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I'm in a Facebook State of Mind
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September 01, 2009

I'm in a Facebook State of Mind

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

How many of you use LinkedIn? How many of you Tweet? How many have Facebook (News - Alert) accounts? These are increasingly common questions from speakers addressing audiences in various markets today.

But, have you heard of Doof? Probably not. It’s a social gaming site. The point, though, that Avaya’s (News - Alert) Global Managing Director of Services and Social Marketing, Paul Dunay, made at the opening event at ITEXPO West in Los Angeles this evening, is that the social media space is growing daily. Why? The barrier to entry is extremely low but, more importantly, because of the potential of social networking if you are able to successfully develop a business model around it.
Of course, many of these sites won’t make it – the large majority will die out, and some will be bought out by larger entities. But, there are already a few that are clearly the kingpins of the social networking space. 
Exhibit 1: Facebook.
According to Dunay, Facebook has more than 250 million users; it has 10 million videos and 1 billion photos uploaded; it hosts 4 billion status updates monthly and 2.5 million events every month. Each day, 5 billion minutes are spent Facebooking, making it the third largest site in the world, leading Dunay to call it not a social networking site, but a communications platform.
So, it’s clear Facebook is dominating the social networking site, combining business and personal contacts into a single platform. Dunay calls Facebook a once in a lifetime communications opportunity, and he’s likely right, given that email, which we all cherish and hold dear as an non-intrusive communications medium, has already been overtaken by social networking.
The question, though – and a very logical one – Dunay asks, is how will Facebook enable commerce and how will support manifest itself on the Facebook platform. After all, if he is correct, how can business ignore a once in a lifetime opportunity
Talking about the future of social networking, with a specific focus on Facebook, Dunay looked ahead at 11 ways Facebook can be integrated into common activities and interests to create not only a better overall user experience, but the potential for revenue as well.
Dunay’s 11 Facebook life changers:
Life changer #1: Search and Facebook. 
Why isn’t there a search option integrating Facebook into search engines. Are Web search users really interested in the millions of VoIP-related search results? In many cases, they would likely be more interested in segmenting their searches based on searches of and pages viewed by , for instance, a user’s Avaya facebook friends. Search is an area that is ripe for innovation. 
#2:Amazon and Facebook
When is Amazon going social? Instead of having unknown people’s recommendation, why not use recommendations from your Facebook friends? That would not only create a sticker community within a group, but likely would result in increased business for Amazon or any other online business.
#3: Gaming and Facebook 
Why not enable gaming with your Facebook friends instead of random networked opponents. Anyone that has connected a Playsation or Xbox to the Internet and competed against unknown opponents in a Madden tournament, how would you like to start an ongoing league with your Facebook friends that mirrors the real NFL season? For the gamblers out there, there’s even the potential for payment as a feature in Facebook-enabled Texas Hold’ Em tournaments.
#4: Magazines and Facebook
With a healthy portion of readers moving to digital magazines, why not leverage technology to let readers know what articles their Facebook friends have read and their reviews or comments? It creates a viral magazine experience.
#5: Reality TV and Facebook 
“I love to see the interplay of what they’re doing from a cell phone and a Web perspective with interactivity,” says Dunay. So, why not use Facebook to build communities around programs like reality TV? The communities are already being built, as are Facebook goups – why not integrate the two for a highly viral combination. 
#6: Shopping and Facebook 
Shopping in inevitable – for some a necessary evil, for others, a favored pastime. So, why not enable shopping with Facebook friends in an offline environment. Of course, this will require location tools, like GPS or active RFID, but there are countless marketing-type opportunities to integrate the offline and online worlds in shopping.
#7: Customer Service and Facebook 
Why not use Facebook to connect to the best Customer Service of your life? If you have made certain purchases, with a Facebook profile, you can be connected to others in your area with similar interests to be able to offer them reviews or advice. That adds real value to the shopping experience. There are already user reviews on online retail sites, so why not add interactivity and increased relevance to the process?  “Think about it: When was the last time you had a really good customer service experience?” asked Dunay.
#8: Interviews and Facebook
Facebook has already announced an app that will allow college applications through Facebook; Dunay suggests this will become an increasingly relevant part of the process.
#9: Health Services and Facebook 
If you have certain symptoms, wouldn’t it be great to be able to chat real-time with a doctor when you don’t have time to actually see the doctor? Or maybe you’re getting ready for an international vacation and have a slight soreness in your throat. It would be much easier to connect via a social applications to a physician or nurse for quick advice – and even pay for the virtual visit.
#10: Social Communicator 
Of course, in today’s age of multimedia communications, why not enable various modes of communications with your social demographic – something like Skype (News - Alert)-ifying Facebook and, in the process threatening Skype’s dominance as a P2P communications application.
#11: Social Seminars
Why not use Facebook to connect to a social seminar where you can learn and connect with people at the event – like a Webinar, for instance. There is already the ability to connect with groups based on similar interests, so why not take it a step further and create an educational environment out of it?
There’s no question the volume of information on the Web is going to continue to grow – there already is more content in the blogosphere than in the Library of Congress – so the question becomes how to we, as a community, leverage that information to create the best overall user experience? And of course, how do businesses, then, monetize that opportunity?  
Everything is becoming more social, Dunay predicts, and non-social networkers will run the risk of becoming social outcasts in 20 years.
To find out what Avaya and other communications vendors see as the future of communications, visit the exhibit hall at ITEXPO West in Los Angeles this week. While you’re there take advantage of the many conference sessions and collocated events like 4GWE, M2M Evolution, Smart Grid Summit, Sipera’s (News - Alert) UC Security Workshop, and Ingate’s SIP Trunking seminars.

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Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erik Linask

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