Facebook will succeed on mobile, just not with the Facebook app.

Social media is to Facebook what online search is to Google: just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding this makes it a lot easier to see how Facebook, despite it’s clunky mobile app, can actually end up dominating the mobile environment.

Google started as just a search engine and soon enough Sergey Brin and Larry Page realized the potential of adding advertising to the website. But what made Google’s advertising platform so big and profitable was the strategy to make Internet users never leave Google’s umbrella, far beyond search. It’s the combination of the search engine with Ad Words / Ad Sense, and Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Drive, Blogger, Apps for Businesses, Maps, Chrome, and a lot more. Google has a wide catalog of products and services to cover the needs of every kind of Internet user, from those wanting to watch cat videos to developers trying to create the next big thing or business trying to earn millions. And Google makes money from all of them.

That’s exactly what Facebook is trying to do in mobile. They know how difficult it is to make more people see more ads on the Facebook app, so instead of bringing users to the Facebook app they are bringing Facebook to everywhere else in your phone, like Instagram and Whatsapp. But they are also bringing Facebook to app developers to make it easy to create the next big thing (with Parse or Facebook Login) and to businesses trying to ear millions (with App Ads and Payment Methods). Instead of getting the revenues of just running ads on the Facebook app, they are after the revenues of developing, promoting and monetizing any app. Add to all that (and all the data coming from there) Facebook’s own advertising platform, and you have a company with the same power and size than Google.

You can read a much deeper analysis of Facebook’s strategy and plans for the next decade in Fast Company’s article Facebook’s Plan To Own Your Phone.

What should social media be like

The best thing about the Internet is that it’s an open network. You can just connect your computer, open your browser and see any website you want -except if you are using some versions of Internet Explorer. You can open your email client or web-mail service, and email anybody you want as long as you have their email address. And of course you can create your own browser or email client knowing that, following the existing standards, it will work.

This quality of the Internet, its openness, is so important we fight fiercely against any attempt to kill it (SOPA, PIPA, Ley Sinde, Hadopi… you name it). Yet we are letting social media destroy the openness of the Internet by creating closed platforms that get so big you can’t just leave them.

Imagine that you could only call or send and SMS to those friends who have the contracts with the same provider than you do. Or that Gmail users could only email Gmail users. That’s exactly what happens with most social media platforms: you need to have Facebook to interact with your Facebook friends, WhatsApp to talk to your WhatsApp friends, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Skype, Google+, Messenger, BBM, iMessage… there is even a whole business of services like Hootsuite or Sproutsocial just to manage all your profiles from one place!

Think about it. How much time do we waste keeping all those profiles up to date and checking if any friend posted something somewhere? How many people would like to quite Facebook but can’t because all their friends and literally 10 years of their life are already there? What’s the point of uploading all your pictures and tagging everyone if sooner or later that platform is going to be done, closed and forgotten? How on Earth are you going to try something new if first you need to convince all your friends to try it too so it actually makes sense to use it?

I believe the need of supreme power and control that companies like Facebook or Google feel is killing our relationship with the Internet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your personal profile in a way that you can do whatever you want with it? Just think of a supercharged email system. Some kind of standard format to keep your digital history (posts, links shared, images posted, profile picture, contacts…) in one place, and do whatever you want with it. So if I like Facebook but you are done with it and want to try Google+ we can still be friends and talk to each other without both having to keep two accounts in different places.

This system would also be tremendously beneficial for new businesses. Instead of having to steal millions of users at once from other platforms you could go ahead and create your own system, conquering users one by one. Platforms focused on design and customization, platforms based on ease of use and strong privacy settings, platforms supported by advertising, platforms where users have to pay to keep their accounts…. we could have specialized platforms for small niches with specific needs, something that currently is just unthinkable because it’s not a sustainable business -and because it doesn’t make sense if you can’t talk with everybody else.

In brief, the idea is that with a standardized social media environment the possibilities would be endless. As they always have been with the Internet, and as they should always be.

What do you think?

Censorship to protect the domestic digital industry?

I believe in the open Internet, and I always think that what countries do when blocking services like Facebook or Google is just another form of censorship, a way to block information coming from outside that could put in danger the Government’s image or power.

But I have to recognize that I never looked at the issue from the point of view pointed out in this article from Al Jazeera (emphasis added):

Much as a nation would try to protect its domestic industries and allow them time to grow by applying import tariffs on foreign goods, China has grown a massive internet industry by protecting its industry from outside competition. Whether that ‘protectionism’ was outright like blocking Google, or making its domestic providers load faster for China’s web surfers – it is effective. Baidu, Ren Ren and Sina Weibo are Chinese success stories – with each of them publicly listed on American stock exchanges and garnering much attention.

