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What’s Outside Facebook Is Inside Now

Written on
Sep 27, 2011 
Author
Gavin Dunaway  |

ADOTAS – You guys are never going to believe this, but Facebook wants you to share more. Here I thought CEO Mark Zuckerberg was going to come on stage last week at f8, shake his head dramatically and say, “Users, we’ve got too much of your personal information already — stop adding stuff, be more secretive!”

He’d then invite out Ian MacKaye to perform a karaoke duet of Minor Threat’s “I Don’t Wanna Hear It!”

But no, this always happens to me — I hope for MacKaye and get Andy Samberg instead.

I contemplated the grand announcements from f8 over the weekend (with occasional distractions), feeling like I was missing something. At first I thought the deeper integrations with media services like Spotify, Netflix and Hulu meant that Facebook was turning into a media-based portal that would make oldtimers AOL and Yahoo look embarrassingly out of date.

But no — you don’t watch TV episodes on Hulu with your friends through Facebook. You watch a TV show on Hulu, which sends that information to Facebook, which posts that into your ticker and on your profile, where your friends might see it and watch the same thing.

So my eventual take was, “Facebook wants people to share more.” Same old, same old — Zuck begging us to share everything — and especially every online activity — through Facebook. And yet it’s deceptively genius — activities outside of Facebook are instantly part of Facebook. The social network is attempting to ingrain itself a bit further into our digital lives.

Nitty Gritty

The media apps are part of a more comprehensive and customized profile (which hasn’t actually be launched) that looks a bit like a cleaner version of MySpace’s last stand (i.e., the final revamp with the modules — hopefully Facebook’s version is easier to use as I almost punched my computer while I updated my band’s profile this weekend). The new profile offers an intuitive way to navigate and edit activity history, as well as the ability to add important moments of your life into the profile along with media (pictures, video). It’s true profile customization.

The revisions add unabbreviated ways to share what you’re doing outside of Facebook (well, at least online) with the people in your social network. To get all the paranoid talk out of the way, yes, sharing more of this data through Facebook is actually giving them more data to target ads with. (ARGH! The ugly tradeoff for social freedom!) But people were already adding movies they liked, bands they liked and other interests through their profiles — the new apps simply streamline the sharing process.

And it’s all opt in — users make the decision through the various media services whether to link it with Facebook. I think Spotify is great, but I won’t be hooking it up with my Facebook account because I don’t feel any need to share every stupid song I listen to (OK, it’s just “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on infinite repeat) with my social network. If I really like an artist to the point I must give a shoutout, I’ll post a status update (how old fashioned!).

With Spotify in particular, I gotta admit I’m already starting to get sick of seeing what my friends are listening to clogging up my Ticker. At the same time, I was tickled to glance over and see a friend was listening to a song from one of my bands. I could get used to more of that.

Gotta Get an App

From a marketing standpoint, now every media company needs an iPhone app, an iPad app, an Android app and a Facebook app. I’m getting press releases right and left about different media outlets preparing apps. I’ll be very curious how much traffic the apps will drive back to original sites — anyone want to take bets? Surely it will be enough to justify building them.

But it’s not just media companies that need to build apps — in a video promoting the new Apps feature, there’s a shot of a branded Nike app for keeping track of miles run. Just like they do with mobile apps, brands would be smart to build user engagement and brand loyalty through sponsoring social activities tracked and shared on Facebook apps. It’s a new resource for tossing in gamification elements like leaderboards and missions.

In addition, the targeting data for display ads may be better as the sharing increases and is more streamlined. Apparently, the social network is still pushing hard on Sponsored Stories, prompting brands to increase their interactions with fans on Facebook.

User Reaction

When the ticker appeared and the news feed, I could already see the headlines: “Facebook users outraged over new layout! In other news, sun rises, sets.”

The social media age has exposed most Internet users as whiny toddlers that rage at the slightest bit of change. While I admit I’m a bit confused by how the news feed is now organized, I find the ticker quite handy — I found all the bickering in the news feed to be absolutely hilarious. I still remember all the screaming when the news feed was introduced, which might have been the best thing ever to happen to the social network. Exodus? Please — give it a month and users won’t remember life without the current setup.

(I postulate that there was no mass Facebook quitting, besides the 37,000 who left on “Quit Facebook Day,” during the privacy debacle last year because 1. no suitable alternative existed — one does now — and 2. Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg renewed their vows to care about user experience over revenue.)

Of course, the anger over the revamp hit at an opportune time for media contemplation — it’s not clear what’s next for the social network. As the global population on Facebook has topped 800 million and U.S. members account for half the population, it’s hard to imagine it getting much bigger. (Really wish I could see age statistics so I could analyze the rate of youngens joining.)

This isn’t to say Facebook will start shedding members, but it feels like the social mediascape is hitting an inflection point. I’ve suggested before that Facebook would be the default social network the majority of Internet users keep to manage the  in addition users flocked to niche social networks based on their interests.

Facebook still fits the former description — though Google+ may be a more comprehensive solution — but BadgeVille’s introduction of its Social Fabric technology, which inserts a customizable social layer into a website, made me realize that any and every media site could be an interests-based social network.

However, with the eventual proliferation of social layers throughout the Internet, I imagine time spent Facebook — still the most popular Internet destination according to Nielsen — might slide.

That’s why the Apps are kind of fascinating — suddenly time and activities spent outside of Facebook are actually on Facebook. Apps simply shove Facebook a little deeper into our lives. Damn, you’re a clever bastard, Zuck.





Gavin Dunaway is Editor, U.S. at AdMonsters, a leading trade publication, event producer and service provider for the online advertising industry. Previously, he had been Senior Editor of Adotas, where he arrived after years of ping-ponging around various industry publications. This Washington, D.C. native and George Mason University graduate also enjoys playing electric guitar so loud that the walls shake.

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