Sometimes I hop on the Facebook to see what the people are up to. Today I noticed a little “Trending Videos” entry in a place where maybe an entry would be or maybe an ad would be. In a moment of weakness, I guess I clicked on some linkbait, because the next screen was asking for my email.
I think I just saw what Wall Street seems to have a surprisingly good read on: Facebook is about to have a branding problem. A big one.
Remember MySpace? While the kids look it up, we’ll move on.
Regardless of the blatantly obvious college-age value of knowing whether the girl upstairs is “In a relationship” (crap), “Single” (interesting), or “It’s Complicated” (sexy and mysterious), it’s important to recall that, for the rest of us, FB was just MySpace done with restraint. On purpose or not, it was as much the clean, comfy blue and white UI that KEPT people on the site. And that was WITH the ads. Of course, those ads have generally remained in the hardcore users’ periphery. Of course they are highly targeted, but all the Market, Facebook, and the Marketers seem to know about me is that I have the word Tennis in my profile and I worked in marketing 3 or 4 years ago.
Evidently, I clicked on some conspiracy crap as well. I probably did. I love a good conspiracy theory. Which is why this little entry popped up in my feed. I like this stuff and some of my friends and Friends do too. But part of the fun of having actual human friends is the collective vetting process inherent in real friendship. Facebook’s brilliance is that it can and does work. Good things are shared all the time amongst real friends. If anything, that is the core Facebook experience, right? I’d love nothing more than to close my account, but my friends are there.
So let’s do what friends do. Let’s pretend we’re out together, talking and laughing. If kids aren’t there, photos of them are, so we look at them and coo. We tell stories of stupidity long past and we relax and let our guard down. You with me yet? Sounds like a great evening. If my scene doesn’t do it for you, replace it with your own happy place. There yet? Feelin’ it? OK. Good.
Your best friend leans over with a smile and asks if you want to see something really cool.
Does your best friend ask you to opt-in first?
Of course not. They have your email address. And you’ve chosen to remain friends with them because, at the very very least, they don’t tend to share your personal info with assholes, let alone advertisers.
Look, it’s been Question #1 since Day #2 of FaceBook: How do you monetize this kind of engagement?
Here’s the problem. Unlike Google – which kind of did INVENT search as we know it – Facebook did not invent friendship. Did not invent sharing. They simply provided an online destination that allowed people to do what they do naturally: connect.
I don’t know, kids. I just don’t know. Hanging out together is biological. Friendship won’t go out of business, even if Facebook does. In the meantime, I guess it’s just me, but it’s like seeing your favorite bar close down. It’s kind of inconvenient, but there are other bars. And even if not, we’ll do a cookout. And I won’t even have to give Kingsford Charcoal my email address to enjoy it.
Over the line, FB. Over the line.