Friday, 17 June 2011

Has Facebook faltered?

It was widely reported this week that Facebook had lost customers in the UK to the tune of 100,000 users with an even larger proportion being lost in the US. It was also reported that overall the rate of Facebook's global growth had slowed significantly for 2 months in a row. Both of these facts were denied by Facebook themselves stating 'From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions. Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool, which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn't designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook'.

Whatever the facts of this story, the nervousness that underpins the reporting and comment highlights just how reliant some, especially companies have become on Facebook as a platform. The site undoubtedly provides the opportunity for really deep engagement with customers and the explosion in Facebook Commerce (F-Commerce) just goes to prove how important it has become to the sales and marketing investment strategy for many companies, but there is an inherent danger in switching to a one channel focus and the lessons learned from sites such as MySpace and Friendster and their loss of favour have to be heeded, as history does have a habit of repeating itself.

At present the time on site per user as reported by Comscore has increased from 21 to 25 minutes per day, however relying on this to continue could be a folly. It's important that there is investment and presence across a number of diverse channels in recognition of the fact that users are very promiscuous when it comes to the way they use the net and could move on at any time.

'Fish where the fish are' is a wise strategy, but you have to also keep one eye on the potential future migration patterns to ensure that the pool doesn't get over-fished and you miss out as the fish swim elsewhere. At the moment, Facebook is still where all the action is but you need to keep an eye open for where the action could be in the future and be ready to move.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Who cares about online security

Online privacy and data security are increasingly in the spotlight. Whether it be the recent Sony Playstation Network hack or this week’s issues surrounding the Chinese hacking plot on Gmail. And of course, when you entrust your personal details to a commercial organisation in the hope that those details are securely stored then you absolutely, have the right to expect that those details are safe.

However a couple of instances have emerged this week in which online denizens appear to be willingly giving up their private details in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. First was Intel’s quite brilliantly executed Museum of Me, which promised (and indeed delivered in spades) to ‘create and explore a visual archive of your social life’. The application fantastically visualises, photos, video, links, profile pictures and status updates from the day you signed up to Facebook and onwards and in order to do that they ask you to giveaway pretty much every Facebook access privilege you can, but hey it’s Intel they’re OK they’ll be responsible and indeed to date 224,000+ users have happily done so, but there are those that are warning against giving away so much willingly.

The second is maybe a little less blatant and involves Google Wallet. The mobile payments solution unveiled by Google last week promises the mobilisation of payments via your smartphone and an NFC chip. Potentially ending the need for cash and indeed of your card wallet. Fantastic, how convenient, but what is the price of using the technology. Well, potentially you give companies access to your purchasing behaviour. So far, so loyalty card, but on top you also open up your location, your predilections and therefore to some extent your soul. There’s definitely work that needs to be done around the privacy settings that are fixed to mobile payment solutions and before you blindly plough in, you need to make sure your privacy is protected.

Consumers have the right to expect companies they give their data to, to encrypt it, protect it and ensure that it can’t be hacked and stolen, however life on the internet comes with responsibility and before we give our lives away more and more freely we all need to be thinking about what it is we’re giving up.