Posted by: Brian | January 30, 2008

Facebook plz fix, kthnxbai

Facebook, in conjugation with its current positioning, has many pieces of a puzzle that should end up being the picture of an effective online grassroots campaign, but too often the pieces just don’t fit together. Many of its Applications have a significant amount of value for those of us interested in online organization, but if they can not be integrated the netroots ball is dropped so to speak. Today I’m going to try and cherry pick parts of some of the Applications I’m currently digg-ing (terrible joke, sorry).

(breakdown below the fold)

Lets start with the bigger ones first. The Politician pages (which are actually now more like regular profile pages in nature) have lots of stuff great for people who are already interested in the politician/client, as well as many of the successful Group pages.* But Politician pages weren’t meant to be used by any grassroots organization interested in external outreach, and they really only message people who already interested in the politican/client. This is good don’t get me wrong, but we’re not trying to just purely preach to the choir in online marketing. We’re looking to focus on new volunteers and donors. You can’t organize a voter registration campaign with this type of setup. Groups pages are very much the same format in that they are great for disseminating information to people who are already members, but for non-members it lacks the ability to reach out.

On the other hand, the Neighborhoods application has a lot of potential for reaching targeted areas where there may be interested individuals who haven’t yet sought out information themselves that relates to your client. But Neighborhoods lacks functionality. You think this would be the first place a campaign would want to turn for outreach and new supporters, but at best you’re posting to a wall at this point and lack the ability to actively message the way you would as if they were Group members. Put it does apparently seem to have some promise for the Real Estate biz…

From the iLike application (yup, not political at all), the Concert function is something that I’m really excited about and think has tons of potential for any field looking to get people to events. It allows you search for upcoming concerts by artist or location and share whether you want to go to a concert or if you already are going (see image below). This element is fundamental for us – I can’t express how valuable this is to a successful online, grassroots-focused socnet. The ability to easily find an event you are interested in online, share if you are going or are interested, see if someone you know is going or is interested, and communicate about it with others is invaluable. Granted, there are other socnets besides Facebook doing this and I’m watching to see where they go (really interested to see where goes fyi). But like I said before, Facebook already has the established user base (and I have to limit the scope of this post). But definitely play around with this feature when you have time.

Granted, there are tons of other Facebook apps that I use on a daily basis that have tons of value. Posted Items – great for simple outreach, Music Blogs – awesome for easily sharing web content, Causes/I Am Fan Of, etc – good for informing people you already know (and Red Sox Nation – awesome because it is). And also granted that Facebook applications seem to be prone to bugs, but all evidence points to a potential, future Facebook application that encompasses these few features.

But on the flip side, I don’t want Facebook to become another Myspace: great for originally being simple but eventually drowned out by over-customization. And I want all these things in one place, without creating another place (read: I shouldn’t have to ask “what’s going to be the next Facebook”) that doesn’t already have the same base level of users. Now, if you’ve got something that we can integrate into a Myspace/blog widget/Facebook application, well maybe thats another story… (I see Devine Outreach in big letters…)

*I guess this is as good a time as any to throw in my disclaimer. While working at my current employer New Media Strategies, I work on various political clients that are on both sides of the aisle. On top of this, while at NMS I have worked on the Fred Thompson online campaign with Jon Henke, Bill Beutler, Howard Mortman, and others. It should also be noted that while I do at times work on Republican projects I am an active Democrat and work with my party in my spare time in various capacities on and off line. If I do blog about a client in the future I will be upfront and honest about it.


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