Now, imagine that same friendly mob, hanging on your every move around the World Wide Web. Whether renting a movie, buying shoes, or getting directions, your friends are there, dropping knowledge at every turn. This is the new Web in which everything you ever "liked;" your interests, favorite music, and restaurants compose a dynamic mosaic of you, making the Web "more social, personalized and semantically aware."
This is the new promise of the social Web as laid out by Mark Zuckerberg at the annual F8 confab. Ready or not, the Web and the wide world have just become a whole lot less solitary. Last week, these innovations were announced and launched:
Like button and Like Box-Users can now "like" any piece of content or page from a publisher's site.
Activity Stream- aggregating the all-important "likes" and comments from your friends across the Web.
Recommendations- gives users personalized suggestions for pages and content they might like from a particular site
Log-in with Faces- give users a peek at profile pictures of the their friends who are already using a site, in addition to a login button.
Comments- lets users comment on any piece of content.
There's something equally wonderful and distressing in this new reality for individuals and marketers alike.
From a personal perspective, the thought of going through life and the Web in a more communal way is comforting. The wisdom of the crowd should yield better decisions, more honest recommendations, and even lower prices when we all band together. Look no further than the success of review sites like Yelp and group buying sites like Groupon to witness the seeds of the communal Web. Today, the consumer empowerment revolution launched a major offensive. Facebook's Open Graph will simply ensure that each of our friends is now part of this all-knowing, all-powerful consumer network.
From a business perspective, welcome to the new age of networking. We no longer market to people, we market through people. Marketing has always been about removing the friction along the sales lifecycle from awareness, to consideration, to purchase. Both Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook head of product Bret Taylor talked extensively about removing or reducing the "friction" inherent in the Web.
From where I sat in the cheap seat of F8, it occurs to me that Facebook just unveiled the new social lubricant of the Web. Facebook is to the Web as Penzoil is to the engine. It's all about viscosity (see, 20 years of brand advertising taught me something about what keeps an engine working). When brands stop marketing and start networking, things get pretty slick. Sales lifecycles condense and collapse. Consumers are emboldened by recommendations and endorsements, and make quicker, better-informed decisions.
So what's a marketer -- er, networker -- to do? First, take a breath and recognize that these announcements signal a seismic shift to a more human and humane way to sell things. Next, get your teams, agencies, and task forces aligned around successfully integrating Facebook technology at every consumer touchpoint.
The new tools Facebook unveiled are simply transformational; put them to use immediately. Continue building your Fan base, connections, people who "like" you. Networking is a numbers game -- never stop nurturing and growing your brand network. Start selling. Facebook is more than fun and games. Empower your best customers to continue to recommend, review and share your products and services to and through their "graph."
Mark Zuckerberg concluded his keynote with an anecdote that when you go to heaven, all your friends are there and things are just the way they're supposed to be. If that's true, I need to start paring down my friend list and liking some things more meaningful than "Chocolate" and "Snowboarding."