Facebook Innovation Lessons For Your Business

Facebook is the big bang in the universe of social networking. Sure, MySpace and LiveJournal had slightly better than primordial existences before the days of Mark Zuckerberg, but they never held a candle to Facebook’s massive user base, and they weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as the social network quickly became.

Facebook is the big bang in the universe of social networking. Sure, MySpace and LiveJournal had slightly better than primordial existences before the days of Mark Zuckerberg, but they never held a candle to Facebook’s massive user base, and they weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as the social network quickly became.

From its inception, Facebook has operated under the mentality that it will never be finished — it will constantly be innovating and progressing to remain more than a social network. Unless you’ve been living in a Wi-Fi-less cave, you’re aware of the amazing success of Facebook. So, given its strong company culture of innovation, what can the rest of the business world learn from it?

King Of Innovation

To understand why Facebook continues to enjoy such success, let’s look at some of its more recent innovations.

Timeline: The hotly contested timeline feature is perhaps the most remarkable of the latest changes. Zuckerberg describes it as “a new way to express who you are,” which has been Facebook’s niche from the start. The timeline look takes on a magazine format, with all of a user’s activities and information in the same place. Timelines are highly customizable, but the true innovation here is that users can provide photos taken prior to Facebook’s inception, thus adding their own unique histories to the social network.

Application integration: Another change in the string of dramatic Facebook redesigns that garnered a lot of strong user reaction was app integration with Spotify, Turntable.fm, and other services. This integration has turned Facebook into a sort of “entertainment hub” and recommendation engine. Users’ music, movies, and television preferences will soon be incorporated into their Facebook profiles with continuing updates. Facebook is positioning itself as an all-inclusive information, entertainment, photo, chat, and videoconferencing solution.

Social graph: Facebook already provides advertisers with a host of information about users’ likes, preferences, lifestyles, and habits. With the release of graph search, the tables have turned. Users will now be able to mine the data that’s long been available to advertisers. Each like, check-in, or photo might help a friend or friend of a friend decide where to eat, what to read, or where to vacation. Social graph is a platform for a kind of word-of-mouth altruism. It might as well be called “designed serendipity.”

In Praise Of The Other Guys

With all of Facebook’s innovation in the social space, it’s easy to forget about other platforms. Yet Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and others have been doing some pretty visionary things, as well. Each is geared to meet a specific set of needs, rather than designed to be as all-encompassing as Facebook. It goes without saying that, in order to grow, these networks must innovate.

While Facebook continues to release major enhancements one at a time, LinkedIn seems to bank its changes and roll them out in a comprehensive release. Twitter, on the other hand, began with an open application-programming interface that led to a proliferation of third-party innovations. When faced with the realization that it would lose users to competitors if it didn’t embrace or acquire these products, Twitter restricted access to the API and formed tighter partnerships, some of which resulted in acquisitions.

Then there’s Google Plus, which is remarkable in that it’s an essential framework for all social media content. It is being transformed into a sort of suggestion engine — a way to understand social interactions across the Web through hangouts and communities. In other words, Google Plus isn’t the site where the action is; it’s the site that tells you where to find it. This tracking of user interests gives Google an understanding of how to serve up relevant ads for revenue in a way that is even more advanced than Facebook’s model.

Observe And Prosper

Just because your business doesn’t operate solely on a computer screen doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from the social network magnates. There are many aspects of a business that could use a mentality similar to Facebook’s, especially when it comes to innovation. Here are a few recommendations: