After spending the last few months digging into the intricacies of Facebook Connect, I’m here to go on the record: Facebook Connect is much more than the latest bright and shiny object. It has the potential to transform the way we interact with the web and the way agencies like Razorfish for which I work to build online experiences.
At Razorfish, I’m tasked with helping our clients integrate community into their web experiences, to make their sites more “social” for lack of a better term and also to deploy marketing programs across the web that foster two way conversations between brands and their customers. In order to be successful, it’s imperative that I constantly question a brand experience’s ability to make people care enough to do things like write comments or build profiles.
When you’re in the thick of a project, there’s a temptation to overestimate how much people actually care about your site. And that’s what’s so exciting to me about Facebook Connect: because users are able to bypass building profiles and a social graph all over again with just one click, building sophisticated social features is now possible for many more brands. Let’s dive into the reasons why.
Higher value user generated content
With a one-click login to Facebook Connect, websites have access to an unprecedented amount of user data. Using this data, sites now have the ability to redefine the way they display user generated content. Gone are the days where all you will see is content from random avatars. Now sites can surface UGC from actual friends. If your friends haven’t made any actions on the site, then we can surface UGC from people like you – maybe fellow alumni or co-workers. Say I’m shopping for a TV on Amazon, the 400+ reviews from people I don’t know have limited value to me compared to a review from my friend or even someone I don’t know who is similar to me.
Get brand content in Facebook without advertising
The strategy of fishing where the fish are is timeless. When time spent online was dominated by the big portals, our media dollars went to buying up ads and unique sponsorships on Yahoo and the like. Although Facebook Connect isn’t an advertising buy, it can accomplish the same goals as one (and in an unintrusive manner). Brands can get their content into Facebook’s viral channels by letting visitors post news feed stories, status messages, photos, events, and more without leaving the website.
Smart brands and agencies will learn that the key to getting content into Facebook is about providing a meaningful value exchange for each Facebook Connect interaction, not prompting their user to post to Facebook at every turn. If a site is successful at giving users a good reason to post content to Facebook, it can make a world of difference to reach and visibility. The strong impact is only partly due to Facebook’s traffic. When brands appear in Facebook via Connect, the impressions interpreted as an individual’s endorsement of a particular product and are not subject to ad tune-out, making the impression far more valuable.
Faster logins, instant profiles, and individually relevant services
Facebook Connect and the like are going to make “social network fatigue” a very short-lived buzzword. With Connect, the social network fatigue-inducing process of registering for site, creating a profile and connecting with friends can be completely bypassed with one click. The value of this cannot be understated. While other Facebook Connect benefits can be slightly unclear, skipping registration is something any mainstream web user can appreciate.
Upon logging in, the Facebook-powered profile can inform a much more relevant, targeted experience. A retailer can feature merchandise based on profile details like location, age, relationship status or even brands that the user has “fanned.” Another option is for a company to offer special promotions to influencers, or those who have a high amount of friends, tagged photos and wall posts. It’s not exact science, but I’m willing to guess that these people are more influential and vocal than their counterparts and would be a good type of person to convert into a brand advocate.
Enhanced competitions and ranking
Whether it’s through a contest or reputation system, incentives like earning rewards, raising levels, and winning prizes can help create much-needed energy around websites and marketing programs. Facebook Connect can enhance all forms of competition by creating an experience that’s far more relevant and localized to each individual user. By surfacing where a user ranks among their friends and networks, rather than among unknown peers, a user stronger drive to compete is generated. This is one of the key reasons why social games dominate Facebook’s application platform.
So what’s holding us up? Where are the Facebook Connect implementations for big brands?
Reason #1: There’s a valid concern out there that Facebook will change the rules of Connect just as they have with their application platform.
Reason #2: Implementing Facebook Connect into existing sites is not a walk in the park (depending on your platform). This is one of the reasons many of the big launch partners (Digg, Hulu, etc.) are yet to go live.
Reason #3: The Beacon privacy fiasco has spooked some brands into being very cautious with Facebook. It’s one of the main reasons for the “wait and see” attitude out there.
Facebook Connect will likely get much more powerful as Facebook does two things in 2009. First, they will likely make more profile data available through Facebook Connect as the year progresses. Second, and more important, Facebook is expected to allow users to more easily segment their friends into groups and apply granular privacy settings to each group. Facebook Connect sites will respect these settings and users will feel more confident with logging into Facebook Connect.
Major brands should become familiar with the capabilities of all portable social graph technologies, including Google Friend Connect and the unreleased MySpaceID, along with Facebook Connect. It’s also a helpful exercise to imagine what your online destinations would look like on Facebook Connect as we did in our presentation, Portable Social Graphs – Imagining Their Potential.
Barring any privacy debacles, or big advancements from Friend Connect, there should be a strong adoption of Facebook Connect coming in 2009 – especially as major implementations from the likes of Digg and Hulu go live and set an example for brands that are on the fence.