Revealed: why Facebook acquired FriendFeed

Facebook has snapped up FriendFeed
Facebook has snapped up FriendFeed

LONDON - Facebook has splashed out almost $50m (£30.3m) on FriendFeed, the start up that allows people to see what their friends are doing in real-time on social media sites including Digg and Twitter. Will McInnes, managing director of NixonMcInnes, examines the strategy behind the deal.

1. 'Real-time' is the social media soup du jour
The Facebook/Friendfeed deal is partly about real-time, which is the big new challenge, the ultra-modern handbag that every hot digital marketer needs to be touting about town and that every brand needs to be seriously thinking about.
This is because whatever happens around the world, be it a plane landing in the Hudson river or news of the King of Pop expiring, it happens in real-time on the web - especially on Twitter, due to the immediacy and simplicity of the service. Operating in that same space, FriendFeed's technology and team come ready to bring more real-time-ness to Facebook, which in turn leads to the question ‘what's it's real-time strategy?' In a world where media is created and shared globally in real-time, we need to be able to monitor and respond super-fast.

2. FriendFeed is a stepping-stone between Facebook and Twitter
FriendFeed is a little bit like Facebook and a little bit like Twitter, and this deal certainly sees Facebook taking a step closer to Twitter. What FriendFeed does is take ‘feeds' from your various social media profiles - your latest videos favourited in YouTube, your latest status updates in Facebook, your latest blog posts and so on - and aggregates them in a single stream of updates. By following you in FriendFeed I can get a broader view of you and your online interactions. A bit like the News Feed on Facebook, but with much more content being pulled from the ‘rest of the web' than within FriendFeed itself, which contains very little unique other gubbins.

3. Google and Facebook are fighting it out
These days the big battle of digital sumo-suited mega-giants is between the big G and fresh-faced Facebook, and Facebook's purchase of FriendFeed is a tasty scoop of ex-Google talent, snaffling several key ex-Google software engineers behind Gmail and Google Maps. As such, marketers and digital people all need to think of Google as more than ‘a search engine' and Facebook as more than ‘a social network' and adjust our thinking and our strategies in line with this ever-shifting landscape - they both want to look after your target audience and they both want your advertising dollar. Either way, a serious competitor to Google is probably a good thing for your marketing budget.

4. Discovering content needs more than Google Search
With the conversational web exploding the old way of finding content - through a traditional search engine - is increasingly not good enough, which has major implications for those of us in digital marketing. Today humans are becoming increasingly important in how we discover content. Indeed most hardcore Twitterers report that their blog and RSS reading has reduced massively. That is because by following people they keep up to date with the links and news that those people share, reducing their need for defined and controlled sources of content. So as a marketer I need to consider ‘how else and where else will my market find me, outside traditional search'.

5. Conversations happen around content
Finally, conversations online are frequently happening around content. Yes, there are the navel-gazing ‘what I had for breakfast' updates, but in the increasingly real-time worlds of FriendFeed, Facebook and Twitter more and more conversations occur around parcels of web stuff like links, photos, videos, articles. So how does your digital activity create content worth sharing and remarking on? Brands that crack this are those that set the digital conversations alive across the web, and drive ambient awareness, word-of-mouth recommendations and other juicy business results by the bucket load.


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