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A question that’s stuck with me since ILM East is whether the Web, in its current form, lacks humanity. Maz Sharafi, Facebook senior manager of local monetizationm raised the question during his keynote, channeling his admittedly Luddite (and local merchant) father.

The Web has been built on a series of pages and links but lacks people, he asserted (in a seemingly implicit dig at Google). This is at odds with the people-centric way we otherwise see and live in the world — one philosophy behind Facebook’s product design.

This  also isn’t terribly new, if you consider the online communities on which the Web is based, and going back many years (Slashdot anyone?) was built. Facebook is the current iteration, and based on its reach it is arguably the best positioned (though walled).

This has already thrived with personal social graphs, companies, neighborhoods, sports teams, knitting groups, etc. But it hasn’t yet developed for SMBs to build communities en masse that infuse the personality of their businesses (2 million have created FB pages).

“Businesses are about real people,” he said. “In the last 10 to 15 years, the Web hasn’t done its part. But in the last few years, it’s changing to be social by design, with a focus on people and a chance to make up for what it’s missed.”

The alternative has been SMBs that are told they need to be online and “ask a nephew” or pay a developer to build a website. They’re then left with a page with static content and a marketing message that doesn’t convey the “anatomy” of the business, Sharafi asserted.

In addition to personality, he added that the sharing and viral effect of Facebook can be powerful. Specifically, the average user has 130 friends, so interactions on SMB place pages can be shared and seen (via news feed) by as many people.

“A fan isn’t just that one person, but a connection to 130 more,” he said. “Every connection is times 130, and it’s not just about clicks and eyeballs but faces in the store.”

That last part is a function of “ad units” we’re talking about here. It’s not a typical ad unit but an organic discussion about a business or brand. In that way, it gets us back to word-of-mouth marketing — again carrying the theme of emulating the real world connections that bind us.

“All of those organic interactions now become the ad unit,” said Sharafi. “There is no marketing message — just your friends talking about a business.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The web wasn’t created to link people to each other so much as it was to link people to information. But like most things in life it has evolved and, in this case, to include pockets where the specific intent IS to link people to each other. Social media may help rejoin long lost friends, topple a Government or evangelize a brand but it also contains… ads. Ads that help people find the information they need to buy the products and services they want. You can call it “social” but it is what it is.

  2. Yes Kerry, good point. There is a fair amount of sugar coating going on. Another mistake is brands that want to utilize social media and go into it with the delusion that they can own the message in the same way they could with traditional advertising. The positives of viral marketing come with the negatives of relinquishing control of the message itself. Only companies that come to that realization will be successful with social media.

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