The Facebook Like Hype – Why The Most Popular Social Network Won’t Own The Internet

And who’s guilty of perpetuating the most bullshit about Facebook’s recent announcements

Before we get started, let’s cover the basics. Facebook recently announced a slew of changes at its F8 conference in mid-April. Everyone in the web marketing game has been freaking out since. Here’s a quick background on what we’re talking about.

Pete Cashmore, founder of social media blog, Mashable, sees Facebook’s new “like” and “recommend” buttons as not only a potential Twitter-killer, but a serious rival to Google’s ability to deliver “personalized” search results. As Cashmore tells it, Facebook has more users that Twitter; more success with keeping the developer community happy; and a more fine-tuned ability to deliver personalized ads and information to its users than Google.

Yeah, Facebook is really starting to pull away from Twitter, but the unknown here is mobile technology. Twitter was built and designed with an eye towards mobile communication. Personally, it seems like Twitter is a little easier to use on a mobile device rather than Facebook. Found on Cashmore’s own site, the stats indicate that social media access via mobile devices shows a 347% jump from 2009 to 2010 for Twitter (compared to Facebook’s paltry 112% increase). Mobile is huge and getting bigger. I don’t really see how you can comment on the future of social media without a mention of mobile – an area where Twitter seems to have an edge.

Does the “like” button spell doom for Google?

No, dude.  Very much no. Here’s what’s happening. People – crazy people – are getting all hot-and-bothered because Facebook looks like it might be doing a better job of personalizing information for its users when they are looking for something. The appearance of delivering more personalized results and actually delivering those results are two different things. Google is the reigning champ when it comes to following through on your search queries. Facebook is attempting to take a shot at the title by harvesting the reams and reams of info its users share and tailoring the marketing experience towards them. For Facebook – at 400 million users strong – there’s a catch, though.

Cashmore makes a casual and fleeting reference to Facebook’s user base at the ass-end of his piece on CNN. Look, here’s the undeniable truth about Facebook and any other social network, for that matter. Early adopters made you, and early jumpers will break you. Facebook was created so you could keep in touch with your family and friends, both old and new. No one who signs up for Facebook is joining because they want their personal information and social media behavior recorded, analyzed and used to tailor marketing campaigns directed at them. Cashmore is right – Facebook does have a volatile user base. If our social media experience starts to feel like a daily run through a gauntlet of cheesy and not-so-subtle advertising, the more savvy users will abandon their profiles and others will follow. MySpace kinda reminds of an untended parking lot where the weeds choke every crack in the pavement. I wonder if Facebook is gonna look the same.

Oh, and lest I forget to point out – Cashmore runs a blog about social media. That’s how he makes his living. Of course he’s going to choose the social network over the search engine. Check out this piece of CNN sensationalist bullshit for an example of Cashmore’s pro-Facebook alarmist nonsense.

A more rational, informed view of Facebook developments and challenges

Caroline McCarthy at cnet news tried to pack every single aspect of Facebook’s recent spate of announcements and new projects at the April 21 F8 Conference into one article. She actually did a pretty good job. From the social plug-ins to the Open Graph announcement – perhaps the most striking point that McCarthy exposes is this:

“Indeed, many of the concepts that Facebook executives unveiled aren’t totally new ideas. They borrow, at least in theory, from everything from Google Friend Connect to Meebo’s chat bar to Digg’s thumbs-up buttons. But Facebook, once again, is using its melange of marketing, engineering, and design expertise, which draws the occasional comparison to Apple’s, to pitch a subtle message to the developers and publishers of the Web: they can do it, but we can do it better. And people are buying it.”

Facebook has got the launch marketing push down almost as good as Apple. And it raises an interesting point – this is all hype right now. Will Facebook’s new “like” and “recommend” buttons take over the Internet and replace old-school links as the information-trading currency? It might, but Facebook is trying real hard to convince you that it will before it actually does. Hype begets success in a medium that moves as rapidly as social media.

The biggest piece of hype from the F8 conference? Docs.com. If I wanted the experience of using Microsoft Office, I would just go use Microsoft Office. Do I want to share docs through Facebook. Hell no. Not until Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg comes to my house and guarantees in writing that I retain ownership of every single piece of information I produce and share on Facebook.

And that issue of privacy, according to subsequent posts from cnet’s McCarthy looks to be the biggest obstacle facing Facebook now. The politicians have caught wind of the gradually growing grumblings about privacy issues with Facebook and how the biggest online social network on the planet makes it almost impossible to control your own information. From activist groups to headline hungry U.S. Senators and any number of other privacy challenges that will arise in Washington D.C., Facebook looks to be facing a steady stream of challenges not only from its users, but from regulators.

A reality check from some quality search-minded folks

So, back to the common refrain that search engines like Google will falter in the wake of Facebook’s Open Graph announcement. I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone hawking this idea that Facebook’s shiny new mechanism to seemingly connect people with preferences and deliver from that everything you could possibly imagine…is an idiot.

For a clear explanation of how Facebook’s new features and Google’s search offerings are not even really able to be compared, check out Rand Fishkin from SEOMoz. After listening to Fishkin, it seems even more clear to me that Facebook is simply delivering services that already exist, but they carry more weight because of their 400 gabillion users.

And for the search marketing fiends, here and here are a pair of articles that covers the Facebook push and its implications on search, SEO and the entire web marketing game.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the article: I don’t think I’ve ever seen “piece of cnn sensationalist bullshit” hyperlinked before :)

    One more thing I find interesting in this circus is google attacking Facebook for not respecting privacy; I bet if they opened the API on their like function we wouldn’t be hearing a peep from Google. (Not that Google isn’t right.)

    Giles, TrustWorks

  2. WTH?? Facebook is a completley different website altogether from Google. Google INVENTED Facebook anyway. Well it probably helped… Good article though. Was amusing to read :D.

    Jon.

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