Is Facebook a valuable Marketing tool?
The general discussion (or debate - depending on which Blogs and/or articles you read) about Facebook as a marketing engine seems to be both a little misguided and a little shortsighted - all at the same time. I hear a lot of Marketing professionals talk about loosing interest in Facebook (some of them have even pulled the plug on their profiles). There's this feeling of Facebook becoming the next Friendster of MySpace. Early adopters (and people highly engaged in these online channels) tend to eat their own. It's part of the online circle of life. From my perspective these people tend to view Facebook as a destination. The new and improved iteration of the early portal play of the Internet. Beyond the early adopters, Facebook continues to grow - across demographics and psychographics.
Facebook isn't just a destination. It's a platform.
When Mark Zuckerberg and his team talks about helping people to connect, he isn't just talking about on www.facebook.com. He wants them to connect anywhere (online, mobile, tablet, etc...) and everywhere (on other websites, Blogs, etc...)... he just wants Facebook to facilitate that connection (and have access to that data) - wherever it might occur. If you can see Facebook more as a platform than the destination where you see whose Birthday it is today or who posted some racey photos of themselves online, you can begin to see how the bigger pieces are starting to click together in this very interesting puzzle.
If you pay attention to anything, please pay attention to third-party logins.
We're seeing more and more of this. First, Facebook untethered the "like" button - allowing Blogs, websites and even e-commerce sites to enable people to "like" something. Pushing that further, some Blogs now allow you to verify your comments by validation through Facebook Connect. Just this week, there was news that Facebook is about to launch a more robust version of their commenting system (more on that here: Mashable - Facebook To Launch Third-Party Commenting Platform) which will allow users to post content to websites by logging in through Facebook. The feature is also reported to include threaded comments that can also be "liked" and the comments can also be synched on the publisher's site and their Facebook page. Think about it this way: if you comment on this Blog post using this new Facebook commenting system, it can also appear on a Facebook page.
It's hard to abandon Facebook when it's everywhere.
With each picture that you post and friend that you add, your ability to walk away from Facebook decreases. It decreases even more as Facebook makes it easier and easier for you to access your friends and what's going on in all of the places you frequent online. Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV and Crush It) often talks about the huge opportunity that Facebook Credits will bring... and I agree with him. If you can store some money in a Facebook account (like PayPal or iTunes) and pay for anything just by clicking a button to connect your Facebook profile, this will facilitate a huge amount of transactions.
And let's not forget about mobile.
While some think Facebook's mobile strategy is lagging, I'm fairly confident that they have people in their organization who understand the mobile imperative. More and more of their users access Facebook through their mobile devices. And, more and more people are also using third-party login on other sites to connect their Facebook profile. Facebook sees, knows and understands their web analytics. Think about the potential of third-party logins via mobile that seamlessly allow you to access Facebook Credits as well. Simply put: easy mobile commerce.
Facebook is not perfect.
We all know Facebook is not perfect (security, privacy issues, etc...). We also know that any platform with over 500 million people on it is going to struggle to adapt and grow to meet the ever-growing needs and requests of their audience. The company will fumble and drop the ball many more times (than they already have), but it can't be denied: Facebook is not a destination. Facebook is a platform that allows people to connect. Not just to one another... but to everything.
When we begin to accept that Facebook isn't a destination and that it is a platform to connect and communicate, it changes the game (a lot), doesn't it?