John Battelle asks a compelling question: why Facebook and why now?
Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com follows up with another point: that Facebook’s friends definitions are all messed up.
Over on TechMeme everyone is talking about how Facebook’s advertising isn’t working.
So, let’s take on these questions.
First, why does Facebook’s advertising suck?
Because it isn’t tied to people or applications. Everything I do in Facebook is about interacting with people. For instance, at the top of my Facebook inbox right now is Ryan Coomer. The advertising next to him says “Try Forex Trading Today.” There is absolutely NO connection between who Ryan is and the advertising that’s put next to him.
Imagine if advertisers could “buy people.” I just clicked on Ryan’s profile, hes into Running and Golf. Why don’t ads for running and golf gear get put onto his profile? Wouldn’t that make sense? He’s also a software developer. Where’s the Visual Studio advertisement? He’s into video games. Where’s the Halo 3 advertisement?
Translation: Facebook needs an advertising platform and it needs one in the worst way. I’m not going to even look at the ads until the ads are tied to the people on Facebook. Facebook knows what we’re into, put ads for those things onto our profiles and messages.
Second, how could the friends definitions and ties be improved?
1000 ways. I’ll be honest, I don’t use them at all. I just add you as a friend and don’t put any details in there about how I know you. For one, adding that kind of detail is a competitive advantage for me and for PodTech and not something I’m really anxious for other people to know.
For instance, my first result is for Danny Krimgold. I’ve never written about Danny. You don’t know who he is. But he was one of the first people I talked with on Netmeeting back in 1996. He was in high school then and I could tell he was damn smart. I kept in touch with him as he went to Cornell, got a masters in computer science, and now is working at McCann Erickson as a project manager. There isn’t a good way to tell Facebook how I know Danny. In fact, I found that there isn’t a good way to tell Facebook how I know people for about 70% of the people I know through the Internet. So, I just leave them all blank. I guess the best choice in NetMeeting is the “met randomly” choice, but that sounds so stupid. So, I leave it blank.
Finally, why Facebook, why now?
Well, I compare it to LinkedIn (which is the competitor that comes up the most in conversations), Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku. All of which have a social network component where you can keep track of your friends.
First, Facebook has far better contact management than Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku. If I look up someone on all three networks Facebook shows me more, brings it up faster, and has a better look into their own social networks. That leaves LinkedIn to compare it to. I dropped off LinkedIn a year ago cause the expected useage model there is to have your friends do things for you. Pass along resumes, give references, etc. Because of my popularity I simply got too many requests to do those things. There is no such expectation on Facebook.
When I talk with people about the two, also, they say that LinkedIn is for their professional lives and Facebook is for their personal stuff. A PR person at BEA told me that, for instance. I’ll leave her name out of this. Theresa Klein also says this (and is not very happy with me that I’ve turned Facebook into a professional tool).
To tell you the truth, the reason Facebook is the better networking tool is BECAUSE it’s personal. I don’t really care that Danny is at McCann Erickson. I would have known that anyway cause the first thing Danny tells me whenever we talk is what he’s working on. He told me the day he got accepted into Cornell, for instance. That stuff just comes up in regular conversation. But I don’t remember his wife’s name, Facebook shows that (they just got back from their honeymoon). I didn’t know his favorite drink. Mojitos. I got just the place to take him for great Mojitos when he comes out to visit. Facebook shows that. And I didn’t know anything about his social network. Facebook shows that too. Looking at the groups he’s added I can tell a lot more about him. He’s into going to free movie screenings in NYC, likes BMWs, reads the Economist, and lots more.
Oh, and he has his email and phone number there, so if I want to drop him a line, or give him a call, it’s there. Facebook has almost replaced my Outlook contact list because of this.
What other reasons are there for Facebook now?
Quality of people on the network. When I say my Facebook contact list is like a who’s who of the Tech Industry, I’m very serious. And I’m still adding more people to my friends network. I’ve been on Facebook for about a month and I’ve already gotten 2,452 friends. Let’s give you a little tiny taste of who is in my contact list.
Jeremy Allaire. He started a company, sold it to Macromedia, was its CTO. Now is founder/CEO of Brightcove.
Dion Almaer. Works at Google. Was the principal technologist for the Middleware Company. Founder of Ajaxian.
Stewart Alsop. Was editor at InfoWorld, now a VC at Alsop Louie Partners.
Marc Andreessen. Founder of Netscape and Ning.
Geoffrey Arone. Co-founder of Flock.
Michael Arrington. Founder of TechCrunch.
Eric Auchard. Tech reporter for Reuters.
Edward Baig. Tech reporter for USA Today.
Brian Bailey. Web developer for fourth largest church in USA.
Josh Bancroft. Most famous blogger at Intel.
Jeff Barr. Web services evangelist at Amazon.
Andrew Baron. Founder of Rocketboom.
Hank Barry. Famous Silicon Valley VC.
John Battelle. Founder of Federated Media, among other things.
Scott Beale. Famous San Francisco photographer and founder of Laughing Squid.
Joe Beda. Works on something important at Google in Kirkland.
Veronica Belmont. Now working with Jason Calacanis on some killer video project. Significant other of Ryan Block, top Engadgeteer.
Kenneth Berger. One smart dude at Adobe on Web Suite team.
OK, that’s just a few names off of my first page (probably represents 5% of the page). And I have 13 of them. I’ll add you to my friends’ list. Just request me to add you.
Oh, did you know that once you’re my friend you can look around at all the people who are my friends? This makes getting access to interesting people very easy. If I get complaints about you, though, I’ll remove you as my friend, so don’t abuse this privilege. Thanks.
But, that brings us to the grand daddy. Facebook’s application platform.
This is the real reason why I turned on Facebook. I don’t really care about the social network piece. There’s already other places I can get that (I could have stayed on LinkedIn if I really cared about being part of a social network).
But now my social network brings me cool applications. Well, some cool ones, like iLike and Zoho. But a lot of really crappy ones. It’s interesting to see what people add to their profiles, though. I wish I could see when people remove things from their profiles, in addition to adding them. Right now, for instance, I can see that 13 of my friends have added the Zombies application to their profile. I wish could see that 3 of my friends have already removed it, cause it’s a lame application.
Anyway, it’s the application platform that got me interested in Facebook and THAT is where I expect to see the hot new advertising models pop up.
But, no matter how you look at it Facebook is the one. Right now.
What do you think?