This is the time of year when some folks trot out the tarot cards and crystal balls, and attempt to predict the coming year. And others wax eloquent (mostly) on what transpired in the year just past. Over the 7 years I have been writing this blog, I have generally tried to stay away from this sort of post.
This year, however, that is pretty much what you are going to get. There are a few trends that I have been watching for a while now, always intending to post about them but never quite having the time. Here’s the first.
Facebook gets lots of eyeballs — 800 million active worldwide users, 50% of whom access it everyday according to the company’s stats page. And the boys behind Facebook are smart cookies; they know they need to give people a reason to keep coming back. But, it seems like they aren’t entirely sure that catching up with friends and family and sharing “stuff” is unique and defensible enough. And mining user data only works if you keep the users.
So they’re hitching their horses to the content wagon, and setting themselves up to be a content platform. Brand pages, apps, timelines and other enhancements designed to make Facebook a source of information, not just connection.
Brands are diving right in. Everyone has a Facebook landing page, contest or app. The ubiquitous URL in advertising has given way to the Facebook like and share buttons.
At the end of the day though, the Facebook platform is inherently hostile to robust content development. It was developed for short form messages and social connections, and layering apps and other tools to make it more content friendly doesn’t make it so.
But we’re sure as shootin’ going to try. Facebook has the eyeballs that brands want, and doesn’t want them to go elsewhere. The more of our activities and transactions it can own, the better that database gets. In the coming year, more and more brands will shift content to Facebook that in the “old days” would have been on brand-owned microsites.
The $25K question is, will they really recognize sufficient benefit from being on the Facebook platform to make up for the inherent unfriendliness of the platform to branding and deep content. Not to mention the murky area of who owns what on Facebook….
The more transactional, ephemeral and social the content, the more successful the efforts will be. Deep thinking? Complex topics? I just don’t see Facebook as a hospitable place for this. The Facebook brand page just doesn’t have enough branding to make the brands happy, or enough information to make the consumer happy. For one thing, all the custom developed apps bypass one of the key benefits of Facebook, the simple user interface.
Brands will try, but in the end, I think the winning strategy will continue to be to link into the social graph to promote or aggregate content that lives elsewhere on microsites and blogs. This allows the brand to leverage the social aspects of Facebook, but still own their own robust content platforms.
Unfortunately, at the moment, things are moving in another direction, and 2012 is going to be the year of bigger and splashier brand pages on Facebook.
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.