Robert Scoble just finished a great blog post on why he thinks Twitter is worth much more than people give it credit for. He cites its ease of use for businesses and open nature as an easy way for businesses to target customers. He and I had a conversation about this on FriendFeed, and while I still feel Facebook has the upper-hand here, it definitely has to open up a little more in order to be completely on par with Twitter. However, there is a side of Facebook businesses aren’t yet fully utilizing and they need to start – it’s a wealth of information and user connections at their hands if they just embrace it. The part of Facebook businesses are completely missing is Facebook Connect.
In my conversation with Robert we were discussing whether Facebook or Twitter had a better UI. I think our conversation may have been moot, since in the end the part of Twitter most people see is via a desktop client of some sort. Many of us are seeing trends via TweetDeck, or friend lists via Seesmic and similar. Or perhaps we’re searching via PeopleBrowsr. There is a majority group of people out there that simply aren’t aware of the basic UI Twitter has on its own Twitter.com website. Yet at the same time I don’t think developers are coming anywhere near close enough to what they could be embracing with the Facebook API for desktop clients – there is so much developers are missing when it comes to Facebook!
Regardless, even if you take the plain-Jane websites and compare them with each other, Twitter, while much more open and easier to find archives than Facebook out of the box, pales in comparison to Facebook when you compare UIs. Facebook has threaded conversations. Facebook has friend lists, and you can sort your feeds by friend lists. You can completely control who sees what you post on Facebook. You can’t do any of that with Twitter. Facebook has likes. While Twitter has favorites, I can always do the same on Facebook and “share” a link or similar to my profile and anyone can always reference it later under my links. I can separate my links, videos, and photos (which appear in-line, not via 3rd-party service) from my main status update stream if I want to. You can view just my links, just my videos, or just my photos, and for links even download the stream as RSS. You can do real groups in Facebook – on Twitter you have to hack it with hashtags. You can organize true events in Facebook, and store a full profile about yourself or even your business. Keep in mind that most of this is also available to your business as well. It seems to me that the ONLY thing Facebook lacks is a decent way to search (while they do have that too, it’s still limited), and a fully open version of the site that businesses can easily embrace like they do Twitter. It would seem Twitter still has a lot to catch up to. Yes, that’s a big thing, but much more simple to put in place than all the other things I mentioned above.
Now, back to my original point about Facebook Connect. On FriendFeed Robert said to me, “I’ve talked with dozens of businesses and they all say Facebook isn’t working as well for them.” I believe he’s seeing that. I think the majority of businesses are using Facebook wrong though. Even though I say that I also know, consult, and talk to dozens of businesses in which Facebook is working for them. Some businesses are using it right. Ask Digg how they’ve done since integrating Facebook. Ask Huffington Post how well they’re doing now that they’ve integrated Facebook. What about FriendFeed’s integration? Heck, even my SocialToo saw a huge spike since we integrated SocialToo Status into our product line, utilizing Facebook. Or what about Geni, or iLike, or Flixter? All these businesses were still businesses before Facebook. Facebook is what has given them an incredible boost since their integration though.
Now, let’s get a little deeper. Facebook Connect, with the help and just a few hours time of one of your own coders, can take your existing database of users and find out how many of them are already Facebook users. My bet is most of them are (remember, there are near 300 million Facebook users on the planet!). Now you can prompt those users to begin telling their friends about your brand to their closest friends and relatives, using just the tools Facebook provides, ALL ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE. Oh, and even better – unlike Twitter, your users never, ever, leave your website when authenticating with Facebook. You simply won’t get that intimacy between your brand and customers on Twitter.
Have social features already on your website? Look at what Digg is doing with Facebook Connect. Every single user that joins Digg through Facebook Connect, or associates their account with a Facebook account for the first time through Facebook Connect, AUTOMATICALLY has their Facebook Friends who have also done the same added as friends on Digg.com as well. Automatically, with no work on your users’ part, you can associate your users with their already existing social graph on Facebook, let them communicate, send stuff to their wall, their friends’ walls, and more, all simply via the Facebook API, ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE.
Twitter pales in comparison to what Facebook can do for businesses. The majority of businesses are just using Facebook wrong. If you manage a business’s marketing or brand management campaign and only have a Facebook Page, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. The power of Facebook isn’t about Facebook itself, but about the vast set of APIs Facebook is providing to you and your business to get your brand into the most valuable place of all – that intimate setting between a customer and their close friends and family. You can’t do that with Twitter. You can with Facebook. This is why if Twitter is worth $5 billion, Facebook is worth at least 2 or 3 or more times that. Your business needs to get in and use Facebook right if you’re going to stay ahead of the game.
Robert Scoble is giving Mark Zuckerberg free consulting (his points of which I agree with) – I hope this bit of free consulting for your business was helpful too. If your business is to see even more value than they are on Twitter, you MUST be using Facebook Connect. That is the way you embrace Facebook as a business. Contact me if you need any more help than this. As a software developer on both networks, this is why I got into Facebook – it’s why I’m still bullish about the network.
Now to get back to coding…