Trender Research™

Technology meets people.

One day I was surprised to receive a message, via Facebook Mobile, from my father, “I just wanted to see where you are spending so much of your time.” It suddenly dawned on me many people, like my father, a key player in a large telecommunications company, have developed technology skills yet are clueless when it comes to the modern phenomenon of Facebook. Driving strategic Web 2.0 trends in leading technologies and industries, Facebook has been an integral part of everyday culture whether people such as my father log on or not. While I am the first to admit and witness Facebook’s draw to older generations, I hope to unveil some of the key features that are lost on some, while creating self-pronounced Facebook addicts out of others.

The Very Basics

At its core, Facebook is a free, social-networking site. When you sign-up for Facebook, you create a profile that includes as much, or as little, information about yourself as you would like others to view (this is all controlled via your privacy settings). This includes your picture, contact information, education and work, personal information such as your favorite books or music, and basic information, such as your birth-date and relationship status (which has forever changed the dating world – “it’s not official until it’s on Facebook”). The social networking part comes into play when you request others to be your friend. Becoming friends with others allows you to view their profiles, communicate with them, and receive updates when their profile changes. As most Facebook veterans know, the longer you have Facebook, you realize you couldn’t possibly truly, have 500 “friends”.

“Is it like email?”

With your Facebook profile, you have the famous “wall”. It’s basically public email. Friends may write messages to you on your wall and you may respond on their wall; however, the entire world sees it. But isn’t that the fun of it? Of course there are more private ways to communicate. You may send private messages (more similar to email) and, now, Facebook even has a chat feature similar to your favorite instant messenger.

So why the addiction?

Facebook is your personal PR secretary. You control how others see you- add photos, music you like, accept an event invitation, keep status updates on what you’re doing at the moment, and pretty much any type of personal expression you could possibly think of (new widgets are created daily). When you log onto Facebook you see what’s called a “News Feed.” When you add photos, promote a new Facebook application, change your status, you break the headlines. Ever wonder what your co-workers do when they leave their cubicles for the day? Curious what the shy girl in the back of the classroom does when she has a few drinks? Just check the News Feed. Those in the Facebook generation know when you meet a new person, the automatic question is, “Have you Facebook stalked him yet?” Welcome to the world of Facebook- a world where the Joneses don’t have a fancy car or picket fence, a world where the Joneses tear down their walls, rack up their friends, and try to prove they’re the most connected.

The Cafeteria Table

If Facebook sounds a little like high-school to you, you’re right. What could be blunter than a denied friend request? Not to mention your popularity is planted in numeric numbers under your basic information. A blank Facebook wall is the equivalent of a kid standing alone during a school dance. Facebook “groups” were created to unite members under a common “goal”, such as “You can’t put your cell phone in the tub” with self-appointed group administrators. There’s also the mysterious poke, whose’ rules of conduct seem to be different in different circles. One friend says, “Don’t ever poke back! You don’t want to give the wrong impression.” Of course, I’m exaggerating, but the parallels between Facebook and real-life are often closer than you think.

Sounds like a Waste of Time

If constant status updates seem absurd (do you really need to know X is gathering rocks?) or sending a virtual box of Kleenex to your sick friend isn’t for you, there is an element of Facebook that appeals to everyone, even my highly productive father who can’t be tempted with a Patriots scoreboard widget if it means taking time away from his work. Facebook is a social-networking site at its core and, if you use it for nothing else, it has its rewards. The simple creation of a profile connects you to friends and family from your past and from those you have simply lost touch with. When you add friends, you have an instant phone book, you never have to forget the name of someone’s wife or son or birthday, the embedded communication features let you stay in-touch without disrupting your schedule, and uploaded pictures are like year-round holiday greeting cards.

So, is it all fun?

While other Facebook copy-cats have been created in an effort to appeal to the corporate world, Facebook remains, in my opinion, the only social-networking site to effectively reach a large audience in marketing promotions. Entire campaigns can be promoted in a few clicks. Customers and prospects easily stay up-to-date on company news and, rather than acting as a passive audience to flat press releases, may take part in open discussions and view and comment on photos and videos.

My Pitch

If you want to be connected, join Facebook. If you want to learn more about your friends than you ever wanted to know, join Facebook. If you’re suffering from a recent layoff, procrastinating on work (Facebook has been banned from many offices to increase productivity), or looking for some mindless amusement, join Facebook and spend some time poking your friends, Pillsbury Doughboy style.

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Comment by Brian Mahony on January 18, 2009 at 8:17pm
Jessica, great and informative post! I must admit, I am on FaceBook but have kind of looked at it like a strange animal, not quite sure whether to cage it or take it for a walk. Thanks for opening up the mechanics and psychology of this expanding world.

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