Friday, July 6, 2012

Why Facebook has to make such a compelling case for the monetization of social Media

There has been so much buzz from marketing, finance & social media pundits in the past month following Facebook's IPO that as things have not settled but still open for future prediction, I thought I might bring my own take & forecast:
Even if FB is overvalued & overhyped, it has 3 fundamental assets that many other social media or even traditional media don't always have: critical mass/captive audience, major brand recongition/equity. buzz /influence power.
  1. critical mass/reach: with more than more than 800 millions users worldwide, whilst 200 million accounts were added in 2011 , even if FB was churning more than Telco, Credit card or Media companies, this captive audience will still have prominence for the next decades over the still overpriced SuperBowl or Olympics TV iconic platforms...More importantly, it has become an integral part of a day in a life for hundreds of millions of teen agers, head of household/parents, opinion leaders or marketers who spent an average 700 mins per month actively engaging with their peers , family and friends: no other less than 5 years old medium can boast that kind of captive/regular , involved & deeply interconnected audience.
  2. major brand recognition/equity: even before the iconic Social network movie & cool J. Timberlake acting , FB had already reached  household name status that even LinkedIn or Twitter were not able to achieve , a brand that now ranks in the top 20 global brands (BrandZ 2012) among the Google, Coca-Cola, Apple, right behind WallMart & ahead of is the top riser (74%) in brand equity in 2012 -stay tuned in the next years!
  3. buzz / influence power: what people read on FB, either real, accurate facts or not, just counts: like oe not, as on Twitter or YouTube, messages, it amplifies & make any information become a public opinion trend or potential social wave.As Twitter starts flinching under a few blunders from celebrities or politicians who showed how tricky it can get to manage public opinion at global scale and from a 10 words billboard, FB still remains the trusted source where people go check the accuracy or details of a story: either a celebrity's daily life or a job seeker crosschecked by its future employers, it stands as a credible & true picture of what happens in everyday life.That's where FB still seems to hold a more trustworthy power than glossy spreads stories on E.T. or traditional print magazines or decidedly scripted "reality-shows" on Bravo.
So the key question is now: how will FB be able to monetize this in the best way without alienating its main asset: its members ?
The answer to this question has nothing to do with any behavioral vs attitudinal data are more relevant, any Display vs Search debate, nor how many or which brands should preempt it...

It is a case of HOW to: how to reinvent a new marketing game or way of subtle, interactive branding in storytelling:  more inspiration and service or deal driven than classic product show & tell: and that's exactly why old advertising patterns won't work: what only counts is that FB designs its monetization model and develop its commercial policies to advertisers, in real game-changing ways that both:
  1. bring a legitimate and relevant value: either in terms of interest, knowledge access, community building or activities: be a club, a forum, a polling or expression platform, bring real concrete benefits & advantages attached to a given community of interests or values... 
  2.  don't invade our privacy or comfort zone to a point that it would become intolerable like today's telemarketing or email Spam...sharing personal data with third party marketers might be fine as long it's then utilized in a way consistent with FB founding philosophy and values and not all over the map: that's where it would see the crumble of its very own initial asset & value at the very same incredible rate of that we saw in its growth...
We are being told that revenue stream will primarily stem from selling behavioral & attitudinal data to marketers & agencies: provided it is done in a way that brings value & relevance to the audience segment it targets and in a mature, intelligent manner, it might actually reinforce the strength & reach of the social network and finally seal its 100 billion market valorization and fate as THE most powerful media of the 21st century.

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