I come from Spain, one of those countries where Google’s Search Engine has more than 90% of the market share with no local alternative known of, although we do have a powerful player in the social media game (Tuenti). So I can see the point on protecting the domestic market, both because I would like to see Spain playing an important role in the digital stage and because the unemployment rate is reaching 26%. A company like Google, Baidu, Facebook or Tuenti is great for any national economy.

Don’t missunderstand me, I’m really glad I had Google and Facebook and totally against any kind of blockage, but if you think about it China is just one official declaration away from opening its borders to Google and Facebook and allow real market competition, while the rests of the countries are now decades away from developing the industry able to compete with the big foreing corporations.

¿Cuánto vale un fan en Facebook?

La importancia de los fans en Facebook para Best Buy en Estados Unidos. Fuente: Forrester Research (http://blogs.forrester.com)

La pregunta de cuánto vale un fan en Facebook es más que recurrente en el entorno de las redes sociales. Desde el directivo de la empresa más grande hasta la PYME más pequeña se preguntan cuál es el valor real de tener seguidores en redes sociales, cómo afectan los me gusta, los comentarios y los retweets (por poner los ejemplos más conocidos en la vasta inmensidad de la web 2.0) a las ventas y a los beneficios de la organización. En definitiva, y sin entrar en el tema de la publicidad en redes sociales y las declaraciones de General Motors, ¿cuál es el ROI de las redes sociales?

Personalmente me gusta contestar a esta pregunta en la misma línea que Gary Vainerchuk, aunque quizá controlando más mi vocabulario. Se trata de establecer una relación con la comunidad de usuarios, donde no sólo debemos mirar las ventas directas sino las posibilidades que ofrece: desde detectar y atajar rumores antes de que se conviertan en verdaderas crisis hasta descubrir nuevas necesidades del consumidor y nichos de mercado sin explotar. Hablar de tú a tú con tus públicos sólo puede traerte cosas buenas, si sabes sacarle partido a la conversación. No es nada nuevo, es sencillamente aplicar el modelo de comunicación bidireccional y simétrica en relaciones públicas que Grunig y Hunt describieron hace décadas, mucho antes de que usasemos Internet a diario pero que parece hecho a medida para las redes sociales.

Pero eso no siempre es suficiente para convencer a los escépticos, que aunque llevan toda la vida invirtiendo en publicidad y relaciones públicas sin tener datos exactos de cuánto aumentan los beneficios por poner un anuncio en prensa a doble página en vez de a una página se llevan las manos a la cabeza cuando no les puedes decir cuánto producto más va a comprar un fan de su página en Facebook. Por eso me ha alegrado enormemente encontrarme en el blog de Enrique Dans el informe de Forrester Research, The Facebook factor: quantifying the impact of a Facebook fan on brand interactions, con cifras exactas para deleite de cualquier analista. Cito el párrafo completo del artículo de Dans, que me parece un resumen perfecto de la clave de todo el asunto, y el informe completo se puede descargar desde el propio post original:

Los “Likes” de Facebook representan, en una proporción estadísticamente significativa, una actitud de “embajador” de la marca, con un valor cifrado en su inclinación a comprar y a recomendar la compra. La probabilidad de que un fan en Facebook considere la adquisición de un producto es 4 veces mayor que la de un no-fan, la de que finalmente adquiera el producto es 5.3 veces superior, y la de que lo recomiende a un tercero, 4.7 veces superior. Tener un número elevado de “Likes” en Facebook no solo garantiza un buen canal de comunicación a través del cual difundir noticias y novedades sobre la marca y sus productos o servicios, sino que además, redunda directamente en las ventas y en la recomendación. En este sentido, el valor de las campañas de publicidad en Facebook no es tanto el de generar operaciones de compra, sino el de atraer atención hacia la página de la marca y poder trabajar con esas personas que se aproximan y hacen “Like” en la misma.

¿Qué más se puede decir? Un fan en Facebook (al igual que un seguidor en cualquier otra red social) es alguien que se expone voluntariamente a los mensajes que la organización emite porque está interesado en lo que la organización tiene que decir, abierto a recibir información directamente de la fuente. Un seguidor es alguien abierto a escuchar el punto de vista que la organización quiera dar sobre cualquier tema, dispuesto a mostrar su aprobación con un me gusta, a enriquecer la información a través de un comentario e incluso a ayudar a difundir el mensaje compartiéndolo con sus propios amigos y seguidores. Y además es alguien con más probabilidades de comprar el producto y recomendarlo. En definitiva un seguidor en las redes sociales es un aliado de la organización desde cualquier punto de vista.