I recently had my consciousness raised regarding Facebook. On this blog some months back, I wrote a surprisingly popular post wondering whether this social network would become the Members Only jacket of the early 21st Century. Once the novelty wore off, would the investment of time required outweigh the benefits of all this easy connectedness? In hindsight, the ‘Members Only’ tag could be what drew readers, but I’m a bit sketchy on my SEO knowledge to really determine that.
Writing in the July issue of Wired magazine, Fred Vogelstein outlines how this aggressively market-capped, yet-to-make-a-profit social network aims to create value, and it requires insuring the benefits of this easy connection platform always outweigh the time investment. As it stands, over 20% of all internet users are on Facebook, spending an average of twenty minutes a day there. Mark Zuckerberg and company aim to further embed Facebook as the center of all online activity.
Why? Because everything we do there is trackable. And owned solely by Facebook. Every connection we make, every opinion we express, every last ‘Which type of canned vegetable are you?’ quiz we take and share produces data which they alone own. None of it will ever show up in other web browsing search engines. And since Facebook is the one place online where people regularly use their real names to share real thoughts with real friends about real topics, that data has remarkably robust human context. By comparison, Google’s data is largely limited to search history.
The ramifications of monetizing all this contextual data could be staggering financially. If this type of deeply human Facebook information informed even a tiny percentage of the incomprehensible 3.6 trillion banner ads placed in 2008, they would stand to make…well, technically speaking it would amount to tanker ships of cash (I know even less about finance than I do about SEO).
We live in a world where opinion has a mass channel greater than TV, radio and print combined. We work in a world where brands truly are opinions, and thus bound to the vagaries of fluctuating public consideration. For Facebook to have exclusive access to untold hours of that opinion provides them with a competitive advantage that borders on the scary.