I really enjoyed Time’s insightful, plain English, and un-hysterical article about Mark Zuckerberg, and wanted to capture the pearls of wisdom in it – with a few implications for brands.
1. The social graph is a category killer — Facebook takes over markets by making them social. Their inferior photo sharing service trumped others because they understood that what was important about the photos was NOT the ability to put them in folders, create books etc. What was most important was to be able to organize them by who was in them. That’s a big insight. It’s the people side of equation that’s always the most powerful. The implication going forward is obvious and one that most marketers are on to now: The more social your brand experience the better.
2. The shift from The Wisdom Of Crowds to The Wisdom of Friends — such a simple thought and so very true. We don’t actually trust other people (as a recent Edelman study showed), we trust our friends. I do like Amazon’s “people like you” reco engine, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as my friend Rupert recommending a CD. This is why friends putting recos on their Wall is such gold for brands. Does anything matter more for brands today than understanding how to — carefully, authentically — facilitate, be part of, conversations between friends? Which brings us to the third point.
3. Facebook doesn’t quite seem to get Permission Marketing — at least that’s how it reads to me. This is Zuck’s blindspot as revealed by Beacon and last year’s privacy uproar. It doesn’t seem malicious (based on this article at least) but it’s no less real. It’s as if he’s acting like the Friend In Chief and making overly familiar assumptions about what people want to share, be known about them. Surprising for someone who was a major in psychology as well as computer science. Facebook needs to act more like a Friend, and brands need to be careful not to get caught in the crossfire until that behavior becomes routine.
4. Your Facebook ID is becoming the de facto Internet Passport, which makes FB very powerful indeed. Years ago, when I ran Marketing at PeoplePC this was the big conversation for all online brands — how to become the wallet, the identity packet. MS was even using the term “passport”. 10 years later, game over. FB is the passport. Quite what this means for brands remains to be seen, but he who issues passports has a lot of power to be sure, then there’s currency, visas, cross-border tariffs . . . I won’t labor the metaphor, but FB is already the 3rd largest country if user = population, and increasingly a Superpower, which as we all know become harder and harder to negotiate with. And users do have to be careful what goes into that passport in terms of content. Which brings us to 5
5. People need more than one identity, surely. I’m not ready for Zuck’s one identity vision. I like to have a number of personas and I’m fine if you do too. If you give me a sneak peak into one of your other personas that’s great, that’s what trust looks like, and maybe I’ll enjoy it and ask for more. We’ll negotiate that friendship over time. But I don’t wish to start there, knowing everything about you. I don’t think that is “a lack of integrity” as Zuck thinks. If anything I think multiple identities have more integrity, it recognizes that we need to be parents, mates, professionals, and that showing all of them at all times is undesirable and a barrier to good communication — which is surely a big part of what FB is trying to bring about. As absurd as it seems to suggest such a thing I think FB would be even more successful if it grasped this idea of multiple identities.
6. Making serendipity happen more often. I loved this way of articulating what’s really magical about FB (my wife has always loved this, that her high school friend and her ex-boss, who’ve never met, get into conversation about common things on her Wall). That is what makes FB great once you get over the initial thrill of finding a lost friend, it’s the surprising juxtapositions of people and conversations that are just delightful. The connections made, however small, reveal our shared humanity. That’s a great environment for brands to be present in — again, authentically, respectfully.
The last point I liked about the article was the final quote about how come FB had been the ones to make all this happen and not others. “I guess what it probably turns out is, other people didn’t care as much as we did”. And that’s it in a nutshell, the notion that underpins the success of any great Challenger brand — pursuing something you care more deeply about than anyone else.