Changes to Facebook great for government

Tomorrow, Facebook will host their “f8” developer conference. It’s rumored that Facebook will roll out some new features that could be very beneficial for government. If reports are accurate, Facebook will release “read,” “listened,” “watched,” and “want” to supplement their hugely popular “like” button. Obviously, Facebook wants to use this information to provide more opportunities to expand their advertising network.

Beyond advertising for Facebook, think about the possibilities for government.

  • You create a useful brochure called “What you need to know about Stafford Loans” and you post it on Facebook. There’s potential for millions of teens to click “read” and share it with their friends who are looking into financing higher education.
  • The Army posts their latest commercial on Facebook and people start clicking “watched”.
  • Your state releases a limited edition license plate or the county zoo has a new Red Wolf exhibit. People click the “want” button to let their friends and family know what they want.

The possibilities are endless! In the September issue of Forbes Magazine, David Kirkpatrick sums it up perfectly, “The ‘meme,’ or idea, can go viral and spread almost instantly to vast numbers, if it happens to strike a chord with the zeitgeist.”*

If Facebook rolls these new features out, the ability spread your message quickly and easily will exponentially grow. Even if they don’t proceed with these new features, the release of the “subscribe” button last week is making it easier for government to get the word out. With a little bit of creativity when developing content, you can easily produce material that will rapidly spread throughout the social world.

*Want to hear more from David Kirpatrick about how social media is revolutionizing how we communicate? If you are in the DC area, and work for the government, you can hear him for free. Get the details here.

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Stacy Rapp

Kind of cool to see the optimism about the changes. It’s getting alot of bad press so it’s good to see some of the advantages. I’m on facebook, and the changes don’t seem to bother me, but they also haven’t provided an “oh wow” impression yet either.

Courtney Shelton Hunt

Maybe I’m missing something here, Mike. How would these possibilities manifest themselves in actuality – and how would they be significantly different from what is currently available? The only specific new benefit I can envision in your examples is more detailed information (i.e., read vs. liked), the differential value of which to me is marginal. The idea of a meme doesn’t change with more buttons, and governments wouldn’t have any more visibility to how the viral effect is taking hold once the posts get beyond their own pages. Without detailed FB data/analytics that to my knowledge aren’t freely available, the only way a government could measure the success of a specific share would be based on traffic back to their website.

Please help me understand this exponential growth in message spreading you anticipate. Thanks.

Kevin Lanahan

Gotta agree with Courtney on this. I’m willing to “like” a post as it requires one click and marginal decision-making. If I have to decide if I “like” it or “read” it or whatever, I’m less likely to click anything.

Facebook is already losing the younger generation as they lose interest (and their parents/grandparents get involved). Now they’re making their interface more complicated. While this won’t drive people away, it will certainly increase the learning curve and may manifest itself with slow adoption.

Stacy Rapp

Well, I have to disagree with “losing the younger generation”. I see all my teenage cousins doing all kinds of stuff on facebook. I live in a different state from all my family, and I know that I am not alone in this regard of distance. The people that I follow most are my family and close friends who lives hundreds of miles away. My grandma and I chat on it alot and I feel like that is a huge bonus. In fact, my grandma and my 13 year old cousin have the opportunity to chat, share photos, etc. and I don’t think my cousin is going to pull the plug because of our grandma. I certainly am not either. To say that people, or the younger generation for that matter, are walking away is a bit difficult for me to understand because I would like to know where they are really going? Even if Google + takes off, will my grandma follow or am I always going to have to return to facebook for her and all the other stragglers who resist change. Facebook has a huge base and it is going to take alot to get that whole base to transition to something new. That’s my two cents, but it’s a very interesting debate. Particularly since I recently saw a yogurt container with a facebook and twitter sign on the lid…WHAT?!?!?!

Kevin Lanahan

Stacy, Facebook isn’t going away. You obviously use it to communicate with your grandma. But you didn’t say anything about communicating with your friends.

My son will post an occasional comment on FB now, but he’s moved on and is less reliant on FB. For many people his age (college and younger), Facebook is becoming how you communicate with your grandparents, not your peers.

I think that “losing the younger generation” may have been an overstatement. I think a 13-year old getting a FB account is becoming a rite of passage, like a 16-year old getting a drivers license. You get it, it’s all cool for a while, and then the shiny wears off (especially after your mom friends you). It’s not a big deal anymore, and kids are finding other ways to express themselves.