Facebook's True Value for Marketers

Facebook sign at their main campus in Menlo Park, California.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
Facebook sign at their main campus in Menlo Park, California.

Before we go any further, you must know that this author knows little about investment vehicles, and will not pretend to make any speculations about Facebook's stock value.

Rather, what you should take away from this article is a 30,000-foot view of how Facebook has changed people's lives and changed how companies sell their products and services.

Facebook doesn't create friendships. People do.

If you're like most of the 900 million people that use Facebook, you've gotten the occasional friend request from high school friends you haven't seen in years - perhaps decades. To many people, these connections are exciting and positive. But for me, I rarely feel excited about receiving these sometimes rather forced digital gestures. You see, in middle school and the first half of high school, I was a very unpopular, shy kid who was often the target of bullies. And now they want to be my friend?

But with my friend Clark - someone I remember being extremely smart and creative - I said, “Now that's someone that I'd be very interested hearing from!” We chatted by phone a few times and in May of last year, we meet while I was in Chicago on business.

In my experience, Facebook doesn't create friendships. But it does help millions of friends reconnect and stay connected.

Businesses leverage the power of 'WOM' with Facebook

Word of mouth is the most powerful way to market any business. In fact, many studies have shown that consumers are more likely to make purchase decisions based on recommendations from people they know than from a brand’s marketing materials. And this is precisely what makes Facebook such a powerful marketing tool.

Each time a user likes, comments on, or shares content on Facebook, that action spreads out to their network of friends (Facebook calls this the social graph). The entire marketing game on Facebook is about businesses getting their customers to talk about them.

Facebook users talk about the brands they care about in a number of ways including:

  • They can like that brands Facebook Page
  • They can like, comment on, or share content published by that brands Facebook Page
  • They can mention or tag the brand in an update or a photo
  • They can RSVP to an event on the brand's Facebook Page

Why Facebook has grown so huge

Here are a few reasons why Facebook has blown past all other social networks.

  • Facebook has used existing social connections to promote the platform. From day one, the sign-on process has included inviting anyone you've e-mailed! Its assumption is that if you've exchanged an e-mail with someone, there's a good chance you have some kind of pre-existing relationship with that person, and would be more inclined to invite them to join you on Facebook.
  • Facebook is heavily covered by mainstream media. Whether it's a newspaper article about a teacher getting fired for thoughtless comments about a student, or a TV interview with two siblings separated at birth but reunited on Facebook, not a day goes by without some kind of mention of Facebook in the news.
  • Facebook has grown with mobile use. Facebook shared in it's S1 that 488 million unique users accessed their site via mobile this past March. In fact, Americans now spend more time on Facebook's mobile site than its website. And with the exponential growth of mobile technology and use, this number will continue to grow.

Would you invest in the telephone when it was first invented?

Will I invest in Facebook? Certainly! Facebook is so culturally ubiquitous, that it has almost become the internet or social media itself. It's changed how we think about language, the expectations we have as consumers, and how we stay in touch with family and friends. I imagine that when the telephone first became mainstream, it had an equally profound cultural impact. In this sense, Facebook is not just another dotcom, and certainly not just another social networking site.

John Haydon advises nonprofits on marketing strategy and the effective use of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other tools. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, an instructor for MarketingProfs University, and the author of "Facebook Marketing for Dummies."