One of the most common set of questions I’m asked by people trying to understand the rise of the social web, and how it will impact their business is:
Is Facebook a fad? Why do people spend so much time using it?
How does Facebook work? Why are businesses on it?
In almost all cases where these set of questions arise, the person asking me doesn’t really use Facebook. My advice to them is simple. Start using Facebook every day. Look at what people are doing. Think about what they are not doing. Look at what businesses are doing. Look at what they are not doing. Study businesses that have high engagement (look at the ‘people talking about this’ number on their page) and figure out why. Look for patterns across posts that have high engagement.
It always surprises me when I hear from very successful business people who are trying to understand Facebook by reading third party reports about it. You won’t learn much about Facebook by reading NYT or WSJ articles about it.
Same goes for Twitter, Google+, etc. I’m shocked at how many people mention Facebook and Twitter in the same breath as if they are the same. People are using these two platforms in completely different ways. Facebook is for communication with people you know in real life. Twitter is a way to get information about celebrities, sports personalities and news outlets that you care about. The vast majority of active Twitter users have never posted a tweet. The same appears to be true for Google+. It is unlike Facebook or Twitter. The people who are using it, are using it as a way to connect with people they don’t know in real life around niche hobbies, currently skewed heavily towards technology and photography.
It also surprises me when I hear from people building on the Facebook platform who don’t understand how it works. People complain that it changes too often. This is an understandable complaint, but it’s not going to change. This is the world we now live in. The only certainty is that things will continue to change fast.
The only way to understand a new type of media is to spend time embedded in it. Get your hands dirty. The future of your business probably depends on it.