Monday, August 24, 2009

The Most Powerful Media Entity on the Planet?

We all have our Facebook stories; here is mine:

Just about 3 months ago I was "friended" by a former classmate from my elementary school days in the mid-70s. It was the first such social media connection from this chapter of my life and brought back a flood of memories. Within a few weeks 7 or 8 more classmates connected, one posting a picture of our class from the fourth grade that I am sure I haven’t seen since I was in the fifth grade. Within a couple of months, the group had grown to over 40, many participating in conversation threads about ferocious nuns and a planned reunion this coming September.

Many of us have similar personal stories about the stunning connectivity power of Facebook and other social networks. Some media experts claim Facebook is the most powerful media entity on the planet and will only continue to grow in reach and influence.

A compelling video titled “Social Media Revolution” started making the rounds last week: It opens with a bold question that might have seemed far-fetched a few years ago but not today: “Is Social Media a fad or the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution.”

The video then goes on the present a list of eye-popping data points that support a social and media phenomenon if not a revolution. One example:

Years to reach 50 million users:

Radio - 38 Years
TV -13 Years
Internet - 4 Years
iPod -3 Years
Facebook - Added 100 million users in less than 9 months

So, the multi billion dollar question: How can Facebook and others monetize this extraordinary usage and why are there still questions about their ability to do so?

There is no doubt that advertising is more effective accompanying search results than in social media environments, but there still must be significant value and a considerable measure of effectiveness in placing an ad message along side a stream of 47-year-olds reminiscing and interacting with each other.

And what other ways can Facebook monetize all the data revealed by their 250 million users? Just the other day they announced plans to move aggressively into e-commerce including physical goods from third-party companies. Imagine 1-800-Flowers targeting friends of people who have a birthday coming up. (Most Facebook members include their birthday in their profile.)

The monetization opportunities seem endless when you consider Facebook’s reach and depth of connectivity. I keep waiting to see a local party planning company's ad to show up on the pages of my elementary school classsmates.