Sample Content Preview
Chapter 1: Introduction
There can be little doubt that the nature of the internet has changed significantly over the last two or three years.
Nor can anyone seriously question the fact that one of the most obvious changes has been the rapid and exciting growth of the ‘interactivity' of websites on a truly global scale.
With this proliferation of new websites and blogs claiming to be Web 2.0 friendly, and the stunning growth in the popularity of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, it is becoming increasingly clear that people all over the world are using the internet as a principal means of communication in ever increasing numbers.
Not surprisingly, therefore, businesses both big and small have also begun to recognize and understand the potential of such websites and networks for expanding their customer bases.
For example, whereas perhaps only a year or eighteen months ago, most large corporate websites were purely informational, many are now being adapted to offer far greater levels of interactivity to both customers and casual website viewers.
Thus it is that more and more customers are able to take advantage of 24/7 ‘Help’ and ‘chat’ lines that are appearing on many large corporate websites with increasing frequency. Added to this, polls, customer surveys, and inbuilt feedback facilities are becoming ever more popular too.
Previously, on the vast majority of websites, such features were almost unheard of. So, there would have been little about the average website to encourage user communication, apart from a simple e-mail address or two line reply form at the bottom of a webpage.
In the same manner, businesses are rapidly beginning to appreciate that social networking websites that have many millions of individual members from all over the world could potentially represent massive market places for their products.
It is for this reason that a site like MySpace.com (which in September 2007 passed 200 million account holders) has become such an increasingly attractive proposition for advertisers to become involved with.
MySpace is still far and away the largest social networking site, and the one that most people are probably most familiar with. Having been originally established in August 2003, it is also one of the longest established of the social networking sites too.
Facebook is, however, the second largest of the social networking sites, and is currently growing at a phenomenal rate, as you will discover.
For this reason, advertising is rapidly becoming an important topic of debate for the Facebook owners, moderators and community members.
The purpose of this book is therefore to investigate in depth how the Facebook site and social networking community is evolving, and how advertising and promotional activities fit into this rapidly expanding picture of development.
Perhaps more importantly, I am going to look in detail at how you and your business could potentially use Facebook as a source of new customers for your products and services.
One final thing to note is that, whilst most commentators will blithely refer to social networking sites as if they are all exactly the same, there are significant differences between them. These differences serve to make the demographics and practicalities of using these sites for business purposes entirely different from one site to the next, as you will discover.
Chapter 2: Facebook – From Then To Now
Facebook was originally founded in early 2004 by a group of ex-Harvard university students as a service that was initially restricted to students of their own university.
From there, Facebook rapidly expanded their services into most of the Ivy League universities in the USA, and thereafter it went to a larger scale in the USA, spreading to most universities and eventually down into high schools as well.
Next, the site went international by moving into Canada, Australia and the UK so that it was (in its final ‘guise’ as an educational service) open to anyone who had a university or college e-mail address (e.g .edu, .ac.uk etc).
In late 2006, Facebook finally took the decision to move away from these educational grassroots and became a truly open service that anybody, anywhere in the world could register with and participate in (a move which prompted significant protests from the existing Facebook user base!).
Despite this move away from their traditional roots, however, Facebook even now still has an effective stranglehold on the educational social networking community especially in the USA, with the company claiming that almost all US college students have Facebook accounts.
This situation is, to a certain extent at least, replicated in many other countries across the world.
As proof of this, according to Wikipedia, in late November 2007 Facebook had the largest registered number of collegiate and student users of any social networking site, with 55 million users worldwide.
By the end of 2007, this figure is expected to pass 60 million users, of whom over half (that is, more than 30 million) actively participate in the Facebook community at least once a month.
To put Facebook's current rate of expansion into some kind of perspective, one year ago the site was enjoying 15,000 new user signups per day.
Now, that figure is over 100,000 new signups each and every day, and the site is expanding at a rate of 3% per week according to the latest statistics presented by the company Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Perhaps more interestingly, Zuckerberg also claims that the fastest growing demographic group of new Facebook users is in the over 25 years of age group. This would suggest a ‘maturing’ of the Facebook community, and the beginnings of a move away from the original bias towards those with a college and high school background.
Indeed, over 60% of registered Facebook users are now non-college students, and that figure is expected to increase to over 75% (that will be 50 million users) in the next six months.
Facebook is currently enjoying 70 billion page views per month, and is the sixth most trafficked website in the USA, having recently surpassed eBay, and is now rapidly closing in on Google's traffic figures.
Nor is Facebook still quite so focused on the USA as it once was, with over 10% of Canadians now being Facebook account holders, with similar levels in the UK.
If you then add in the fact that Microsoft has recently paid 240 million US dollars for a 1.6% stake in Facebook (which values the company at around $15 billion in total) you clearly have a picture of a company and the website that is going places very quickly indeed.
It is clear that Facebook is a website and social community that is enjoying phenomenal levels of growth from what was a relatively closeted and deeply specialized background.
These numbers would also clearly indicate that Facebook could represent a potentially huge market place for any business or organization that can create means of advertising that are effective with the site members.
Whether anybody has so far managed to achieve this or, indeed, whether it is actually possible to achieve is one of the critical questions that we are going to look at in considerably more detail in this book.