Facebook: the Multi-talented Network That’s Changing… Everything.

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I recently received an email about a new media firm looking to hire someone with experience in social media. The description said they are “looking for an awesome and outgoing individual to help [their] clients tame the social circus.”

The description then goes on to say: “We’re looking for a cutting edge social media juggler!What would you be getting yourself into? [CompanyX] is an online marketing firm in Wichita dedicated to helping our clients grow their online presence. We use the latest technology, monitoring software and you to help our clients grow their online and sales.”

The truth is, job openings like these are anything but unusual these days. Most businesses are aware of the power of new media and social media. Whether they’re hiring a marketing firm such as the one mentioned above, their social media-savvy granddaughter or tackling it themselves, business owners are engaging with new media. They feel the pressure, they see business Facebook Pages popping up daily, and they feel they should be in the middle of it all.

I remember first joining Facebook in 2005. In the beginning years, as I became familiar with it and slowly allowed its addictive qualities to seep into me, I remember it being all about personal connections. I found myself connecting to long forgotten elementary friends, beloved high school teachers and my newest classroom acquaintances, many of whom I hadn’t gotten to really know personally.

Looking back, I realize the naïve view I held of Facebook. I saw it as the key to reconnecting with great people; the online center for friendships and communities.  Looking at it now, I see a social network of real information and real persuasion. Facebook means business, literally.

But part of this realization happened because the role of Facebook has indeed changed in recent years. The founders of the network gave it life with the purpose of connecting people on college campuses, and it definitely flourished as that. And as we’ve all seen, Facebook has continually morphed into different roles from connector, to advertiser, publisher, influencer, entertainer, to marketer.

Facebook is like putty. It becomes whatever we want it to be. Now that this has become clear to so many, it’s obvious that the role of Facebook in new media will continue to change.

Everyone will speculate, but given what we know about how Facebook has developed and been reshaped by its users, the following are speculations of the most likely (or most advantageous) directions for Facebook. They’re not predictions, just suggestions based on observation.

Back to advertising

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, businesses are looking for social media experts who can promote their business on new media. While a variety of platforms and smartphone apps have also started to carry these roles, Facebook plays a huge part in doing business through new media.

In the next few years, Facebook users may start embracing this role completely. Currently, businesses can create Facebook Pages and Facebook Apps to improve their online presence and promote business. But what I think will be key to businesses in the future isn’t establishing a fan page or giving people fun/useful gadgets that relate to the business. What will become more prevalent is the absolutely crucial skill of developing your brand through strategic and engaging communication.

Doing this on Facebook doesn’t necessarily require a business page, but a brand, one that is skillfully nurtured with full doses of authenticity and transparency.

The idea of branding (personal and business) is being taken to a new level on Facebook and will continue do go in this direction. A prime example of this is Tanya Tandoc’s Facebook profile. As an owner of a soon-to-reopen local restaurant, she’s realized the potential and taken full control of her communication and engagement with the local community through media, particularly through Facebook.

Tanya’s primary tactic to nourish her brand isn’t through her business fan page, but through her personal page. And she doesn’t just post about her business in the traditional “hey, come here for great food” sense. She’s become a creative communicator and food expert that is relatable. She makes good conversation and keeps it real.

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Such tactics are becoming more and more common on Facebook. In the next few years, it’s very plausible that the majority of businesses will be using Facebook in this way.  They’ll be creating interesting brands for themselves that create online buzz and word of mouth, which of course has been and always will be the most effective way to advertise.

Facebook will be taking us back to times when viva voce ran the advertising world. It will complete the advertising circle, yet refashion it in its own way. It will essentially bring the essence and importance of orality (as in storytelling but through social media) back to advertising.

The you-me encyclopedia

In New New Media, Levinson discusses the role of Facebook friends as a knowledge-base resource. He explains that users are increasingly looking to their Facebook community not only for objective information that can be found elsewhere online, such as where the closest Starbucks is or when a movie premiers, but they’re also looking to that community for subjective information like recommendations for dinner or the next exciting book to read.

What’s even more valuable about this is that users can get real-time knowledge from the group of people they know and trust the most. I can attest to using Facebook as a knowledge resource when my husband and I switched family doctors.

I had remembered that a friend on Facebook had previously posted a question on her profile asking her online network of friends what practitioner they most recommended. I messaged her asking for those results as well as which of them she actually chose, and my husband and I eventually based our decision off of that list.

Mui and Whoriskey’s article on Facebook becoming the most popular site on the Internet underscores this role. They say that Facebook has become more valuable for many because it allows people to search within their network of friends. Americans now spend more time on Facebook than on search engines like Google. They spend about 23% of their time on social networks because it’s easy, engaging and valuable.

A platform recently new to me that exemplifies the role of Facebook as a knowledge-base resource is paper.li. The website describes itself as one that “organizes links shared on Twitter and Facebook into an easy to read newspaper-style format. A great way to discover content that matters to you- even if you are not connected 24/7!”

The future will only magnify this role. I can see Facebook adapting the paper.li concept into their platform and going even further with it. The social media leader began this trend, and it will continue with it to a point where users are able to archive links by subject and be able to search for them within some content-search bar within the Facebook platform.

What’s even more intriguing to thing about is the day when Facebook invites more knowledge-based content upload (like your student papers, blogs, etc.) into your Facebook page. In this world your Facebook page would include your resume, work-related content, anything you produced in school, and anything in between.

In such a world, say a friend of mine wanted to know a little more about artist Artemisia Gentileschi. Rather than go to Google, my friend could search within her list of friends and find any content that any friend ever researched/produced right on their Facebook page. My high school paper on the subject would appear within the list of results, and she could download it and read it, for what it’s worth.

This world isn’t very far from now.

The big blur

Platforms like Facebook are also creating what I refer to as the big blur: the blending of informational and social content to such an extent that being able to distinguish them becomes entirely irrelevant.

This is an obvious downside to new media, but something to remember and be aware of nonetheless. In my above example, the friend reading my Artemisia Gentileschi paper may see its content as more valuable/factual than it really is for a high school paper.

The reality is that we’re not very far from this big blur. Additionally, because Facebook is playing such a major role in how we get our information nowadays (both subjective and objective), we can largely attribute the coming of this big blur to Facebook. In coming years, it may become a major problem, especially in educational institutions.

There are many uncertainties regarding the big blur, such as how society will react to it as a whole, and how it will change our definitions of fact and opinion… (ie. saying it’s fact because your friend told you so), and our standards of reasoning. What’s certain as of now is that new new media, especially platforms like Facebook, are changing society in big ways. We just need to be aware in order to know how best to react to it all.

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