When Facebook became "the next big thing", you had the "like" buttons pop
up on various web sites. An of course "going viral" was the big thing everybody
talked about, in particular SEO experts (or those that would like to be that).
But things have changed. In particular Facebook has. In the beginning, any
"like" would be announced in the newsfeed to all your friends. This was what allowed
likes to go viral, when your friends re-liked the link. This is what made it
attractive to have like buttons on your web pages. (Note that I'm not referring
to "likes" of a single Facebook post; they are something quite
Once that everybody "knew" how important this was, everbody tried to make
the most out of it. In particular scammers, viruses and SEO people. Every other
day, some clickjacking application would flood Facebook with likes. Every
backwater website was trying to get more audience by getting "liked". But at
some point Facebook just stopped showing "likes". This is not bad. It is
the obvious reaction when people get too annoyed by the constant "like
spam". Facebook had to put an end to this.
But now that a "like" is pretty much worthless (in my opinion). Still,
many people following "SEO Tutorials" are all crazy about likes. Instead, we
should reconsider whether we really want to slow down our site loading by
having like buttons on every page. A like button is not as lightweight as you
attacks, and in fact invades your users' privacy, up to the point where for
example in Germany it may even be illegal to use the Facebook like button on a
In a few months, the SEO people will realize that the "like"s are a fad
now, and will likely all try to jump the Google+ bandwagon. Google+ is probably
not half as much a "dud" as many think it is (because their friends are still
on Facebook and because you cannot scribble birthday wishes on a wall in
Google+). The point is that Google can actually use the "+1" likes to improve
everyday search results. Google for something a friend liked, and it will show
up higher in the search results, and Google will show the friend who
recommended it. Facebook cannot do this, because it is not a search engine (well,
you can use it for searching people, although Ark
probably is better at this, and one does nowhere search as many people as one
does regular web searches).
Unless they go into a strong partnership with Microsoft Bing or Yahoo, the
"like"s can never be as important as Google "+1" likes. So don't underestimate
the Google+ strategy on the long run.
There are more points where Facebook by now is much less useful as it used
to be. For example event invitations. When Facebook was in full growth,
you could essentially invite all your friends to your events. You could also
use lists to organize your friends, and invite only the appropriate subset,
if you cared enough. The problem again was: nobody cared enough. Everybody
would just invite all their friends, and you would end up getting "invitation
spam" several times a day. So again Facebook had to change and
limit the invitation capabilities. You can no longer invite all, or even just
all on one particular list. There are some tools and tricks that can work
around this to some extend, but once everybody uses that, Facebook will just
have to cut it down even further.
Similarly, you might remember "superpoke" and all the "gift" applications.
Facebook (and the app makers) probably made a fortune on them with premium
pokes and gifts. But then this too reached a level that started to annoy the
users, so they had to cut down the ability of applications to post to walls.
And boom, this segment essentially imploded. I havn't seen numbers on Facebook
gaming, and I figure that by doing some special setup for the games Facebook
managed to keep them somewhat happy. But many will remember the time when
the newsfeed would be full of Farmville and Mafia Wars crap ... it just does no
longer work this way.
So when working with Facebook and such, you really need to be on the move.
Right now it seems that groups and applications are more useful to get that
viral dream going. A couple of apps such as Yahoo currently require you to
install their app (which then may post to your wall on your behalf and get your
personal information!) to follow a link shared this way, and then can actively
encourage you to reshare. And messages sent to a "Facebook group" are more
likely to reach people that aren't direct friends of yours. When friends
actually "join" an event, this is currently showing up in the news feed. But
all of this can change with 0 days notice.
It will be interesting to see if Facebook can on the long run keep up with
Googles ability to integrate the +1 likes into search results. It probably
takes just a few success stories in the SEO community to become the "next big
thing" in SEO to get +1 instead of Facebook likes. Then Google just has to
wait for them to virally spread +1 adoption. Google can wait - its Google Plus
growth rates aren't bad, and they have a working business model already that
doesn't rely on the extra growth - they are big already and make good profits.
Facebook however is walking on a surprisingly thin line. They need a tight
control on the amount of data shared (which is probably why they try to do this
with "magic"). People don't want to have the impression that Facebook is hiding
something from them (although it is in fact suppressing a huge part of your
friends activity!), but they also don't want to get all this data spammed onto
them. And in particular, it needs to give the web publishers and app developers
the right amount of that extra access to the users, while in turn keeping the
major spam away from the users.
Independent of the technology and actual products, it will be really
interesting to see if we manage to find some way to keep the balance in "social"
one-to-many communication right. It's not a fault of Facebook that many people
"spam" all their friends with all their "data". Googles Circles probably isn't the
final answer either. The reason why email still works rather well was probably
because it makes one-to-one communication easier than one-to-many,
because it isn't realtime, and because people expect you to
put enough effort into composing your mails and choosing the right receipients
for the message. Current "social" communication is pretty much posting
everything to everyone you know adressed as "to whoever it may concern". Much
of it is in fact pretty non-personal or even non-social. We have definitely
reached the point where more data is shared than is being read. Twitter is
probably the most extreme example of a "write-only" medium. The average number a
tweet is read by a human except the original poster must be way below 1, and
definitely much less than the average number of "followers".
So in the end, the answer may actually be a good automatic address
book, with automatic groups and rich clients, to enable everybody
to easily use email more efficiently. On the other hand, separting "serious"
communication from "entertainment" communication may be well worth having a
separate communications channel, and email definitely is dated and is having