It was a good week for Facebook, but what can you learn about your business direction from the Internet giant?
Last week, Facebook overtook Internet portal Yahoo! as the second most popular site in the United States. According to web measurement firm Compete, the social site broke 133.6 million unique users in January. That puts them a mere 18 million users from knocking Google from the number one spot. They changed some privacy settings last week that could make things better for you – if you know about them. Finally, they reiterated their position that mobile will be their number one area of growth. There are several takeaways for organizations of every type and size.
Facebook is growing by giving people a place to share what they have in common. Earlier generations joined clubs, told stories and showed the photos that they kept in their wallet. While a lot of that is still happening, time pressures and the power of the Internet have encouraged a big change. Today, people join Facebook to find old friends – or make new friends who come from the same schools, professional organizations or perhaps who have the same beliefs. We now show photos from our mobile devices. We are spending time with friends online, sharing personal stories and restaurant reviews from our mobile phones and expanding our professional outreach. It is this social and economic change that requires your attention.
What do your customers or donors have as their common ground? More important, are they already meeting online and making up their minds without you? You need tools to quantify their activity and to engage them in conversations that add value to their day – and yours. This means you may have to find them in their social media space first, and there are a number of useful tools at your disposal. For the record, this is not where you try and sell people; your web site should do that. This is where you have conversations with people. This is where you can prove you know what you are talking about.
Just because we are talking about social media, this is not – REPEAT NOT – the job of the intern. The person talking needs to be someone knowledgeable who can speak on behalf of the company. These conversations are recorded in Google and other search engines for a long, long time. More important, they ARE the voice of the company. Listening to them are likely your clients, customers and suppliers, all making up their mind based on what is said. And just because they weren’t online to see it said, doesn’t mean they won’t find it in some search engine later. Don’t use that statement as the reason not to implement a social media program, but use it as the reason to learn more.
Last week Facebook added some granularity around their privacy setting that gives you more power over who can see your “posts.” You can set it differently for each post, if you remember. Unfortunately, those of us who already segmented our users into groups we used to focus our posts in the old system had them wiped from the top level screen in the interface update. Now we are back to selecting the Facebook preselected groups, closer to ‘send it to the immediate world’ grouping. So much for granularity.
When Facebook gets this part right, it will give information that can be mined (recorded and quantified). Data can answer questions like: When and how often did you say you were sick? What were you trying to keep “private”? While I have no proof that this IS being done, it is possible it CAN be done both by Facebook and application creators.
So what are they big takeaways for your business?
First, the world is no longer flat nor round: It is virtual and it is social. People are talking about every brand and shop, including yours. Even the little local coffee shop or garage is being talked about. And search engines and newer applications have access to the chatter. You need to be listening and know when to speak. You must first have a seat at the table. Not being at the table would be like being in a fight for survival that you don’t know exists until you’ve almost lost the battle.