Facebook for Business or LinkedIn Gets More Valuable
Michael Arrington writes about Facebook has LinkedIn in their Crosshairs, but I have been finding Facebook becoming increasingly less valuable the more people I have connected in it. The converse is opposite for me, LinkedIn becomes incredibly more valuable the more people I have in it. The reason for my derived value is simplicity.
LinkedIn Scales Quite Well the More Connections a Person Has
LinkedIn focusses on a simple set of things (your connections, changes to your connections, simple activities by your connections, and connecting with other people) and lets the person using the service derive value. LinkedIn lets be easily download the updated vCard, which drops into my address book in two different applications, which I have syncing with my mobile device (now that I have a mobile device that does not suck). LinkedIn is partly passive for me as I leave it own in a tab in my browser and check it a few times a day, but where a contact updates their status I can update my address book and it is a trigger for me to send a note, using the services they prefer (I keep track of that). LinkedIn is moving to opening its service with an API as they blogged (The LinkedIn API Opportunity). This will permit other services that can add value and are also great at what they do to pair the services, like Dopplr or a calendar to show availability (a particular need of mine). LinkedIn understands the information in their service has value and is more valuable outside their service for many people. But, LinkedIn also understands a good interface that is not cluttered, and there for it can scale.
Facebook Scales Poorly the More People A Person is Connected To
Facebook has a few things going for it, a huge mass of people with accounts and it has a fairly good lifestream interface for one's friends. The value for people using Facebook for themselves is much less than the high dollar valuations given to it (the valuation is not because it is a great service or tool, but because they have a ton of accounts in the service that creates value for advertisers). A few weeks ago I posted some Facebook frustrations in Twitter that stated:
"Facebook is driving me absolutely nuts - there is no way to manage information or conversations"
"Facebook is like a grade school lunch room, cacophony and chaos as the rule of nature"
&auot;FAcebook has a lot of valuable bits of information flowing through it from my contacts, but it FAILS to allow be to do anything with them"
Unlike Twitter, which allows me to favorite bits of information that I find valuable, Facebook does not grasp that the information has value. They do not grasp that those of us people who use their service are sharing things with those we connect with (friends, acquaintances, work relations, etcera) and we would like these people to see this information. Facebook interface started breaking for me finding information shared for my seeing (along with many others) with about 75 connections. It became virtually unusable with 150 people. There is information about events, blog posts, published journal articles, job changes, travel to cities I will be in (the Dopplr application is helpful, but if does not make a connection to those people in Facebook and the information I should be seeing), and other helpful valuable information for me.
Not only was I having this problem, but I was getting many e-mails and messages through Twitter with my friends and contacts severe problems with the poor (at best) Facebook platform. Nearly every person I heard from had many instances of broken communication because Facebook has yet to sort out volumes of information and surface it in a manner that can be valuable for the people it is intended to communicate with.
Facebook developers have a huge amount of learning about information, information flow, and information use in people's lives. Information is part of social interaction and what makes literate beings stand out is doing something, often using and reusing information. One common statement about Facebook from friends of all ages is it is a service to connect to people and play Scrabble on, but that is the end of the value. Facebook really needs to wake up and build real APIs that allow ease of holding on to the information people share as part of their being social humans sharing. When Facebook broke the FacebookSync.app it ruined one of the solid values Facebook provided, updating my address book with ease from information my friends were sharing with me.
Facebook Groups Have Learned Nothing from Group Messaging Platforms
One area that is really frustrating is Facebook#039;s groups. Many groups start with good intentions of providing a place to gather and message around a subject area. But, most groups already have listserves and other discussion platforms and the walled garden and horrible group discussion board platform make the Facebook platform a distraction and only providing a means for communication fractured across channels. Finding valuable information in Facebook groups or reading and following along is horribly painful, there has been some good advancement in groups discussion forums in the past 20 years, but Facebook seems to have ignored all things good with groups.
There are some exceptions to this rule, as the Facebook group for Victoria Secret Pink has been brought up as an example by more than five of my clients in the last five months or so. The Pink group has good community leaders and engages the people in the group to connect with others.
Successful Social Group Filtering is Needed
One of the fixes that Facebook needs is the same fix that every group discussion platform (listserves, threaded discussions, and web platforms) needs. Popular discussion boards have problems as they scale and over time with repetitive discussions. After people have been lurkers or participants in a discussion services for a few months (some people grasp this much more quickly) trends appear. The trends are the identifying people we find add value for us personally (every person has different valued contributors) and there are subjects that we want to listen to and participate in and those we have little interest in. The next step for these tools will be to surface people we find valued contributions from and subjects we want to pay attention to and others that we want to not listen to (unless one of our valued contributors jumps in the conversation). Not all contributors are valuable to us in all groups, so that needs to have granular listening attributes and we need to have fuzzy semantic terms (we set a word or few and terms that are related to these words will draw our reader's attention and filter them out for us to easily see and follow). These solutions are also needed in RSS feeds and aggregated information services.
The Future of LinkedIn and Facebook
LinkedIn already is a good business tool with value and they need to protect what they do well, which is holding on to people we have met and interacted with outside LinkedIn and use LinkedIn to connect with others with similar interests or needs. Opening up the API for LinkedIn could help people share their linked in profile though mobile devices so to gather a digital business card or easily get a link to it as we meet people, not hours, days, or weeks later.
Facebook has a decent platform that offers more than the pure social network tools before it (Ryze, Friendster, Orkut, or MySpace), but it still has an really long way to go. It gets about 40% right, but it can easily just be another step forward for social networking tools, unless it starts solving some of the difficult problems. A Facebook like tool that gets communication and sharing right at scale for professionals will do really well. Tools like this are needed inside the firewall for enterprise and Facebook does have value in its current state for business, but it is really limited.
The promised addition of grouping contacts in Facebook will help provide a better tool for profession needs separating out value from the playful, but it will need a lot more than that. Facebook really needs to open up and to get a clue about people and information and the needs people have for information, such as holding on to that information and using it outside the system. Facebook is just fodder for the next social software service that does this right, on top of the 45% of things that Facebook got right and be the next media darling worth billions that never amounted to much.