Facebook has recently unveiled a whole host of changes. Essentialy these appear to be about moving beyond the ‘like’ and giving brands more sophisticated ways to integrate themselves into users’ ‘stories’. At one level these changes may well be successful but at another, they may simply be a means of encourging brands to do the wrong thing more effectively.
I must confess I wrote-off Facebook as a significant tool for marketers a long time ago, largely because I couldn’t see how the obsession with collecting ‘likes’ and recreating your website in Facebook was actually going to create anything of sustainable value. Instead I have been advising organisations to focus on the discussion capabilities of Facebook – using it as just one community where you can encourage, usually very small numbers of people, to talk in more detail about aspects of your brand if they want to. I.e. creating a Facebook embassy which is there to service the needs of people who, for whatever reason, want to use Facebook as the environment to ask you questions.
However, I have recently ‘re-engaged’ with Facebook – not professionally, but personally. I first signed-up to Facebook in the early days, and all the people I was ‘friends’ with were not actually friends, but the social media geek squad. My real friends were not on it. Because a blog and Twitter were much better tools for professional use I largely ignored Facebook, simply dropping my WordPress feed into it. Now however, many of my real friends are on Facebook, so recently I have purged my friends list of all my professional contacts and started to link-up with proper friends again (although for some reason, while I have got Robert Scoble off my friends list, I can’t get his content out of my news feed. Why is this, is it testament to the awesome invasive power of Scobleness?)
And now I am starting to use Facebook as it is meant to be used, I realise I have absolutely no desire to use it to ‘engage’ in any way whatsoever with anyone, or anything, other than my friends. I don’t want to have my Facebook space cluttered up or intefered with by brands. I suspect I am not alone.
Yesterday also received a lengthy update email from Diaspora. Here is a clip from it. Diaspora* will never sell your social life to advertisers, and you won’t have to conform to someone’s arbitrary rules or look over your shoulder before you speak. And because your information is yours, not ours, you’ll have the ultimate power — the ability to move your profile and all your social data from one pod to another, without sacrificing your connection to the social web. Over time, this will bring an end to the indifferent, self-serving behavior that people can’t stand from the walled gardens that dominate social networking today. When you can vote with your feet for the environment where you feel safest, the big guys will have to shape up, or risk losing you.
Now Diaspora is a long way from challenging Facebook – but it is swimming with tide of social media, because it is grounded in achieving the necessary social permission to operate. As distinct from Facebook, whose need to justify an excessive valuation now means it is chasing the commercial permission to operate.