You know a fad—or “movement”--has gone mainstream when it lands on the cover of Newsweek. The story of Facebook and the 23 year old boy wonder named Mark Zuckerberg is more than just another "gee this is a cool technology and look who's getting rich" story, however. More than 1 million people A WEEK are flocking to Facebook, creating a crossroads for the social media movement--will it really cross into mainstream America and, if so, how will it play out?
Facebook is rapidly reinventing its platform to go beyond the
pizza-eating, party going college crowd for a much bigger audience--you, me and
Uncle Fred.This has big ramifications for everyone, from Uncle Fred to
Microsoft, Google and their likes in Silicon Valley, and beyond. Many of these new users are over 35, and there's even a stampede from big companies, according to BusinessWeek.
For now, it's a transition that’s fun to watch. I’ve witnessed as dozens of sophisticated professionals have jumped into Facebook, only to find it filled with teenage gadgets and features. One executive says his account, using My Questions application, accidentally sent out a question asking his colleagues, “do you kiss on the first date?”
You can “poke” or “superpoke” “friends”, turn them into Vampires, Werewolves or Zombies and pick their brains on every interest. There are thousands of whacky applications. One—Social Moths-- is a “group confessional.” See which confessions came from friends, but not which friend made the confession.”
Do I really want to know my boss' (or employee's) deepest secrets?
“Friends” keep up with other friends every move, and every passion or emotional twitch it seems. It’s all about being constantly connected, and it all has the feel of a narcistic culture gone overboard.
One 20-something year old commenter in the Newsweek article admits that, “it nurses every self indulgent urge I could possibly have.” She also wonders whether “anyone really cares that I’m fond of bagels…or change my Facebook profile (one disturbing feature is that EVERYTHING you do on Facebook is news-streamed to your friends—(example: if he/she drops “married” from their profile, does that mean they're single, divorced, or “looking”?)
Yet amazingly, it seems to be working. Middle aged geezers are doing the Facebook dance, connecting with colleagues in new ways unimagined a few years ago.
Zuckerberg may have hit on part of the reason in the article when he said that adults still need to communicate “with the people they’re connected with.” In other words, in our busy society, it’s very hard to stay connected, and that’s what it’s all about. Facebook makes it easy with its intuitive interface, newstream feature and one-stop shop where you can have email, your personal blog, photo library and much more. And even the hardest ass manager will admit it’s cool to see what your colleagues are up to.
Will it continue its stampede and become THE social media standard platform? Will it conquer the mainstream? We've seen these hot flashes for years. Remember AOL and its "sign up everyone in America" campaign? More recently there was Friendster, which fizzled after a roaring start.
It won’t be easy and there's already some grumbling. See Joel’s post about being bored.
Despite this, Facebook sometimes feels almost like an awkward teenager itself, trying to find its way. As we know teenagers grow up; we just don't know how they'll turn out.
The reality is it depends on what this young man’s team develops over the next couple of years and how it transforms its platform to meet a bigger, broader audience. He has the dream, and he’s long since moved to Silicon Valley and surrounded himself with brains and resources.
Now the hard part begins.