Keep the 'Social' in Social Networking
Pilot readers may remember an earlier column I wrote, headlined "No, Mom, You Can't Be My Facebook Friend."
In it, I touched on the fact that Facebook had originated during my college years as a way for college students to network socially. But times had changed. Facebook had gone to the masses, and I was not happy about it.
Well, almost two years later, Facebook has continued to grow and evolve - and I don't remember it asking for my permission.
Facebook now has more than 400 million active users and 1.5 million pages started by businesses! Postings by corporate America are slowly starting to creep onto my newsfeed, and that makes me a little nervous. It makes me wonder if the social roots of these social networking sites are strong enough to sustain the growing presence of the business world.
It's not hard to miss the influx of businesses of all sizes joining Facebook. The Facebook "F" logo is now as common on advertisements as the trademark "R."
These businesses are trying to drive consumers to their Facebook account, where they have posted information about services rendered, upcoming events, photos, new products offered, and loads of other promotional mumbo jumbo that they want to put freely out into the world. I can't blame them. It's free marketing.
But I think it's important for these businesses to remember that Facebook is a very socially motivated site. It is about what's going on right now. About who posted 32 seconds ago. Who changed his or her profile picture or status five minutes ago. The real heart of the operation is a drive for interaction with your peers on a minute-to-minute basis.
Don't believe me? On any given day, half of Facebook's users log in to see what's up. But there are a lot of users who log in and make posts several times a day. Some people do it almost hourly.
These are the people who post a comment about their breakfast, change to something they noticed on their drive to work, and then turn around and put up yet another post once they've arrived at work and -suddenly realize that they "can't wait for it to be 5 o'clock." We all have "friends" like this, even if we blocked their posts months ago.
Just as important are the more silent social participants. These are the -people who pop in every few days (or more often but don't admit to it) to see what everyone else is saying and doing. They read through the status updates of their "friends," check -messages, look at newly posted -pictures and maybe once in a blue moon post something themselves - usually fueled by a sporting event, a political happening or a seriously -dramatic day.
For the most part, they are the observers and depend on the aforementioned extroverts of Facebook to provide the social excitement that is expected from these websites. This is the excitement that keeps users coming back.
Without the people who use these sites for genuinely social purposes, there wouldn't be much of an audience for businesses to capture, would there?
And we can assume that the people at Faceboook know this. They are -continuing to develop more ways to infuse the socially active side of Facebook with businesses. A good example is the "Check In" feature recently introduced. It works through the Facebook application on smart phones and allows users to post their whereabouts to their Facebook account as long as they are at a business recognized on GPS.
So, since my "friends" would be dying to know, I can tell them with a click of a button on my mobile phone that "Ginny Kelly has checked in at The Sly Fox" - thus advertising my booming social life and a local restaurant simultaneously. Genius.
The whole idea of Facebook is genius. It has turned the social landscape viral, and it's no surprise that the marketplace followed. And I'm honestly not all that bothered by it. But it seems to me that with Facebook's frantic social environment averaging 60 million posts per day, it will be awfully hard for those in the corporate world to keep up.
For the sake of my newsfeed, I hope they can't. But something tells me they're sure having a good time trying.
Ginny Kelly is an advertising -representative with PineStraw and The Pilot. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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