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Why “facebucks” will change the world… if they don’t screw it up

As everyone knows, twitter is “so hot right now” and facebook is “so over”. Well call me old-fashioned but I still have a lot more faith in Zuckerberg than I do in @ev and co.. I don’t really want to get into all my reasons (mainly because I’m saving them for another post) but I will say that for me, reason number one is that facebook is absolutely jam-packed with content. Content that’s very relevant to our lives and recommended to us by our friends. And with each evolution of the platform, they’re getting better at delivering it to us.

With this in mind, when it was announced last month that facebook was working on launching a micropayment system, I got pretty excited. So excited, in fact that I quite humorously (if I do say so myself) coined the name “facebucks” for their new currency, hoping to get big laughs on the blog…. *crickets*

So why was I so excited? Because I’m a firm believer that there are more ways to monetize content on the internet than through advertising. Facebucks seems like a great chance to prove this model to the world on a grand scale.

Facebook definitely wants you to join my mob...

Sure rich media is innovating quickly and the metrics for it and the ad model are somewhat sound – for now.  But look at what’s happening to television and the 30 second spot.  Just putting ads beside something isn’t the true path to monetization in the long run, people.  If you’re going to bring 200 million people into your store, shouldn’t you try and sell something to them directly, rather than just asking them to look at the ads on the wall?  The great thing about facebook is that it has the power to leverage every one of your friends as a sales associate.  Let’s look into this further…

It was recently announced that facebook’s own revenue is poised to be overtaken by that of 3rd party apps.  Clearly there is some money to be made there now.  But think of the digital economy that could be created when facebook users can create their own “facebucks” account and make purchases large and small at the click of a button!  Think of how much more robust apps will become.  Think of how quality developers will flock to the platform in even greater numbers to create quality experiences and useful tools for us.  Imagine having a vast suite of tools and applications to improve our leisure time and productivity, recommended to us and shared with us by trusted friends.  With the social recommendation power already finely imbedded into everything we do on facebook, a “facebucks” ecosystem would be like a highly refined iPhone App Store powered by the advice and common experiences of our friends.  And as we all know, when making consumer decisions, we always want to ask a friend.  When a platform we log into and enjoy every day offers us direct value, recommended by those friends, I’m sure more than a few people will be willing to sign up.

Sure there’ll be some trepidation at first, but as the early adopters begin to sign on and the facebook algorithm shows their friends that they’re doing it, the uptake will happen.  I mean, look at twitter!  It has tens of millions of users and 90% of them don’t even come close to understanding its value.  They’re just there because somebody told them they should be.  On the other hand, they do see value in connecting with friends on facebook.

On the downside, this is going to mean more people trying to add you to their “mob” or ask you to take the “How Dutch are You?” quiz or find out “Which Sex and the City character are you most like?”.  And this time, it’ll cost you money – but I’m confident that facebook will be able to give users increased control over these friendly but spammy practices, the same way that they’ve markedly increased privacy controls over the past five years.  It will be too costly to them not to fix it!

Perhaps their biggest area of possible slip up could be in transparency, where facebook has stumbled before.  That said, if they commit to openness, we won’t see another Beacon-like disaster.  And who knows, maybe someday facebook might actually live up to that multi-billion dollar valuation?  If I were a betting man, I’d say that a well-executed launch of “facebucks” and a strategy to get the credit card number of even a fraction of their 200 million users into the system is their best shot.  Heck, Mark Cuban (a man who can’t touch something without it turning to gold) even suggested such a strategy could save the newspaper industry.  So why can’t it save the social network while we’re at it?

Bottom line: with so many users who are so heavily engaged, to see a direct-to-consumer model like this succeed would be good not only for facebook, but it would be good for the entire economy of the internet.

So let’s just hope, for the sake of the internet, that they don’t screw it up.

  • Chris Fyvie

    The economy of the internet. Interesting concept… where’d you come up with that?

  • http://link Suzanne Strong

    HnLUtF Thanks Ill give that a go!,