You may have noticed that last week Facebook started testing a “Buy” button on News Feeds. That’s right, you’ll be able to make purchases without ever leaving the friendly confines of Facebook – assuming you’ve given them access to your credit card before (you know, if you were one of those poor saps who paid $2 to send a friend an emoji heart on their birthday, which I definitely never did). Some people see this as just Facebook extending the reach of its evil empire.
But in my view, this is just further proof that Mark Zuckerberg and his team have gone and done it again. They’ve found yet another way to leverage its product – you, me and our precious data – to expand its money-making capabilities. Evil empire, maybe, but you’ve gotta respect its ability to innovate.
Facebook is a data company, and we are its product
Hopefully that statement didn’t shock you, because at this point I think we should all just come to terms with the facts. If it did, you may want to reassess your relationship with reality. Facebook is a smart business, and we’re its source of revenue. I’m not sure that Mark intended to create a data business rather than a social network in 2004, but that is precisely what it has become.
Facebook is a network of data that has already been leveraged to help the company profit through ads and the Buy feature is just its new evolution. Facebook is finding more and more ways to attract other businesses to its web by using its wealth of human data. The strength of mobile ads have driven huge growth for Facebook’s revenue, but I’m certain the Buy feature will supercharge both ad sales and their impact.
We’ve talked before about psychological traits that impact user behavior, and Facebook is hitting a lot of those with this new feature. The instant gratification of being able to buy directly through Facebook will become a huge driver of retail action for Facebook, propelling them into an entirely new space.
In the next few years I expect to see Facebook integrating with other platforms so users can make reservations at their favorite restaurant or donate to charities without leaving the News Feed. All things that will benefit businesses or non-profits, but not quite as much as they will benefit Facebook, which has become capable of making decision making more convenient and digital experiences more personalized. I highly doubt they’d stoop to using tired Bing marketing, but if anything is going to come close to being a “decision engine,” Facebook’s setting itself up to be that solution.
Although I’m occasionally freaked out by things like my Amazon search for a grill later influencing the advertisement I see to the right of my News Feed, I’m mostly impressed. Facebook is an incredibly innovative company when it comes to data collection and a forward-thinking business leader when it comes to utilizing that data. I respect the fact that it has found a way to leverage my information as a product – typically with my permission, but with the occasional, uncool, psych experiment thrown in – to become a company whose value had increased 58% just a year and a half after it went public.
A “Social Network” that’s here to stay
I wholeheartedly and fundamentally disagree with anyone who says Facebook will run its course and fizzle out. Facebook isn’t your average Social Network. Facebook is creating a gold mine of data, which it will continue to leverage in order to expand its offerings to its users and consumers.
That “Buy” button is going to make my life easier, and it’s going to get my money in the pockets of a business sooner than it would if I left Facebook and had a chance to change my mind about how much I want that watch.
So what do you think? Am I off base? Leave your .02 cents about Facebook in the comments. Or take our poll and let us know if you think Facebook will be around in 2030.