Facebook: 350 Million Users and Shoring

facebook_suggestionAs Facebook trumpets passing 350 million users worldwide, it’s interesting to see a development over the past few weeks. If you’re a Facebook user, you’ve probably noticed that the Suggestions area of your home page has changed a bit. The area once solely focused on recommending new friends now includes advice on how to nurture your relationships with existing friends.

At first, the UI change was kind of entertaining. Seeing friends come up in that box accompanied by the somewhat haughty advice “Help make Facebook better for them” instantly made me think of Tom Cruise imploring Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire to “help ME, help YOU!” Pointing out friends who “Need a profile pic” or that “You haven’t talked to lately” kind of invoked the “you know, when was the last time you called your mother” reaction in me. But when you look at it, this little nuance is very telling.

Getting ahead of falling behind
The meteoric rise of Facebook is no fluke. We all eat up the statistical ascent…if Facebook were a country it would be the 8th largest in the world…no, 6th…NOW 5TH!” But we relate tales of how one-time kings of the hill like MySpace have tumbled from their lofty social media thrones. So Facebook appears to be preempting that fate with little touches like the ‘keep in touch’ suggestions. It’s clearly readying itself for its maturity phase by shoring up loyalty among its masses.

Facebook’s actions for its own users underline an important lesson for any technology marketers’ social media marketing efforts. Every social endeavor that looks to foster community should dread the incursion of apathy. With apathy (external or internal to your company), involvement declines and eventually the entire community withers and dies. If you manage a blog, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, LinkedIn group…whatever the venue…you need to stay active. Keep the conversations vibrant and moving. If you actively manage a user community or support forum, inject new life into it regularly. Keeping involvement top of mind for everyone involved – your own employees/contributors AND your members/readers – is an absolute imperative for longevity and enduring success.

No one wants to be the poster boy for “We never talk anymore.”

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