5 months on Facebook: Observations of Value

I’m creeping in on month 6 of being an active Facebook user. As someone who develops social media products, deeply enaging in Facebook has not only been personally fun, it’s given me a chance to play in a living laboratory of apps, interchanges and technologies being applied to social purposes. This post is a means to share and chronicle some of what I’m observing and learning from a product and user experience perspective:
1. The parade of folks onto Facebook continues. There’s a steady drip of 40 + aged-tech folks, media folks and others in my life onto the service, glimpsed via new friend invites. Reasons include “My kids told me to do it,” “everyone else is there,” “it’s the new l inked in,” and “I wanted to do something more contemporary…so I’m giving it a look.”
2. Like classmates.com, but much more organically, it offers the chance to reconnect in a light, yet satisfying way. The expansion of the Facebook audience beyond college students and digerati means that I’m scraping down into the barrel of the past and finding folks from long ago online and we’re connecting–and that feels great. I just found–and linked with–someone who was a huge influence, oh, 20 years ago, and we’re going to meet for coffee next month–you get the drift.
3. It’s the global village come to life. For those who choose to do status updates, FB is a perpetual stream of info light. Whether it’s a casual friend, a colleague, or a close connection, status updates treat me to a humanizing and descriptive update of their moment by moment posts..at 20 words or less.
4. It’s transparent and voyeuristic at the same time–and those qualities drive and model communication in a hugely impactful way. Facebook is genius at driving communication between users through modelling it. I am convinced that reading updates like “Jill wrote on Fons wall” not only lead more people that just me to click on the screens to see what Jill said to Fons,” but leads to my leaving a message on the wall myself (especially if it’s some one’s birthday, conveniently listed on my home page.)
5. FB offers convenient tools to communicate within the ecocsystem–and it’s easy. Events, groups, games–they’re all there for anyone who wants to use them. I organized a party using FB event tools, just to see how it worked, and it was simple. Also set up a group, and that was a piece of cake, too. And of course the fact all these services have simple, coherent interfaces and user experience is something all us developers can learn from..FB tools are neat, bright, and functional, and yet have that user delight we discuss.
6. FB is infinitely entertaining because data continually changes–yet is anchored to people I know. I’m the former writer who eagerly waited for the rejection letters in the mail, the email junkie who kept checking, the woman who loves her mobile alerts and SMS, so why wouldn’t FB’s ever changing data stream of small news be equally absorbing? It is, even if I don’t log in more than 2X a day.
Conclusions: Others can debate the valuation, my interest is the execution and build out of the concept. There’s alot to savor, and alot to be learned, and I am still eager to see what next big thing the FB experience is training us for.

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  1. Omar says:

    Thanks for the insightful comments, Susan. I have to agree with you. I’ve never really used the “other” social networking sites, primarily because they were geared towards : 1)singles 2)self-promoters or 3)people wanting to meet “new people”. I was interested in none of the above. FB on the other hand really helps me keep in touch with those I may not otherwise have the time to keep in touch with, and that is what keeps me going back…p.s. My success story is that I found my best friend from high school on FB (via his brother).

  2. Dan Pacheco says:

    Well said! And yeah, I discovered your post through Facebook.

  3. Aaron says:

    I didn’t “get” facebook at first but I felt that it became more useful as more of my friends signed on and used it. now I know what they’re up to and it seems like a good way to stay up to date with people I sort of know.
    Eventually, though, you end up with more updates, or more not-really-friends, than you know what to do with. I mean, you and I have never had so much as an email discussion, and yet I’m on your friends list.

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