I have her email address and phone number. She lives no more than a mile from me. However, I opted for direct messages on Facebook to set up our recent dinner outing. Why did I communicate with my friend this way?
Because I was already there—and she was, too.
Like millions of other Americans, my friend and I are spending time on Facebook. Thus, I found it just as simple to reach out via Facebook direct message than to switch over to my email account to do so. (And God forbid I pick up the phone anymore!) In the end, Facebook successfully led my friend and I to some quality face time.
While Facebook helped me stay connected to this friend from my zip code, it’s also been an incredible tool for reconnecting with friends spread across the globe. Whether they’re in Houston, Singapore or any point in between, I easily, communally mix and mingle. Gone are the days of blasting my friends via traditional email with a heavy assortment of attached photos to keep them updated on my life (after much debate about which of my pals would want to see said photos lest I feel like a spammer to my own circle of friends). Now I post a photo album, and my friends can peek at their leisure. I can share and receive updates with everyone in a single pass no matter physical location or time zone.
According to topline data from Nielsen NetView for June 2009, Facebook ranked first in terms of time spent per person on a site. Internet users spent an average 4 hours, 39 minutes on Facebook. That’s more than the time spent on Google, YouTube, AOL, MSN (WindowsLive/Bing), eBay or Amazon, and it notably exceeds the time spent on the number 2 ranking Yahoo!, at which users spent an average 3 hours, 15 minutes.
We’re leaning toward the collective connective for a variety of reasons. I think the recent death of Michael Jackson and subsequent online communications frenzy is a good encapsulation of the shift (and likely could have impacted Nielsen’s June numbers). Facebook experienced the crush of the communications rush when the news of Jackson hit.
The desire for interaction. This key point hinges on the very human need to be heard and avoid being alone. While Internet users may have first glimpsed or heard of Jackson’s death through other sources, they logged on Facebook in droves to share the disbelief and emote. CNN partnered with Facebook to have real time comment sharing in tandem with the live coverage of the Jackson memorial service.
The need for multi-dimensional information exchange. Facebook served as a source for diverse perspectives and unfolding details, as friends clamored to share what they’d learned. Friends from all points on the map received information from different sources and were able to convey details quickly.
The simplicity of sharing. Just as email overtook traditional mail because of its immediacy and affordability, Facebook interaction overtook email messaging likewise. During the hubbub of Jackson’s death, it was quite simple to share on Facebook because it converges and merges friend groups for streamlined sharing options, has no associated costs and allows for broad-sweeping messaging without being obtrusive.
What’s the quick take-away for small business people?
Be where your customers are. While I’m just a Facebook user and not a brand advocate, the numbers undeniably affirm that millions of people across every demographic are using Facebook. Of course, there are other widely used networks, namely and famously Twitter, for example. Business owners are wise to take note.
Evolve your communication methods. Word in the world of online trend-tracking keeps buzzing about the fact that traditional email is fading in importance. Messaging through Web 2.0 technology/social networks is on the rise, and with the launch of tools like Google Wave, it’s clear that the way we share information is evolving. Email is not ready for mothballs, but it is likely being reassigned as modes of electronic communication advance and change with the onset of cloud computing and mobile technology.
Build relationships online. There really are conversations going on all around us online, as Internet users seek out those they know to share in discussion. It’s imperative business leaders plug in. It’s not effective to be a strategic interjector; people are hungry for more substantive connections. That’s why Facebook is a stronger draw than random commenting on various sites; we all want to be heard, especially by people we care about.
Think ahead about the collective connective. Business owners always need to be one step ahead. The reality is, we live in a Web 2.0 business world, and even if some participants are still fumbling in 1.0, we’re not going to regress. Web 3.0 will be next. In the evolutionary marketplace, the businesses that are in step with the times will thrive. Those who are presently overwhelmed or totally disconnected may not stand a chance.
Suffice to say, it’s time to ‘face’ up to social media!
Until next time…