In today’s Fortune Magazine, David Kirkpatrick asks “Is Facebook worth your time?” He argues that many adults probably won’t find utility in the social network and need a reason to sign up.
One reason, he suggests, is the “news feed” which is a running list of what your friends have been up to since you last checked in. Agreed, that’s pretty useful. I value my friends, which means that I value their opinions and am interested in their activities. So, for me, it’s a passive way to keep up with them in a fast-paced digital world.
For example, in my feed today I saw some terrific photos that friends uploaded from the Papal visit to the White House earlier this week, found out that 20 of my friends and I are all attending the same conference in June, saw a congratulatory note from one friend to another for a job well done, and learned about three new groups that had formed on issues where I have interest.
I recently saw an ad on Facebook asking viewers of NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” to sign an online petition to convince the network execs to change their decision to cancel the show. As a fan, I have FNL listed among my favorites on my profile and assume the ad appeared as a result. So, I obliged and added my name to the list of supporters.
In addition to other online efforts to save the show, fans mailed in thousands of plastic footballs to the studio. The network got the message and shortly thereafter, I was pleased to read about NBC’s agreement with DIRECTV to share production costs thus ensuring the show’s survival for a third season. From the release…
In response to an evolving media marketplace and the changing needs of its advertisers, NBC Universal has created a more innovative, client-centric approach to its traditional Upfront presentation.
I never would have known about any of that without Facebook. Sure, this is a trivial example when compared to much more important global issues and I do agree that there are a lot of meaningless, fun and silly apps on Facebook (SuperPoke, I am looking in your direction). I have certainly installed and uninstalled more than my share. Read: Please, no more “Friends for Sale” or “Knighthood” invites! However, I merely mention it to make the larger point that there is some utility there, as well.
Back to the question, “Is it worth it?” As for me, the answer is yes. Honestly though, I think the real answer depends on the user. Kirkpatrick states the obvious here …
For the News Feed to work properly though, you need to have a fair number of Facebook friends and you need to regularly do things inside Facebook. And it is on that score that many adults fall down.
Of course, in order to benefit from the knowledge of others, one needs to know and engage with “others” (and not in a LOST sorta way!)
Seriously, nothing is useful if you don’t invest some time in it – whether it’s a face-to-face conversation, a phone call, a letter, an email or online in Facebook or Twitter. For anyone looking to connect, one needs to engage, find community and participate.
What he misses here is the movement toward social media aggregators (FriendFeed, Lijit, SocialThing) and OpenID that enables content to be shared between platforms and not limited to one site or the other. In this approach, the connection becomes more about the medium rather than the specific source site.
Kirkpatrick seems to criticize Facebook’s utility throughout the entire article, but concludes that for those looking to stay connected, it’s worth a “dive in.”
Well, it’s not just about diving in, you need to move your arms and legs in order to swim!