I remember years ago hearing about Facebook. It was early days, very focused on student profiles — and MySpace was clearly in the ascendency. As part of my daily routine I would randomly click through profiles, looking at my own, my connections and the friends on the periphery of our intersecting lives.
When asked by my family about my work, I would struggle to explain the hours I would spend navigating through bad profile after bad profile online. They could not understand that this was research, immersion and about understanding a new form of business. From the outside looking in, it probably bordered on voyeurism.
What was clear to me, even then, was a sense of performance. Here in words and image (and atrocious formatting) were people from all walks of life … fretting and strutting their hour on a new global stage. It was fascinating to see (and sometimes hear) what people would share — what they were comfortable with, who they would claim as “friends” and how the lines between “friend” and “acquaintance” held no sway for this connected mass of individuals.
Years later, Facebook is a media monster. Not only do they have millions of registered participants who have linked, connected, profiled and segmented themselves, they also have a sway of marketers keen to leap in and mine, message and measure them all to within an inch of their digital existence.
Is this bad? Or is it the quid pro quo for free access?
Whenever I hear talk about reaching a young audience, or “digital strategy”, it is inevitably followed up with the muttered words “viral” or “Facebook”. It seems like a default response that is devoid of any real understanding of the population of Facebook. Matt Dickman has single-handedly decided to remedy this situation, producing a FREE ebook, The Face of Facebook. And while it is focused on the US population, it provides a primer for all marketers considering their first forays into social networks.
Please read it.