[edited by: JoePublisher at 2:07 pm (utc) on May 18, 2011]
I'm going to disagree with a few people here, not in an argumentative way, but as an aid to hopefully opening your eyes with some real world experience and the actual data I am pulling from my own facebook users ... I hope this might give you pause for thought and some of you may see an opportunity ? But there again I see no way of swaying some posters on here, and have I have no real desire, appetite or intention of doing so.
As an aside: I am totally against breaches in privacy and hope the Big 3 Internet companies either clean up their act or have it cleaned up for them (more likely). The way they do things is not how I chose to run my brand’s website. But if internet users chose to use these services in such large numbers I need to be using their tools to help reach these people with my brand.
In the UK (just like in the USA and other countries) we have three types of newspapers.
1. The 'Broadsheet' (e.g. The Times - below 1,000,000 daily readership sales). High quality, well written, mainly for a highly intelligent (Higher I.Q. with a more thorough and established educational background) and affluent audience. Discussions on World View topics etc. predominate.
2. The 'Tabloids' (e.g. The Sun - 8,000,000 daily readership sales). Sensationalist, poorly written in terms of word choice, mainly for a less intelligent, (Lower I.Q. with a shorter educational background in terms of time spent and courses covered and qualifications passed) less affluent audience. Discussions on Sport and Celebrity Gossip etc. predominate.
3. And the ‘Middle Ground’ (e.g. The Daily Mail - 3,500,000 daily readership sales). As it states, they take the middle ground between important topics and celebrity gossip – ‘titilation’ stories alongside ‘the state of the nation’ op ed’s etc. predominate.
All newspapers carry the same sections - 'Politics', 'Sport', 'Lifestyle', 'Entertainment' etc. and each day they often cover the exact same stories. But they way it is reported and the level of intelligence (I.Q. and educational background) their audience is at and the reporter is aiming at (in general) is totally different between them ...
Is the Internet so very different? Depending on the audience you want to attract you will be writing or presenting information as 'high-brow' or 'low-brow' or even 'middle-brow'. The level of your writing style filters out your audience ... in the way you write, your aims and own leadership qualities in running your website, you will naturally attract a more intellectually gifted, higher social climbing set, or the reverse.
I write 'high-brow' (for a 'broadsheet' and 'middle ground' audience) and I do not dumb down my words or information to a lower level than a college graduate would be expected to be able to read. I am selling information by 'quality' not 'quantity' and therefore I expect my readership to be lower in number than other websites who basically 'dumb' down similar information on this topic. This holds true for selling handbags or for selling information.
My facebook numbers are growing steadily, but not spectacularly, which is to be expected. In the UK, on a daily basis, ‘The Sun’ tabloid newspaper outsells ‘The Times’ broadsheet by a factor of 8 to 1. So when I look at comparable competitor facebook numbers I keep this in mind, they might have 8000 facebook likes for every 1000 I get, but the economic affluence of my 1000 is far more important in many ways to the 8000 they get.
The people liking my facebook brand page are what are called 'influencers' in the economic ABC1 groups, they have more money to spend per capita than the ‘average’ internet user. The people who ‘like’ my brand are the exact opposite from what people are describing facebook users as. These are INTELLIGENT and MATURE users.
If you are talking ‘numbers’ of course the masses who read tabloids are in greater numbers on facebook, but you don’t have to TARGET them, or rather if you offer high quality on your site you will ‘exclude’ them in a natural process of filtering.
This is not a pure form of ‘social elitism’ but what happens in everyday life, just like there is the need for the creation and publication of 3 different types of newspapers. If I was targeting the Tabloid reader then I would do it whole-heartedly and embrace this section of society in my writing and presentation of information. But I am not ...
These are some raw facebook data numbers of my actual facebook 'insights' for you to mull over, but in conclusion, from the daily interaction of hundreds of visitor feedback on my brand’s facebook page, these are highly educated and social climbing, aspirational members of society:-
Age: 13-17 = 0.5%
Age: 18-24 = 7.4%
Age: 25-34 = 23.6%
Age: 35-44 = 27.2%
Age: 45-54 = 22.7%
Age: 55+ = 16.1%
16% of my many facebook page 'likes' come from those over 55! And I have a great coverage in the coveted 25 to 44 age group ... many from California, New York and London etc. I have a very limited (to be expected) coverage of teenagers or non-English speaking facebook users. These are the same people whose facebok feeds have my brand's post appear in when I post new information (I post once a week) and they respond and reply and spread my info to other similar social groups and ages. Its a snowball effect.
If the next stage in SERPs produced by the search engines is to leverage this social data, then you can sure as bet your house I am manoeuvring (and have been now for 14 months) to be in poll position, getting mature, top quality users and 'influencers' on my side - because believe it or not they are on facebook and their numbers are growing daily .... and if you are a top quality website publisher, they are waiting to start interacting with you, and stick with you with far more ‘loyalty’.
If you still think the ‘masses’ in facebook likes will outweigh a smaller number of ‘influencers’ in the SERPs then you don’t understand how data of this sort is going to be leveraged ... if you are in the A, B, C1, C2, C3 or D social group then you will get references from people who liked things from a similar social group to you, who are doing similar searches ... so I don’t care how many thousands of people ‘liked’ a gossip page on Lady GaGa, all I care about is the far fewer number of facebook users who are looking for information and reviews on the latest Opera at Covent Garden etc. (a made up example) and believe it or not, these are the same people high quality advertisers with millions of dollars of ad spend also want to target ...
You can choose to sell information or handbags by quality or quantity, (whatever you chose ‘go for it’, with every skill and experience you have) but don’t sit there saying the internet is going to ‘hell in a hand-basket’, its the same refrain some people have been saying about society in general for thousands of years ... Facebook is no different than (western) society is, it is just a reflection of (western) civilisation from developing nations, and becoming more so with every passing day (with many similar imperfections) and therefore it is a perfect tool to aid search engines in an imperfect world.
This is what the BIG 3 are deciding to do, no matter what we think, and we can either play catch up, follow, or lead the way.
If you are not ‘selling’ anything, be it handbags or information, then what do you fear? By being straight and honest with Facebook users from an ABC1 background they will appreciate you even more and spread the word to similar types of people. If you are targeting C123 and D social types then go for it, they also just want access to information or services, just in a different way.
Use it or don’t use it, but don’t tell me Facebook isn’t useful to me and my high quality web site, or portray it as if anyone leveraging Facebook is of the ‘shady’ and ‘shallow’ type, even if you believe Facebook itself is ‘shady’. Because we are not. And very soon you are going to be left behind ... which you can chose to believe, or not.
The wild west of the internet isn’t over, it’s just that the railroad has come to town.
[edited by: JoePublisher at 2:07 pm (utc) on May 18, 2011]