Hey Facebook : Imitation Of Success Does Not Guarantee Success

SMS Text

By now you have seen the various articles regarding Facebook‘s homepage redesign. If not, go take the tour to see what is coming. As you can see, Facebook has copied some of the most loved features from both FriendFeed and Twitter.

Facebook may be a massive social network, but it wants to be the main destination where you spend your time on the internet. There are a few problems with this. First, they may have copied the popular features of other social sites, but they did not realize why they are successful.

Twitter is gaining celebrity acceptance because they get to chat with some of their fans. Facebook’s social network basis makes the status updates harder to follow. The new homepage redesign may make this easier to work with, but many people use Facebook differently. Also, Twitter strokes the ego.

I have said before that ego plays a very big part in why social sites are successful. Because Twitter is not a social network, people use it for a different purpose. Some people may use it for quick organization (i.e. can we meet for dinner) and simple replies to questions. Users are looking for people with something interesting to say, without the usual trappings of a social network.

FriendFeed is almost on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is mostly about discussion and sharing of interesting blog posts or other items. There is not as much ego stroking as there is on Twitter. On FriendFeed, the conversation is easier to follow because the comments on an item are grouped together. In some cases, there are many comments (more than 50) on blog posts or even just simple questions that get asked. FriendFeed can easily become a type of blogging platform for some people. The key for FriendFeed is that the context is not easily lost. Even links shared by multiple people get grouped together so that you can see what other conversations are occurring for that same story.

Facebook may have copied many of these features, but one core feature that they have missed is search. Twitter and FriendFeed have become treasure troves of information. Both also have very powerful search capabilities. Many people are already talking about “real time search” as the next frontier. Twitter and FriendFeed are primed for that battle and tend to be complementary services. There are several brand management and social search applications that have appeared as well. Obviously, social search and real time search are gaining a lot of hype.

However, Facebook is moving in the right direction so far. With Facebook Connect and their developer API, they are trying to be more open to social applications. By providing a capable search API, Facebook can become the leading destination for social and real time search information.

The guest post is by Rob Diana blogging at Regular Geek.

Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • beckett929

    I think its comparing apples, oranges, and bananas…

    Facebook, and even Myspace, I share things with the 100 or so people I truly in life know and am real friends with.

    Discussion forums and boards I feel like while I may not know the people on a personal level, theres continuing dialog on multiple subjects. We learn more about each other, tendencies, preferences, likes and dislikes. Theres ongoing conversation about a particular set of subjects, that maybe most of my friends on or off Facebook don’t share that interest in.

    I ‘m starting to see Twitter as a really really really shallow way of communicating. Maybe I’m misguided, but whats the value of earning followers if you really don’t know anything about them other than one sentence at a time format? The average length of time any one comment is on a user’s front page is 5 minutes. Who is reading a full day’s worth of logs at that rate if you have over 100 followers, let alone thousands?

  • Hey beckett929, read this post I wrote, entitled “Amazing New Web 1.0 App Allows for More than 140 Characters!”


    You’ll laugh, maybe. After I wrote the post, however, some cool people made some other cool people follow me, in an attempt to win me back into the Twitter fold.

    It worked. I’m sold on Twitter again. It’s led to clients for me, and I’ve been able to help people out too.

  • beckett929,

    It is not so much a matter of how people use facebook. There are a ton of people on facebook, and the search capabilities just do not compare to twitter or friendfeed. If you are allowing people to update status, share news or blog posts and various things like that, search becomes a very important feature.

  • Will,

    Twitter is difficult for a lot of people. For many, the question becomes how to use it. With many followers (even over a few hundred), there is a lot of information flowing by. As twitter gains more mainstream adoption, we will probably see more tools that deal with the issues in Twitter. Groups are one way, but I would not be surprised if someone came up with something novel.

  • beckett929

    Wouldn’t Twitter “groups” then really just be a message board under the hip/trendy name of the current fad? It seems like reinventing the wheel.

    And I’m not really searching for anything on Facebook… I can see where maybe if I wanted to dig through someone’s profile for a link I may have posted a year ago or something it would be nice, but its not a damnable offense that it doesn’t exist.

    Consider this as an example… I have an issue with my motorcycle. If I post a question as a status update on Facebook, the typical responses would be friends offering to help out with rides I may need or something of that nature, maybe one or two who own bikes also could chime in how to fix it or offer to come over and help troubleshoot it. If I post the same question to one of the forums I’m a member of which specialize in motorcycles, I’m going to get qualified answers for helping troubleshoot from people that are likely more knowledgeable than myself, or at least am open to listening to. If I post that as a question on Twitter, how do I even begin to qualify someone’s knowledge??

    Its purely a matter of how much valuable feedback I want, and Twitter is to information as the bottom-line on ESPN is to sports…. its there, and once in a while you may see a score thats interesting or unexpected… but its only a microcosm of what happened. It doesn’t tell the whole story.

    And its in that loss of real value, coupled with the unqualified people contributing that causes me to just not be a fan of the platform.

  • I’ve been watching and seeing some of these things that you’re writing about, Rob. Never underestimate Facebook, that’s my new motto.

    If Google’s not careful, Facebook may slip in behind the scenes and buy them out (yes, I know that’s kind of ludicrous, but let’s check back again in five years and see.)

  • Mark,

    I am not underestimating Facebook. I have said in other posts that they are to be feared. Not because they are innovative, but because they now have almost 200 million users. Twitter has something around 5 million. That is a significant difference, and that many users can really change the game. This is the same reason that Yahoo is still in the game. Their content properties are some of the most visited on the web.

  • Facebook is for wuzzies.