Everywhere you turn, everyone's abuzz with Facebook, social search, and social networking. What's all the fuss about? As a marketer, are you missing the train? Or, if you move too quickly, are you jumping on the wrong train?
On the eve of search marketing's new year, does Facebook spiked with Live Search go down like the real deal? Or does guzzling Google-infused MySpace taste like you're drinking the latest Kool-Aid? (Another round of Second Life, anyone? Orkut on the rocks?)
There are many more social networks for myriad audiences: business (LinkedIn, Plaxo), older (Gather, Eons), travel (aSmallWorld, TripAdvisor), teens (eCrush), dating (Match, eHarmony), but we'll focus on the two giants for now: the Google and Yahoo of social search engines.
And when I say big, I mean big. The latest unofficial user figures have Facebook at 73.5 million and MySpace at 289 million -- numbers that have marketers across the globe collectively salivating.
Top 3 Questions: Facebook vs. MySpace
Question: What's the difference between MySpace and Facebook?
Answer: MySpace is starting to be stereotyped as a community for people who want to meet new people. Facebook is viewed as a community designed to keep you in touch with people you already know. Both points are debatable, so we won't go into depth here.
MySpace has also received some bad press lately as an enabler for pedophiles and other nefarious activity. Google faces similar problems in Brazil with their proprietary Orkut social search engine and online community. In your MySpace, as in life, there may be new people you don't necessarily want to meet.
Question: Why is Facebook getting more love than MySpace?
Answer: It seems a bit odd that Facebook is getting all the press these days when MySpace has more users and via strategic partnerships (e.g., Google) have shown they can generate substantial revenue (what I like to dub "socialommerce"). What gives?
Facebook is getting more hype as they're growing at a faster rate (admittedly easier to do with a smaller user base.) Plus, their technical platform is more robust, fostering future growth. Facebook has placed some risky bets that have paid off, adding to the excitement.
Roughly 16 months ago, Facebook opened up their platform to non-college students. Facebook originally was exclusively for those attending a recognized college or university. Facebook user demographics in areas like higher education and discretionary income are typically higher than those of MySpace.
Since opening the platform to non-college students, like-minded individuals have flocked to Facebook in droves. These individuals, while possessing similar psychographics of original Facebookers, have even better demographics for marketers: post-college education, high discretionary income, early adopters, etc.
According to a source within Facebook, the largest growing segment of Facebook is the lucrative 35- to 54-year-olds who enjoy the clean interface and higher privacy levels of Facebook.
Facebook also set the interactive world on its head when it opened up its application program interface (API) to allow any developers to write applications (widgets/modules) that reside within Facebook. Now everyone is following suit: ranging from iGoogle allowing widget development to iPhone opening up application development.
With Facebook, Wiki (pedia/search et. al.) open APIs, the world is truly moving the Web to open source ubiquity. These applications are growing quickly on Facebook. In the travel segment alone, there were at least 80 Facebook applications written as of two months ago. There are now 332 travel applications -- an astounding 400 percent increase.
The most popular travel app, TripAdvisor, enables Facebookers to place "flags" on an interactive map of all the cities they've visited (remember when a paper map on a wall and push pins sufficed?). TripAdvisor's application has roughly 85,000 active daily users.
TripAdvisor's mapping app wasn't even a new idea. TripAdvisor simply built a better mousetrap. Best of all, it's estimated that TripAdvisor only spent $15,000 to develop such an application by simply leveraging the Google Maps API.
From a brand equity standpoint, that's a resounding return on investment.
Next time out, we'll explore the number one question marketers want to know about Facebook in Part 2 of this social search series.