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Do we know how to use Facebook?

I came across a story today that summed up some of the challenges of social networking: “My boss wants to be my friend on Facebook.” I am already on Linked In, and I know how to use it for business networking because that is all it does. Facebook started out for personal networking, and after waffling for a while, I finally signed up for it. But I only want to use Facebook for business—I’m old. (I searched for classmates and found one person I knew from my high school, except a closer look revealed the Facebook member to be his son, now attending the same high school we did.) This story points out how difficult it can be to use Facebook for both business and personal networking.

Facebook is becoming more and more of an advertising platform, advertising that begins to take on a “Google meets Amazon” character. Not only can ads be personalized, but ads might also be shown to people in your social network because they are appropriate for you.
It would seem even more important, for Facebook to do this personalized advertising well, to separate business and personal contacts. My friends might share very different interests than my businesss colleagues, although there is lots of overlap, I am sure.
It’s amazing how dumb these questions will sound in a few years, when we’ve sorted it all out, but this what I am struggling with now. How can computers analyze social networks to see what the connections consist of? It’s almost the personal equivalent of anchor text–it is not enough to know that two documents are linked because we need to know why they are linked. Similarly, do computers need to know why two people are linked?
I have friends that I went to high school with and who love baseball and we’ve stayed in touch all these years. So if you want to find people of my age and background (Facebook knows it was a Catholic high school), then those folks would be good links for a personalized ad campaign. But I have business contacts who I know because they are in the search marketing business and they could be any age and any background and I don’t think most of them like baseball.
It’s a moot point with me for the moment, because I think I have exactly one friend in Facebook, so they aren’t spending a lot of time thinking about me. But when someone has thousands of friends, how does Facebook use that information? Sure, it can look at each friend’s profile to learn more, but search engines could always look at all the pages and that was never good enough.
Maybe these problems are different, but I wonder if Facebook will need to move to a system where you have several views into your information that you can allow people into. That in itself will be a social negotiation, but right now there isn’t much distinction between what different friends can see. (At least I don’t think there is.)
By setting those boundaries, Facebook can become a way to socialize across all parts of people’s lives and probably harvest more information about the connections between people (relationship anchor text) that can only help their ability in targeted advertising.
And it will stop people from getting the advice to give up Facebook. That’s what the poor woman was told whose boss wanted to “friend” her, and it sure isn’t the solution that Facebook wants her to choose.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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