyway the gloves are off and of course Google have two things Facebook on’t have 1) THE search that everyone uses that pretty much works and aplies to the ENTIRE web and of course this old chestnut 2) GMail. nnIt’s no secret that Facebook are very very keen to get that email up and running and the rumour mill frequently speculates about Hotmail and FB doing some kinda deal (not sure who would buy who so guess it wold more likely be a JV) FB are hopelessly late to the email party and Gmail has a pretty massive user base (though Hotmail is still bigger and Yahoo Mail bigger still)nnSo will Google+ start beating FB at their own game? Too early to tell. But one thing’s for sure they better get their trial over fast and start letting people sign up for it as soon as poss as it might be over before it’s begun if they don’t capitalize on the hype.

  • rick

    So after 3 weeks or so of using Google+ I can make a few observations … Google+ is a couple of things:nn1. Quite quiet despite what must be well over 10million users worldwide. But in my circles – or at least the ones i move in – I’m still struggling to get over 50 contacts who _are_ indeed using Google+. And unlike Twitter I can’t be bothered to trawl through people I don’t know as there isn’t a re-tweet feature so I have no idea who I might like!nn2. Even the people I do know who do have a Google+ ID aren’t using it that much and the lack of ‘Posting to someone’s Wall’ function type thing means it’s almost impossible to make something a 1-2-1 that others can see …nnSo apparently after an initial early take up of 10 million it has slowed somewhat and the early hype of being the fastest service to reach 100 million might be short of the mark. And let’s remember Facebook has a bit of a headstart here with SEVEN HUNDRED million! If and when Google+ makes a serious dent in the 1.3 million years consumers spend on Facebook each month, then it can claim success I guess but in the meantime other figures show that people are spending less than 5 minutes each day on Google+?nnDoes this mean that perhaps Google+’s bubble might burst spectacularly in the same way as a Google’s forays into social media … With the exception of YouTube, Google has largely failed at social. nnBlogger, Orkut, Dodgeball, Picasa, Jaiku, Google Friend Connect, Google Latitude, Google Wave, and Google Knowl have either been shut down or dominated by services such as Foursquare, Facebook, WordPress and Twitter. The latest attempt Google Buzz (up ’til last year the biggest attempt by the Search engine giant at social media) is now a mere afterthought … does anything really stand in Facebooku2019s way. nnI am personally am minded of Wave and it’s spectacular rate of its rise and fall. It was easily one of the most hyped products of 2009, but within months of its launch, the buzz had almost completely disappeared. The product mightu2019ve been more successful had it been integrated into Gmail but the main issue was no-one could really work out what it did (Flo Heiss Creative Director of Dare posted on his Twitter that “Opening Google Wave feels like my mum opening up the back of a PC and having a look at the motherboard and wondering how it works”!)nnI feel Google+ may be similar … it’s neither Facebook nor Twitter yet is in direct competition with them both and seems to be combining a few of the “ideologies” of both while not really following through with it. For instance if there’s no league table or tally of the ‘+’s for a website or service then will it really supercede a ‘Like’ for most normal users or indeed even commercial entities? Has it got the real power of advocacy? The ‘circles’ organiser is neat but my main wish for that was that it would be nice on Facebook &/or Twitter.nnThe jury is definitely out and there is a nice ‘feel’ to the whole offering, it’s just that it’s very quiet out there (barring a few techno pundits I’m following who almost seem to be paid by Google to create endless chatter – Robert Scoble you know who you are!)nn

  • liveandloud

    Interestingly … now that MySpace has a widget that can be embedded into the Facebook ‘Music’ page could this perhaps prolong the life of MySpace. ironic that FB was the thing that killed off MySpace but is also the one place where it offers a glimmer of longevity as bands can import their MySpace Player and some of the styling into an iFrame in their Music section of their fan page … the trouble is there are a few other apps out there that also work well and of course SoundCloud is becoming the defacto choice of musicians to upload music. nnI can’t seriously see the embedding of a widget in Facebook saving Myspace … no more that Justin Timberlake’s supposed stake in running the company ( see ) … but you never know, stranger things have happened on the t’internet!

  • richard lippiett

    Here’s a whimsical response to how Google + is doing out there in the world of the internet (and the other Social Networks while we’re at it!)

  • rick

    Here’s a whimsical look at how Google+ is doing out there in the big wide internet (and a few other of the big players as well!) adn what we really use them all for!

  • rick

    Here’s a whimsical look at how Google+ is doing out there in the big wide internet (and a few other of the big players as well!) adn what we really use them all for!

  • rick

    Here’s a whimsical look at how Google+ is doing out there in the big wide internet (and a few other of the big players as well!) and what we really use them all for!

  • Rick Lippiett

    Here’s a great article from ReadWriteWeb writer Jon Mitchell on Google + 6 months on …nn excerpts:nn”Mobile is increasingly the key social device, because it’s the one you have when you’re out living lifennGoogle used to be about organizing the world’s information. It was a service to the entire Web. But this social tangent is changing that. It’s turning the Web into a Google+ popularity contest. As is FacebooknnGoogle+ is encircling our relationships, and it’s encircling our identities. It doesn’t care how we want to present ourselves; our Google+ profile is our identity as far as Google is concerned. “