It’s hard to believe, but Facebook started only six years ago (of course, from a dorm room at Harvard). Since then, the website has beat out tough competitors, like MySpace™, and now has more than 400 million users. It’s a case of spot-on timing, good design and listening to the community. Plus, Facebook is downright engaging, allowing status updates, photos, videos, apps and so on.
However, Facebook is much more than a place to have fun. Given its massive footprint, the site is a platform for business. In fact, many top companies have fan pages—and some even show them in national commercials (as seen during the recent Super Bowl).
Consider this: Based on the research from Compete, Facebook has surpassed Google™ as the main source of traffic to portals like Yahoo!® and MSN®. So, could social networking be the next search engine?
It makes a lot of sense. People spend much time on social networks and listen to suggestions from their friends (it’s no surprise that Google is getting much more aggressive with social networking, as seen with its recent launch of Buzz as well as the acquisition of Aardvark).
To capitalize on things, we are seeing the emergence of yet another marketing approach: social media optimization.
One of the early experimenters is Intuit®’s TurboTax®. Actually, roughly half of the users are on Facebook, with an average of 150 friends. So, TurboTax is providing useful ways for users to share reviews and ask tax questions.
In other words, social media will help customers with their problems—and likely lead to improved loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.
This is not to say that you should avoid search marketing. No doubt, this will remain critical. But it’s probably a good idea to start engaging your customers, especially on Facebook.
Tom Taulli is an expert on small business and is the author of several books, including The Complete M&A Handbook (Random House, Inc.). In addition to his writing, Taulli has appeared on high-profile television venues such as CNN, CNBC, and Bloomberg TV, and has been quoted in various print media sources such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The LA Times. Visit his blog at www.taulli.com.