After attending the Facebook Developers Camp here in Toronto a few weeks ago, I’ve been musing on a set of predictions for what’s next in the Facebook ecosystem. Those musings (mixed with a dangerously small amount of web research) have culminated in five predictions about Facebook’s evolution which I believe will have a major impact on online marketing. Caveat Lector applies, of course, as I’m only batting about 500 on my One Degree 2007 Fast Forward predictions to date.
My Five Facebook Predictions:
- Facebook will launch online Search. If they really are going to be the next generation Portal (a social, emergence-based portal) then they have to offer a way to bring the web back inside their service. The highest impact starting point for this is “search”. There are lots of folks, much smarter than me, predicting how Facebook will do this and what this new search capability will look like. Regardless of the final method, the impact of a viable Facebook web-search function will be nothing less than dramatic and will mark the next stage in the evolution of the social web. For marketers, there are several possible outcomes, ranging from simply adding another vendor to your search strategy all the way to dealing with a marketing world where it is significantly more difficult to buy your way into search results and where your search strategy has to be different based on which platform you wanted to create awareness through.
- Facebook will offer its own “Ad-sense” model and will take over the internal advertising toolsets at Facebook. Think about it. Why would Facebook continue to offer the competition access to their established user-base in their single greatest area of estimated value – potential advertising revenue? Once you have more than 35 million active users, exceeding all other web stats on usage and a large base of developers dying for monetization of their applications, why wouldn’t you offer your own tools for advertising? For marketers, the key will be to study the way that advertising is evolving at Facebook, either their direct model or through the new applications that are being developed on the F8 Platform, and look for those opportunities to take advantage of these early days to try out multiple strategies.
- Facebook will go public. There is a lot of debate right now on whether Facebook will be purchased or will go public. My prediction is that a combination of the hubris of youth, the current appetite of the public markets and the long term financial viability of the platform will all combine to tip the scales in favour of Zuckerberg taking Facebook public. For marketers, this will mean that Facebook will begin to operate like a real public company and will have to ramp-up how serious they are about monetizing their platform. This will likely make them a more predictable company to deal with and likely an easier company to form long term marketing relationships with. Start practicing now.
- Facebook will move to Auto-Refresh and will kill Page Views as a relevant measure for marketers at the same time. For those of you who use Facebook, you will already know that you have to constantly refresh the page in order to see updates, whether or not you have new messages. Besides being remarkably irritating, it also begs the question – are each of those refreshes a new page view? Judging from the astronomic page view stats being thrown around at the developer camp, the answer is yes. This leads me to ask, in the new online world of Ajax applications which don’t trigger page views or Facebook refreshes which do, what is the relevance of page view stats? I would say relatively little. For marketers, I would suggest that you stop looking at Page Views stats. They are an increasingly meaningless indicator of usage made even more meaningless at Facebook. Instead, try to get a sense of how a site defines “active” users or how a site measures “persistent” usage.
- Facebook will launch a Payment Tool. Again, why would Facebook allow other competitors to capitalize on a marketplace that is entirely of their design? Maybe they’ll build it or maybe they’ll buy it but either way, Facebook will likely take out PayPal and others currently offering payment services at Facebook. For Marketers, this means an opportunity to not only facilitate easy commerce applications as part of an advertising strategy but also to potentially get access to valuable buying patterns on users at the platform. One of Facebook’s greatest long term assets (and one could argue also the scariest) could very well be the wealth and depth of marketing information they create on users of their service. There will be both powerful opportunities and dangerous pitfalls for marketers in the access to and use of this data. Again, not a bad time to practice.