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Facebook’s ‘Awesome’ Product Launch (and What It Means for Social Marketing)
Posted on July 6th 2011
Hype is so cheap to come by these days that when a company like Facebook engages in it you know that they are panicking. Mark Zuckerberg promised an ‘awesome product launch’ today and I was one of the 70,000 who signed up for the Livestream event on the Facebook site.
Leading up to the event speculation had, understandably, been rife with many predicting an iPad app or a Facebook phone announcement. The Livestream was late (first strike) which prompted many of those, who had patiently waited for up to two hours for it, to begin jeering (second strike). When it did start (about fifteen minutes late) Zuckerberg opened the session with an overview of web trends, which was valuable, and then zeroed in on the announcement.
From what Zuckerberg said we can categorize it into the old, the new and the simply indifferent. First the old, the ‘awesome’ product launched centred around the functionality of Facebook Groups. The new is that Facebook announced the close integration of Skype technology in Facebook and the ability to now video chat with one click with any of your Facebook contacts. The indifferent part centres around some design specifications which basically have been ported over from the Skype interface and will not make this any more or less likely to succeed.
Was it ‘awesome’? No. Was it earth-shaking? No. And it played exactly to expectation. There are vital lessons to be learnt here by Facebook on how to actually launch new products. They could take a leaf from Google’s low-key approach of Google+ which was launched with barely a whisper and which has generated mounting excitement everywhere (this site included).
In business nothing happens without a reason and the way this was done, the way it was handled and what was actually announced, reveal a lot about Facebook’s culture and capabilities. Who will ‘win’ the social networking war is irrelevant to us as webmasters and social media marketers. What is relevant is what we can see developing by way online relationships and of use and functionality because it is through this mix that we get the tools we use to work online.
Here are the really important points to take away from the Facebook Live Event:
- Facebook’s announcement was a knee-jerk reaction prompted by Google+ (which featured heavily in the reporters’ questions to Zuckerberg).
- Google+ has prompted a closer alliance between Microsoft and Facebook with Skype being the enabling technology (in this case).
- It has prompted Facebook to announce the launching of a ‘Launch Season 2011’ (ok, meaningless sound bite but this was actually the most important thing said at the LiveStream event) which will see a whole raft of products and improvements.
We are now seeing an explosion in personalisation on the web which will drive new marketing techniques. Facebook’s Groups (with an average membership of seven) has not yet figured in this for social media marketers and webmasters and it is unlikely to. Its video chat feature (which, by the way, is a great way for guys to harass even more women on Facebook) is also of questionable value in terms of marketing so this leaves open the question as to whether anything Facebook rolls out really is going to better Google+? The answer lies in the three criteria learnt by MySpace’s failure.
It is no accident that Facebook Groups are used largely by hobbyists. It’s the kind of functionality which helps communities but it offers little a social media marketer can use. If Facebook fails to provide a way for brands to really connect with their public the only avenue left to it to make money will be Facebook advertising. In this it will go toe-to-toe with Google and here things will get a little harder.
Google’s Ad Network delivers results which, according to analysts’ reports, are quantifiably better in terms of returns on the outlay than Facebook ads. Facebook ads work only as an addition to social media marketing campaigns which have strong engagement factors built-in. If Facebook manages to reduce that element then it will become another channel of passive ad consumption at a time when web trends point towards interaction and engagement. That will also be the tipping point for Google+ (which gets all this) to step in and sweep up.