Facebook earlier this week announced a partnership with Buy.com to create a video classifieds engine called Garage Sale, which will allow Facebook users to create videos of the things they want to sell.
This is the latest development of many that should come after Facebook released its API for web developers to create various widgets that will work on its network. Scores have already been developed to increase the value and appeal of the Facebook experience, and we can expect many more.
Finding the Sweet Spots
This latest move is more of a partnership, and one that makes sense, as video can be seen as a natural extension of online classifieds (especially in visually oriented categories such as real estate and autos). This follows Facebook's partnership with classifieds aggregator Oodle in May to bring classifieds to college campuses (Facebook's sweet spot), which also makes a lot of sense, given the turnover of goods (books, bicycles, couches) and apartments in the average college town.
The generation of users in college and in high school (Facebook's other sweet spot) are also the prime users of online video. So the marriage of classifieds, video, and social networking will harmonize nicely in this environment. Add to this the user responsiveness to online video when compared with other forms of online media, shown in recent Kelsey Group data, and it could be a valuable addition.
Next could be a better Facebook mobile product, as this same user base is also very in tune with mobile search and entertainment. This could happen in conjunction with greater adoption of the iPhone or the rich mobile browsing experiences that will develop in its wake.
It's also possible Facebook will do something more with its partnership with Jobster, struck earlier this year (see past SEW coverage of Facebook's recent partnerships). This could represent an area of development for Facebook, given the targeted recruiting opportunities in Facebook's core user base (think internships and intro-level corporate jobs for college graduates).
Don't Get Too Comfortable
Overall, the merger of classifieds and social has already been proven by the original community classifieds site, Craigslist. Craigslist, however, has a very spartan look and feel that is central to the underground appeal that has driven its success and characterized its ethos. At some point this will hit a wall without multimedia functionality such as video, which users will come to expect in online classifieds and community interaction.
Further, many of these improvements, if integrated into Facebook, could continue to attract MySpace users and make the current domineering social network solidify its lingering position amongst social networking faithfuls as "so 2005." And given the herd mentality present in social networks, it only takes a few to lead, and the rest will eventually follow.
MySpace meanwhile has a perfunctory level of functionality and look and feel, while Facebook's experience will continue to evolve. MySpace could improve, but Facebook will do so at a faster rate, given its site development strategy. Indeed, Facebook's act of letting the outside world in to create the applications that will drive the value and appeal of the user experience is something that should be central to anything that calls itself a social network.
This will also utilize a constantly evolving product to keep users around, rather than rely on the staying power of their need to stay connected to friends. Users of online social media, at least at this stage of the medium's life, are fickle – especially MySpace's core demographic. The lesson that Facebook seems to have taken to heart already is to not let the herd rule your fate; keep bringing innovation into the fold.
Through this innovation we can expect to see, among other things, many more locally oriented tools developed in the areas of classifieds, video, local merchant advertising (which developed to some degree on MySpace) and others that will develop or could even be invented under the Facebook umbrella. Social networking has a new name.
Michael Boland is a senior analyst with The Kelsey Group’s Interactive Local Media program, and a contributor to the Search Engine Watch Blog, focusing on local and vertical search topics. Prior to joining The Kelsey Group, Boland spent several years as a technology journalist.
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