As social media goes, I admit to being less enchanted with Facebook. I love the immediacy of twitter and the networking possibilities of LinkedIn, but Facebook has never really felt like my medium. I'm a lurker rather than an active engager - both from a personal and business perspective - finding it useful to keep updated on news, but less exciting in terms of developing a sense of belonging or community.
So, with today's 10th birthday of Facebook in mind, I've been thinking more about how Facebook has impacted on the business community and whether its time for me to move out of the shadows and firmly into the Facebook fold. After all it's working for some 24 million UK users...
Undoubtedly, Facebook is a great medium for consumer-facing brands to embrace. It allows people to share what they're doing, or the products they're using. And it's a fact that a good post on Facebook can raise the profile of a product or service in the consciousness of target customers.
It's role as a simple and cheap marketing option has also seen Facebook used again and again for launching new brands and reaching groups of customers that are not geographically grouped. Take the Nike running club community or the Grey Poupon mustard club for example. Those seeking to reach mass markets cheaply and to create an immediate sense of community are the businesses most likely to find the platform rewarding.
But does Facebook's immediacy actually make our marketing lazy?
One of the things that puts me off Facebook is feeling advertised to. In the moments that I switch into social media I don't want to feel bombarded with extraneous messaging; it makes me feel irritated. Instead, I want to focus on the bit of content that I directly want to consume.
The other thing that irks me is Facebook's 'mass personalisation'. Perhaps I'm alone in this, but if I'm seeking to make a purchase I want to feel that the engagement really is with me, rather than a shallow trick of technology. On the surface, Facebook's knowledge of me or my business is great, but for me, the depth of understanding and its capacity for true targeting has some way to go.
The general opinion across my team at Cause4 (who are 85% Generation Y) is that Facebook has become too large and unwieldy and is now 'nothing special'. For us as a start-up business four years ago, we felt that Facebook wasn't the right brand fit for us and so concentrated on developing our reach on Twitter and LinkedIn. Deciding on what we could do well and the tone that we wanted to strike on social media seemed important.
However, we do know that Facebook's power lies in creating a community, where there is a point of belonging to a larger group than can be provided in the more traditional purchaser/provider relationship. We also love the concept of 'Sharism' - how businesses create value through sharing content and ideas - and Facebook is certainly a master at that.
So perhaps ten years on, there is still a role for Facebook, but like any social media platform, its use has to be right for the business and - given the 'busy-ness' of the interface - creating 'cut-through', targeted content that is creative and fun takes a lot of time. However, when it works it really works, and it can certainly help a business get to know its customers better and to have conversations to find out what their issues and challenges are.
And finally, donations made to fundraising site JustGiving through Facebook increased by 44% in 2012 with 1.8 million Facebook users donating £34 million. As a charity fundraiser, I can't argue with that impact....
So whatever, it's been a phenomenon - Happy 10th Birthday Facebook!