Facebook is a little like Las Vegas. I don’t mean that you get pulled in by what seem harmless little games at first, only to become dangerously addicted and then unable to leave the place.
I mean that what goes on in Facebook tends to stay in Facebook.
If you’ve gone through an online brand audit or mapped out your key influencers you may well have noticed at how infrequently Facebook appears.
That’s not to say a We-Hate-You group on Facebook with 1,500 followers is harmless. It’s just to say that typically whatever is written on the We-Hate-You Wall tends to stay there. You’re unlucky if press notice and write about it. You don’t find those angry Wall scratchings popping up in Google searches.
Facebook is still pretty much a walled garden despite various flirty APIs and shared login options. Facebook operates in this way to keep Google away from the highly valuable personal and real time data the site gathers in the terabytes.
The other significant aspect of Facebook is that it doesn’t really import data automatically that well. For example, virtually no one uses Facebook as their information aggregator. Do you know how to add an RSS feed to Facebook?
There are applications that act as a window from Facebook to elsewhere – for example, there are ways to show off your Flickr photograph uploads from Facebook but no way to integrate Flickr with Facebook in a way which lets you upload photographs, once, to Flickr and then tag your friends on them with Facebook.
It’s early days yet but a Facebook and FriendFeed integration may well change all of this.
FriendFeed is all about sucking up data (life streams) and presenting them in a single place. FriendFeed tries to this as fast and as sensibly as possible. You do find FriendFeed URLs ranking in Google very quickly after major announcements, events or news.
Whereas Facebook is pretty poor at taking data in from RSS feeds FriendFeed is wonderful at it. With FriendFeed you make many more people aware of your blog post than you would have had without it. With FriendFeed you encourage conversation about your blog post with an ever increasing circle of contacts and contacts’ contacts.
Can you imagine throwing Facebook’s sheer volume of users into that amplifier? A single anti-brand blog post could be hovered up by the new Friend-Facebook and blasted out through the greatest network of connections and contacts the world has ever seen.
The opposite may also be true. Even today Facebook status updates can be public and searchable. Facebook’s new real time search engine launched last night too.
With FriendFeed thinking a single Facebook status update might now ripple out through connections formed by what people are interested in rather than who people know. Your online brand reputation management strategy may now have to deal with Facebook gatherings acting as broadcasting devices capable of breaching Facebook’s boarders.
We do have to see what the acquisition brings but it may be the case that the already tremendous personal networking power of Facebook is magnified hugely by FriendFeed conversation networking scope.
A question online PR agencies and brands need to be asking is “Can we cope?”
Reaction speed is crucial. Trust and authority are important. Is there a way you can communicate in the new network that will be noticed or will you just be a small voice shouting against the storm?
Are you on FriendFeed? Do you have many followers there or have you been solely focused on Twitter?
What seems certain is that as the web grows and evolves with dramatic fits and spurts that the need for brands and agencies to do the same will be there.