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Facebook – value is in the interraction

Facebook is hitting some growing pains at the moment.  At the 60,000 ft level it’s momentum is incredible to see (posts like this from Australia are all over the web) but at the same time it is getting blocked by increasing numbers of corporations and some power users are starting to find it annoying.

The complainants fall into two camps:

  1. The “there is so much noise it overwhelms me” faction e.g. Jason Calacanis Facebook bankruptcy and Fred Wilson’s response Declaring Bankruptcy, and
  2. the “what is the point in it all anyway” school, caught in this comment on my last post, [on Siemens having 6,000 employees on Facebook] “Would sell Siemens if I had any stock. 6,000 employees networking but to what end? Work or pleasure?” and there is a bit of this in Calacanis’s post as well when he says “I just find it crazy and the pace is so fast that very little of substance is being done.”

I suffer from my own communication overload problems and sympathise with Jason and Fred – but the answer here is not to turn away from Facebook altogether, but to find ways of filtering out the noise.  Otherwise you have given up on all the value that got you involved with Facebook in the first place.  I have written about the importance of good filters before, and it is becoming increasingly clear that Facebook is failing it’s key users in this respect.

To the second point – there are great posts from JP Rangaswami here and here on the value of Facebook in the enterprise and from Robert Scoble on it’s value as a networking tool more generally. JP captures it most succinctly when he says that all human interaction follows a pattern of:

Relationship-Conversation-Transaction

Facebook helps massively with that first piece – getting the relationship started.

Scoble discusses this in detail when he writes about how Facebook (and only Facebook) would give him really useful background on Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! as he builds a relationship and prepares for interview:

He has the Snapvine app, so I can leave a voice mail for him. He tells his friends where he lives (has a Yahoo Map gadget that shows that, of course). Puts all his Flickr photos up. I know his mood. I know what party he’ll be at tonight. I know someone at Microsoft that he’s talking with and who visits his page, so I know some influence networking that I could do with him. I know his college experience and his past work experience.

If you doubt the value that Facebook provides read the posts from Scoble and JP (both of them)  – and as JP says  playing King Canute is not a smart thing to do.  But as JP also says, there will be other Facebooks, and there may  be better Facebooks,  and if their functionality continues to fall behind the requirements of their power users the $10bn valuation they are after will remain elusive.

As an aside on the power of Facebook to turn your network into your filter I got to the posts from JP via the Blogfriends Facebook application which puts blog posts from my friends into my profile according to keyword filters.  As I have mentioned before Blogfriends is the brainchild of my friend Luke Razzell and the guys at Brainbakery and I’m pleased to hear that it is starting to take off.

  • Joe T.

    Nic – count me as not exactly gung-ho on the social networking thing. Yes, I do think it has broad appeal, but the appeal is potentially very shallow. And I think the narrower or more specialized the niche, the weaker SM is as a magnet. So you mount a brief publicity blitz and get thousands of teens and 20-somethings to sign up for a specialized SM site… then what? A miracle happens?

  • Joe T.

    Nic – count me as not exactly gung-ho on the social networking thing. Yes, I do think it has broad appeal, but the appeal is potentially very shallow. And I think the narrower or more specialized the niche, the weaker SM is as a magnet. So you mount a brief publicity blitz and get thousands of teens and 20-somethings to sign up for a specialized SM site… then what? A miracle happens?

  • nic

    Thanks for the comment Joe. I guess I would say that people will use the platform to chat, collaborate and do stuff. Kind of like email.

    You are right that the initial ramp up is more about participation for participation sake than real activity, but I have seen enough already to be convinced that there is plenty of long term value in these platforms.

  • nic

    Thanks for the comment Joe. I guess I would say that people will use the platform to chat, collaborate and do stuff. Kind of like email.

    You are right that the initial ramp up is more about participation for participation sake than real activity, but I have seen enough already to be convinced that there is plenty of long term value in these platforms.