We have all sat back and watched, or been part of, Facebook’s meteoric rise to fame as they surpassed 500 million users and make their way to an unprecedented 1 billion! They have even made a movie of this phenomenon already. So what does all this mean? How can Mark Zuckerberg go from a college student, and a nerd, to a multi-billionaire literally overnight? How does the emergence of Facebook on the Internet have an impact on anything? What is its future and how will it evolve from here? Why has it become so popular?
Tackling the last question first, I believe we as humans all have the inborn desire to communicate, to have as many friends as possible and be liked. In the real world our own inhibitions and fears change this desire. We experience problems with the direct interaction with other humans. Prejudices start to creep in and suddenly getting on with the people around us becomes a challenge, not a charm. Conflicts with our college mates, our co-workers and even our family members take the pleasure away from having a good time with everyone around us.
The Internet eliminates many of these issues. Now we can befriend almost anyone without those fears and trepidations. A good example has been the popularity of the online matchmaking services. Now we can “get to know” somebody before actually meeting them. We can filter through the lists of interests and activities to find the ones that might be compatible. Get the awkward questions out of the way right up front and now have the ability to focus on the “person” and not the potential hang-ups when we physically meet.
So now I can actually develop a large circle of friends without having to go through the awkward act of actually meeting them. In fact, I can befriend people who I might actually not like in real life. Even people with opposing views. I can debate numbers of issues with people I would probably try and avoid if it had to be face-to-face. Now I can create a special page (forum) to attract people around an issue, a product and/or a company. This is the core of what Facebook is trying to achieve. Circles of friends that debate issues, share common or opposing views, exchange information on whatever comes to mind and start to create a “cyber bond”.
To even start to comprehend what all this means I would recommend taking a look at Facebook’s own analysis of its services. Here are just a few nuggets. 700 billions minutes are spent on Facebook by users every month. The average user has 130 friends, something that would not be possible in the real world. Average user creates 90 pieces of content every month. More than 30 billion pieces of content are accessed each month. The list goes on and on.
This brings me to one of the more important questions at the beginning: How does the emergence of Facebook on the Internet have an impact on anything? Well, it has obviously improved communication between people across the globe. Just the amount of time we spend on this network creates an advertiser’s dream. As we all complete our profiles, this allows Facebook to offer advertisers targeted, measurable demographic information on specific audiences. If you want to advertise only to women in the age group 55-60 living in New York, you can. This is why we now see a tremendous increase in the number of ads appearing on the right of the Facebook page. What an income generator that is for Facebook!
The data shown here is just a snapshot. They are exploding every day as people start to enjoy and appreciate the ability to communicate without inhibitions with the rest of the world, which brings me to the headline of this article. What about the other phenomenon called Google? How and will they be affected?
Well, the Google model is not dissimilar in many ways. People need access to information and Google provides a very convenient way to do research and get to that information quickly. This creates a number of eyeballs looking at a computer screen, which allows Google to attract advertisers and make money. However, it has been reported that we spend three times as many minutes on Facebook on average every month than Google – and these minutes are increasing every month as Facebook introduces more applications to keep us engaged longer. My prediction is that advertising revenues at Facebook will easily bypass Google’s, especially as advertisers see it as a better bang for their buck and they start to switch.
So what about Google’s key feature – their search engine? When you do a search on Google their business model relies upon them providing useful, relevant content. But how can they guarantee that? Almost every general Google search today produces tens of millions of hits. So which of these hits includes the information you are looking for? How many pages deep do you go to get your information? Maybe there is a page somewhere that is just what you are looking for but because they have not optimized their SEO coding, you will never see it.
Let’s fast forward a few years and now you have 10,000 friends on Facebook, have joined a dozen groups for the things that interest you most and have optimized your Facebook activities around people like you – age group, profession, interest, politics, religious beliefs etc. If you wanted to do some research on a new computer purchase, staying in a hotel somewhere, subscribing to newsletters or just getting some general information about anything would you not consider asking this huge group of your peers if they know anything?
If you spend half your computer time on Facebook, both business and personal, would you not want to tap into that resource for information? I was at a social media seminar recently and the presenter gave the example of his wanting to find a hotel on Miami Beach for a long weekend. He did his Google search and found the hotel that fitted his criteria. However, he then started to read the testimonials on the web about this property and discarded this choice based on their opinions. These were the opinions of complete strangers. How about asking the opinions of that huge group of (Facebook) people you already have a relationship with? Aren’t personal referrals the best and safest way to make a decision?
It would be very simple for Facebook to create a database of opinions, good and bad, about all types of products and services that would be created by its users. A database that we could all tap into. Only then, when we cannot find the answer we are looking for, we might turn to Google. Maybe Facebook will make Google just one of its applications in the future. There was some “chatter” on the Internet some time ago that Google should just suck in Facebook. Maybe Facebook could grow to such a global force, they could be looking at a takeover bid for Google in the future? Everything is possible, especially when we extrapolate Facebook’s growth and trend patterns.
Facebook is still evolving and they are obviously looking at these trends and have a long-term plan. They will be introducing new applications, revamping the look and the feel of their services, making them even easier to use and more consumer friendly. The only barrier to their success might be themselves. If they make any bad strategic mistakes. If it turns out that our personal information we share with them is not secure and there is a major breach. You know there are hackers out there with such plans. If they make the expansion of your network of friends too restrictive and a competitor emerges to make that easier. If they get involved in any major trade or government disputes (remember Microsoft?).
They could become their biggest obstacle to global domination but that aside it is hard to believe they will not have a major impact on the Google Empire if they are winning the battle of the eyeballs. If we start to spend ten times more time on Facebook than Google – where does that leave Google?
Colin Buckingham is a global Internet entrepreneur who believes a great solution for many of today’s economic woes is to go out and start working for yourself. He also believes one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to start out on your own is to join more than one MLM company. Colin has spent the past ten years as a financial adviser and has seen many of the problems people face financially many of which could have been resolved with just a small additional income every month.
As a marketer, he believes the Internet will eventually run the world, break down all political and religious barriers as more and more people communicate. It is the greatest source of information we have ever seen and with social media now emerging in both the wired and the wireless worlds, this rend will continue for generations into the future.