September 22, 2011

The (New) Social Era

When we talk of Facebook, people first think of it as a network of friendships: I am friends with Jean and Paul, who are also friends, etc. Today Facebook is much more than that. In April 2012, Mark Zuckerberg, launched the most strategic innovation yet: the Open Graph. It is a logical follow up to the network of friendships, by linking a person to an object through an action (Jean wants to see Superman the movie). In this way, Facebook is tagging the whole web and is providing the opportunity for any page to reach the massive Facebook user base through the integrated search engine, the News-Feed and Timelines. It is indeed very powerful.

Google VS Facebook

Google’s recent algorithm update (Panda) that diminishes the ranking of aggregating websites, shows the limits to Google’s approach. Also, despite the initial euphoria surrounding Google+, it now seems to be at stalemate. Even Larry Page hasn’t posted an update on it since the 15th of August. By copying Facebook, Google admitted they were lacking something. In addition, Facebook is going beyond Google’s powerful ecosystem around SEO and Adwords, by developing an equally powerful, yet more complex, ecosystem.

The trade off

When creating a Facebook App the trade-off is simple: the user asks himself is the service provided worth the permissions on my data they are asking from me?” This leads to an important change of paradigm: we go from exhaustive portals to services. Previously, the question was always about having the most content, an abundance of information. With a Facebook linked website, the social experience needs to be at the heart of the website, creating a strong link between the service and the user.

It is important to distinguish the constraints linked to search engines (density of external links) vs the goal of creating a service for the user. The difference is big: conceiving a website for a crawler vs conceiving a website for users. This is the promise of the social web.

Facebook and its different tools are deeply redefining internet marketing

Facebook should be used as a channel of viralization and a channel d’écoute:

• channel of viralization: to increase number of users of your service

• channel d’ecoute: to enhance the user experience of your service by using data from Facebook.

A permanent dialog is needed between your service and Facebook. This means engaging and conversational content which will build true relationships with your users. It is not sufficient to post content which is not specifically designed for the media through which it is being broadcast. For example, automated Tweets broadcast to Facebook with no images and redundant hashtags, are simply ignored by many users.

The Custom Open Graph heralds the arrival of realtime updates from computers, mobiles and touchscreens. We are now at a point where the frontier between the real and virtual is disappearing. Soon we will have updates from objects in our homes and even our bodies, alerting us to situations which require our attention. Facebook will truly become a space in which we deeply connect with people, objects and even ourselves.

The network of friendships and the Open Graph bring new perspectives. Sponsoring posts from users activities (sponsored stories) has given rise to Content as Advertising. Recommendation is becoming integral to user experience: Recommendation as a Service.

All this implies new tools and new methodologies to analyze and understand the behavior of users and clients. Complete CRM are being built on top of Facebook.

Designing for the Social Web is therefore not an easy task. It requires a wide variety of skills ranging from design to mathematics. Yet the rewards of a successful service are worth the try: a larger and more qualified audience.

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