What Is Facebook?

February 21, 2017 Social Media Tools

This post could be just mostly for my own amusement.

But I wanted to dig into the idea of what Facebook actually is.

What does it offer?

Why do we use it?

Will we continue to use it in the future?

Let’s dive into the details a little bit and figure things out if we can…

The Origins Of Facebook

I’ve told this story in the past and it’s still kind of interesting to me.

It was the Spring of 2005. I was living in the dorms at college.

I was chilling in my room watching TV or something one day when a buddy came down the hall and popped his head in my room.

He asked, “We’re getting Facebook.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. My response was probably something like, “What class is that for?”

The site started as a curiosity for me. I joined. People posted pictures. It was kind of cool to see yourself in photos from friends and at parties and things like that.

I was a business major at the time and the business side of Facebook was interesting to me.

I remember there was this ebook that I ended up buying and reading that was written by a Facebook insider. He kind of talked about the early days of the site and how it was developed and what the outlook was for the site.

One really interesting thing was when Yahoo offered $1 billion to buy the site…and they turned him down.

It obviously seemed crazy at the time, but obviously not crazy in hindsight.

Human Nature

The key with Facebook is a few basic elements of human nature.

There seem to be two main elements that are key to Facebook’s success:

  • Belongingness
  • Fear of Missing Out

Even from those early days of Facebook these were the core elements that attracted people. And today they continue to be the main reasons that people join the site and check it dozens of times each day.

Even from those early days there was a little game going on with Facebook. Most people wanted to see how many friends or connections they could get.

It was actually a thing to talk about your friend count on Facebook. It was weird, but it kind of reflected real life. People wanted to feel like they belonged to a group. They wanted to be friends with all kinds of people.

And the second part was not wanting to miss out.

You didn’t want to log into Facebook and see photos from a party that you had missed out on. That was killer. You wanted to be part of that group.

And over time the fear of missing out has amplified in a few different ways.

Now it’s about not missing¬†any kind of information. We check Facebook many times a day because we don’t want to miss any updates. We don’t want to miss those photos our friends share. We don’t want to miss that funny GIF or that interesting news item and all that kind of stuff.

It’s really become an addiction.

We want to belong to groups and we don’t want to miss out on information.

Facebook’s Features

Facebook really hasn’t changed much in terms of basic features since it first came out.

The look is a little different, but it’s still pretty much the same.

I always did like the simple nature of the design. Blue and white. No fuss or anything crazy going on. I like to think that is part of the reason people use it.

The more “stuff” you get on a site the more people hate it. Nobody likes popups and all kinds of junk going on. Facebook has been able to avoid that.

Anyway, Facebook basically offered new users a profile where they could add a profile photo and a little information about themselves.

And when you logged in the big thing was the Feed.

The feed was where you would see all of the happenings in your circle of friends. You could see those photos from the party. You could see updates that people shared about classes and their day.

All that kind of stuff.

You basically shared what was going on in your day and stayed up to date on what others were doing.

And it’s addicting.

People loving posting updates and getting interact from friends. That Like button has been around since the beginning. I think it was originally just a thumbs up and not even called a like.

There are more features today like Groups, Chat, Business Pages and more, but really the features are pretty much the same. I guess we have had videos for awhile.

But all of this was there even in the early days for the most part.

And the crazy thing was that Facebook wasn’t the first.

Even into 2007 and 2008, MySpace was still the king, but it was obvious that Facebook was getting ready to take over.

MySpace was always full of flash and annoying visuals.

Facebook didn’t give you as much control over the design of your profile and things like that. Ads were plastered all over the site.

And the site loaded really fast.

That, along with some great buzz during the rollout, allowed Facebook to overtake all other social networks.

People trusted it.

The Business Side

Another moment I remember is when I got a friend request from a local bar in my college town. It seemed weird, but that person was actually pretty brilliant.

I think it was a bartender. They created a profile using their university email account, but instead of creating it for themselves they branded the profile as the bar.

They liked people and used the account to build buzz for the bar. They would share notices of upcoming events. They would post photos and tag people and it made others want to not miss out and to belong to the group that was going to this bar.

Facebook eventually caught on to the fact that businesses were using the network in this way. It was really something they had to embrace versus banning so they allowed businesses to create pages.

The key to having success with a business page is really similar to having success with a personal profile.

You share information that people don’t want to miss out on. That’s a simple concept, but it’s not always easy to implement.

But if you’re a business and you want success with Facebook then go back to those two main items:

  • Belongingness
  • Fear Of Missing Out

Tap into those with the content you share and you’ll have success.

The Future

The future of Facebook is an interesting one.

We’ve just about reached the amount of content that we can consume.

I don’t see Facebook changing its features that much in the future. They’ve adapted really well to the mobile revolution. It would have been easy for another network to start with mobile and kind of take over.

It’s almost happened with Snapchat and a few others, but Facebooks is holding strong.

Facebook does have a challenge with its Feed. There is so much content that people need some kind of filter. They can’t consume it all and Facebook has been working to make sure people see the content they really want to see.

The future is probably a mix of Facebook controlling what its users see and giving users control of what they want to see.

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Conclusion

I don’t see Facebook going anywhere in the future. Mark Zuckerberg stumbled on a few basic elements of human life and made them the core of his social network.

And the result was that people became addicted to logging into Facebook. At first it was from computers, but then it was amplified with smartphones. Now people can’t go minutes without checking to see if there were any new updates.

It’s been some good. It’s good to keep up with family and friends. You could argue that it’s also some bad. The addiction part is obviously tricky.

But in the end…Facebook is something that’s part of our live. It allows people to be part of a group and to not miss out on any information.