Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BIG’s Blog:  The Power of  Facebook – Not the Stock Price

September 19, 2012

Kudos to Catherine Taylor for her article that finally asks the “right” question: “What If We Got This Facebook Thing Wrong?”

People talk about Social Media and, of course, they mention the 800 pound gorilla in the room – Facebook. But all you hear at fundraising gatherings is, “Nobody is bringing in revenue from using Facebook.”

Newsflash, Facebook is till trying to figure out how to leverage their network to bring in more money, too.

But thank you Catherine for saying what needs to be said…

But what none of these headlines can get at is the powerful flip side of Facebook, the part that has incalculable value, but, as its revenue models are structured now, is unmonetizable. What is it? The power of being able to connect with people who mean something to you.
It’s the way users derive value from the site, but, while a brand may piggyback on this interest, by overtly buying into the News Feed, or by harnessing data from Facebook interactions, those things have nothing to do with the value that people derive from it.
Once again, I’ll return to two examples from my personal life to illustrate what I mean:
Last night, I spent time scrolling through MOPS, the acronym the locals use for the Moms of Pelham Facebook group. (Yes, rocket scientists, that’s where I live.) Here are the topics covered in the five most recent posts:
1.     The time of the high school football parents’ meeting last night.
2.     The sorry state of a local vegetable garden.
3.     A request for mason recommendations to repair a slate walkway.
4.     A reachout from a newcomer about the local elementary school.
5.     A recommendation for a new pediatrician.
What kind of value do you put you on a group capable of doling out advice and information on gardening, the school system, and local masons, all at your fingertips? Of course, these groups have existed online since we were all using dial-up modems to experience the wonders of America Online. But what separates the Facebook experience from its precursors is critical mass. 
Pelham is a town of 12,000 people, and 680 of them are members of MOPS. Engagement levels are incredibly high. Almost every post gets at least one comment. In fact, it’s far more common that a post will have comments than “Likes.” But, while there’s plenty of discussion about goods and services, there is virtually no local advertising, except for a right hand column ad from our ubiquitous State Assemblywoman. And I’m really not sure how well advertising would go down, unless it was part of the kind of well-thought-out social media content strategy that most advertisers, let alone Mom-and-Pop stores, haven’t yet engineered.
As powerful as MOPS is though, it only scrapes the surface of how deep Facebook connections can go at their best. And, so, now, for my other example:
For years now, my family and I have wondered whatever happened to the family that used to live down the hill from us, especially their youngest son, who moved from my hometown when I was seven, and was one of the closest playmates I ever had. You know how this story ends, because you’ve probably experienced it. He was wondering about us all these years too. And now, we’re reunited, on Facebook.
It’s impossible to put a price on that. A CPM?  A market cap? Are you kidding me? 

Fundraisers are first and foremost about building relationships. Acquiring, building, and nurturing; that is what Facebook’s real power is all about. And the money?… Same response every Development Officer gives their boss after calling on the prospect for the first time…“the money will come.”   


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