Facebook’s F8 conference is taking place on Thursday and while it may be useful for developers to attend, the cats are being let out of bag left and right to get a pretty good sense of what’s going on and where the social networking giant is headed. And if you think it’s all about enhancing the end user experience, you’re completely wrong.
Let’s start with the premise that Facebook has had a pretty good track record of being a fast follower. In fact, you can argue that the company has never really innovated and only steals what seems to work from other players in the space (see: Foursquare check-ins and GroupOn daily deals). The latest set of features to be announced is no different. Adding in lists of people to share information with is an exact copy of Google+’s Circles feature. Media partners to live stream movies and shows? You guessed – a jab at Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. A “live stream” of conversations? A hit at Twitter. What Facebook is trying to do is make this the only site you ever need to leave open all day, every day. They’re even reviving Beacon, their failed social shopping experiment, and are expanding Likes to include “Want” (a jab at Amazon’s Wish Lish), “Watched” (stealing from Get Glue) and rumor has it anything a developer wants to create. As an end user this seems a bit much to me, but it’s all being done for one specific reason: If you get the eyeballs and stickiness and programming, you get the TV ad revenue.
End user’s wants aside, as a marketer this presents a huge opportunity. For a while I’ve been telling clients that a Like is an extremely weak form of affinity for a brand. In fact, when one looks at a net promoter score and the possibility of introducing varying degrees of brand loyalty and affinity, well, let’s just say that the entire equation and discussion just got a bit more interesting. Can you imagine contextual advertising based if someone is a current customer, a die hard loyalist, a detractor or neutral to your brand? I can. And I can see the trail of ad money headed West to Palo Alto.
This of course, if all of the rumors are true, provides Facebook with the potential to what I think could be the biggest IPO of all time in late 2012.