Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

FaceBook WILL BE for business

I have a mate who wants to develop a new social network because he doesn’t like the way that Facebook mixes up his personal and business contacts.

Today, I read Scott Karp’s piece on Publishing 2.0 where he uses capital letters to emphasis that Facebook is NOT for business.

Let’s be clear of one thing – there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not ideal about Facebook. It was built for college kids and is now trying to position itself as the de facto standard social platform. To do so, it’s prioritised its “platform” at the expense of building out any new functionality. But it would be naive to think that down the track, Facebook isn’t going to fix a bunch of things that irk users at the moment. Like having different personas, different sets of friends, etc. I’d suggest once they’re happy with their “platform” they’ll look to make their core functionality far more flexible. Let’s not forget the first group that Facebook was opened up to beyond its core was corporates. Being a business tool is clearly an objective and this Facebook is team is very, very smart. It’s only a matter of time before they do things that make the service work better for different circles of acquaintances.  [Note, the news of AJAX support for its developer platform – these guys aren’t standing still)

Even without any of that, I’ve got oodles more out of Facebook in 3 months than I’ve gotten out of LinkedIn in three years.

So Scott, I match your caps with five of my own.  Facebook isn’t perfect for business right now, but social is social. Business works more from relationships that it ever did and no matter how good a job any new startup does in plugging the holes, it’s never going to have the critical mass that Facebook does.

I do think there will be social networks that will rise up but they will need to do a lot better of providing value-add than something like Linked-In. Meanwhile, I really can’t see anything knocking off Facebook as people’s generic social application.

In the meantime, my advice to anyone thinking about doing a social network is don’t think you can beat Facebook by doing something it doesn’t. Facebook will get it right and then you have nothing left to defend. If you can build a social community all well and good but that requires a lot more than just generic social networking features.


Filed under: AJAX Challenge

6 Responses

  1. Scott Karp says:

    “Facebook isn’t perfect for business right now”

    Ah, so we the users should just suck it up and adapt and wait for Facebook to get it right? Right.

    “Facebook will get it right and then you have nothing left to defend. If you can build a social community all well and good but that requires a lot more than just generic social networking features.”

    “Facebook as people’s generic social application.”

    Yeah, that’s their branding — and their greatest weakness.

    Niche social networks can beat Facebook by offering features tailored to the needs of the niche — one-size-fits all social network features is SO mass media — and we all know what happened to that.

    For niches, it only matters that everyone else in your niche is on the network — after that, who cares about Facebook’s scale? You don’t need to connect with everybody — just the people who matter.

  2. Phil Sim says:

    Scott, I stand by my belief that right now nothing even looks like “beating” Facebook.

    I think there’s enormous value in having a single network that is lowest common denominator that can pull together all your friends. Facebook basically already has the network effect working for them that meant that ebay, adsense, and others basically haven’t been able to be beaten.

    I think niche social networks will complement facebook not replace it. But they need to add a lot more value than most do at the moment.

  3. staycooldad says:

    I agree with Phil, If I were doing anything even REMOTELY web 2.0 today, I’d be asking myself if I could ever get as many people as Facebook (unlikely) or if I should instead figure out how to leverage Facebook.
    It would be a fast decision.

  4. Steven Noble says:

    Hi Phil, I understand your “spill pages” analogy, but I don’t think it’s the whole story. Before Facebook enabled these RSS feeds, I was checking Facebook when I got around to it, with the possibility of fatigue. Now that I’ve subscribed to my Facebook feeds in Google Reader, I’m checking them automatically all day every day without effort and the risk of fatigue, and in the long run that will drive more site visits.

  5. Steven Noble says:

    Though I was there was feeds for my entire news feed…

  6. Charlie says:

    Initially I thought that it would be great to have a few different profile pages. One for friends, one for family, one for business. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure that at some point either one of my parents will try to add me as a friend! Can you reject your parents as friends on Facebook?!

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