The TRUE Value of Facebook's acquisition of FriendFeed

by Jonathan Marshall

FriendFeed, the social-identity hub that quickly stalled after it’s initial launch, has suddenly accepted a friend request from the largest player in social media. Facebook’s acquisition gives consumers, marketing professionals and future social media communities an entirely new reason to join in the conversation. Facebook realizes something that no one else has picked up on, and it’s going to extend their dominance not only in the social media industry, but eventually allow them to go head-to-head with Google…. Yes you read that correctly.

Combining Social Identities

On FriendFeed, users can combine status updates from many different services including Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Pandora and Amazon. This is where Facebook originally adopted the idea for their own community. Those users can follow each other across the seemingly-endless collection of those services to get all of their updates in one community.

The best part of FriendFeed is its search functionality. Without having to log-in or even register a profile on the site, a marketer can search every FriendFeed user’s updates from the site’s home page. This can be a great way to search users’ updates across dozens of services so that the marketer won’t wind up searching each network individually. Even though Twitter has been around for a while now, marketers still seem to have a hard time remembering to search Twitter- so this is a great way to gain a perspective on what specific consumers are talking about from multiple sources.

Facebook, meanwhile, has been making it easier for its users to share updates from other sites. It, like FriendFeed, wants to be more of a central hub in the social portal. Even though this is FriendFeed’s bread and butter, Facebook doesn’t really need them to make this happen. What Facebook is doing instead is stressing the importance for consumers and marketing professionals to have a place to share all of their status updates in one place.

This all goes back to Real-time Social Search

Hopefully, through the FriendFeed acquisition, Facebook will make it easier to search these status updates. In my opinion, this is where Facebook is in need of drastic improvement, it’s VERY difficult to search for anything on Facebook. They recently released an article talking about how they plan to focus more on that experience. Now imagine if on Facebook you could search what consumers are publicly sharing anywhere- that is where the real gold is in this acquisition. Being able to see what your friends/clients/target market are saying in different social communities (as many have a completely different social element than Facebook) will be priceless to marketing professionals.

The Actual Value of the Acquisition

Even though Google is hands-down the King in search today, they do have a weakness. And even though they are currently working to better their search functionality with “Caffeine,” (their latest version) it’s not real-time search as this entire post has been eluding to. Every blog that I have been reading this week suggests that FriendFeed’s search functionality, the connection with other communities or focus on real-time are the advantages. While all of those are well and good, great actually, none of them have anything to do with what Facebook is really thinking.

The real value has been determined most recently by the users, and the content that users eat, sleep and breathe all the time every day. The viral, self-made, low-budget and generally unnecessary content that drives marketers crazy- that is what all consumers are obsessed with. The random and pointless twitter updates, the nonsensical YouTube videos and the ridiculous, self-destructive photos people throw on their Facebook profiles. This fascination with hearing what our friends think about everything from a new restaurant to what they ate for breakfast is what both Facebook and Twitter realize is the key to the future of social media.

That being said, here is my final point- thanks for being patient… When we search for information in Google, sometimes it’s difficult to decipher which results are created by our friends or amateurs, and which results are scholarly and trustworthy. For many, this can become annoying. However, Facebook realizes that if you can simply search for what your friends are thinking/updating and immediately separate that information from everything else- you have an extremely commanding suggestion/recommendation engine. When this catches on, and it will- Twitter’s days are numbered.