Facebook, Market Segmentation And a Discussion Mark Zuckerberg Never Had

I actually didn’t plan to write about Facebook any more. In my recent post I claimed that Facebook is not solving any real problem. My readers were kind enough to prove me wrong… Jason thought we were just too old, and Jose thought that the problem Facebook is solving is loneliness. This is a big one to solve and a very good point… I scratched my head trying to reconcile the disconnect: Facebook is obviously successful and some people think they cannot live without it (one of the commenters, Radha, tested his strength by not logging into the ‘book for few days—this is how addicting it is). So how come so many people love it and so many others cannot understand the buzz?

Then I stumbled upon a Forbes article by Daniel Lyons. He too was confused about the real need for Facebook, but one paragraph he has written caught my attention:

“It’s as if two very different tribes were trying to inhabit the same space. I sometimes get the creepy feeling that we oldsters are barging into some college party where we don’t belong and trying a little too hard to look like we’re having fun, like the sad middle-age guys in the movie Old School who attempt, pathetically, to recapture their college days. “

Connecting all the dots I finally got it. It is all about segmentation, or lack of it… Facebook was created by college students for other college students, and only on September 2006 did it become open to all Internet users: kids, students, young adults and adults. This was a major move for the site but it did not change the way the site was designed, the type of services it offered and the metaphors it used (we adults don’t super poke each other…)

Here is how Facebook should have done it (and please, please use this lesson for your business or product):

Mark- hey, I have a great idea: let’s open the site to everyone. People will love it, they all miss college!

Dustin- don’t you think we should talk with some adults and see what they want the site to be?

Mark- what a great idea. Let’s do just that. After all, we are moving away from a very segmented and homogeneous crowd to the heterogeneous crowd of the Internet.

army-facebook.jpgDustin- True. There are homemakers, high tech professionals, scientists, army men in Iraq and Afghanistan… each one would like the site to be different.

Mark- our platform is so flexible. We can interview 100 people from each segment and design a slightly different look & feel and different applications for each segment. When they sign in, they will get into the minibook environment designed for their profile. We can even allow the various tribes to mix, but we will treat them as separate tribes, living in one virtual land.

Dustin- Right. Just like dating sites. You wouldn’t try to mix Jdate with Adult Friend Finder crowds, wouldn’t you?

homemakerfacebook.jpgThis conversation, which apparently never happened, could have changed the way people like me are looking at Facebook. Yes, everyone’s looking for friends and want to stay in touch, but friend management at 20 is very different from friend management at 35. Just like ERP is different from a small company that will use Quickbooks and a large company that will have to use SAP.

The lessons are loud and clear:

  1. focus is great. I think Facebook’s initial focus on college students is exactly what drove its initial meteoric success.
  2. When you grow out of your segment, don’t try to average your product so everyone will like it—quite the opposite: try to create a mini version for as many segments as possible, so each user will feel that you created your product just for him…

Related Articles:

The problem Facebook does solve

85% of College Students use Facebook

Facebook, your move

Murdoch: MySpace worries ‘misplaced’: calls Facebook a phonebook

Is Facebook the next Netscape?

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Facebook, Market Segmentation And a Discussion Mark Zuckerberg Never Had

10 thoughts on “Facebook, Market Segmentation And a Discussion Mark Zuckerberg Never Had

  1. jessverr says:

    You have very interesting points about segmentation, and the lack thereof as fbook became increasingly open. But I wonder if the move towards a platform (and we’re seeing this across various social networks beyond just fb) is an attempt to better segment or at least better serve its various customers by allowing them to design their own functionality on fbook by adding select 3rd party apps that they choose. I follow some of these companies and news as well at http://intellitech.wordpress.com

    best,
    jessverr

  2. Peter Munkholm says:

    Edit:
    You must use facebook out of your own context and not think that you have to fit into a self imagined context in order to satisfy what you think other users would expect from you.

    You’ve got to first ask youself: What do I want from facebook?

    facebook is something different to everyone who use it and i guess your confusion says more about your resolve toward your contact with other people and their pace in your life, then it really does about facebook

  3. Peter- you are making a very good point so let me try to answer:
    1. This post is not really about Facebook, but rather using Facebook as an example for the need of segmentation and targeting- Facebook is just a popular example. LinkedIn for example, is growing nicely and generating sizable revenue with a very focus targeting – the professional worker.
    2. Facebook is in part what you make out of it but in part what your friends are making it to be, so you are playing in multiple parties in any given time. When I wrote this post (more than a year ago BTW), I did not think of a Ning model for Facebook, but rather a hybrid model where people can run circles (professional circle, local circle, family circle, high school friends circle and so on) and every circle will have features that are unique to the circle and a different data sharing model. This way you will be able to share different data with different groups, have different set of tools based on what you are trying to do etc. I do think it will help FB not to de-hype and will allow platform developers to build more specific apps based on the needs.

  4. Peter- you are making a very good point so let me try to answer:
    1. This post is not really about Facebook, but rather using Facebook as an example for the need of segmentation and targeting- Facebook is just a popular example. LinkedIn for example, is growing nicely and generating sizable revenue with a very focus targeting – the professional worker.
    2. Facebook is in part what you make out of it but in part what your friends are making it to be, so you are playing in multiple parties in any given time. When I wrote this post (more than a year ago BTW), I did not think of a Ning model for Facebook, but rather a hybrid model where people can run circles (professional circle, local circle, family circle, high school friends circle and so on) and every circle will have features that are unique to the circle and a different data sharing model. This way you will be able to share different data with different groups, have different set of tools based on what you are trying to do etc. I do think it will help FB not to de-hype and will allow platform developers to build more specific apps based on the needs.

  5. Ok well FB IS great but we should know that its cool and everyones on it thats why its useful! Old friends from
    high school you can find them o facebook! Myspace is
    old! But theirs a new sherrif in town Moofaces.com going
    around the LA area buzz… but facebook is cool!

    Thanks, Mark zuckerberg

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