Some Questions about Facebook

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This interview was published June 25th, 2010 in the July issue of QUO Magazine www.quo.es. The interview was done by Iñaki de la Torre.

1. Is there a identikit portrait of a typical creator/administrator of Facebook groups?

I think one of the most important aspects of Facebook groups is that they can be created by anyone. Anyone can learn to run or administer a Facebook group, no matter who they are. This makes it possible for Facebook groups to exist on almost every kind of topic.

I think the prototypical Facebook group creator/administator is someone who has an idea or opinion about something, and who feels strongly enough about that concept.

2. Are the people more likely to make a part of them? Is there an identikit too?

Facebook groups feel good to join. Joining a Facebook group is a way of joining a virtual comment that shares similar ideas and interest to you. Facebook groups or other online communities are especially attractive and valuable to people who live in isolated areas, or those who live in places where people around them are not interested in the same things.

In a supportive community, the more you reveal about yourself, the more you often get back. Eventually, you can feel a sense of community where you might otherwise feel you dont. If you think about it, its like a cross between playing a video-game and being your own micro celebrity. If a person shares information in a group of people who think like them, there's suddenly an audience for that information.

3. What's the difference in growth, performance and other items between groups created by individuals (for leisure, hobbies, fans...) and the ones created by celebrities, brands and companies? I mean in the way, quality, quantity and frequence they interact.

The most successful companies on Facebook have powerful characters. They know how to interact with their fans in an engaging, useful way. When I worked at Wieden+Kennedy, I helped to start the Facebook page for OldSpice Deodorant. We planned out all of the updates that would occur for the next two years of the Facebook page. We also categorized the kinds of information that the OldSpice demographic would like. We came up with 5-10 different types of status updates, and they worked really well because we understood the target demographic and how they worked online. With OldSpice, our strategy was a mix of humor and infotainment, or educational entertainment. We wanted the Facebook account to help teach young people how to become men. The Facebook account was very successful. We have around 500,000 fans on it now. Corporate Facebook groups can be successful or unsuccessful depending on how much they understand their demographic, and how they engage with their target market. They need to be focused, so that fans know what to expect. Facebook users will gladly connect around a brand if a brand provides them valuable information or an enjoyable experience.

Facebook accounts for celebrities are often created as another outlet in which to share information about a famous person. There is a lot of extra content created around a celebrity that cannot be shared in a traditional fashion. Social media is a perfect place to share behind-the-scenes photos. Also, celebrity Facebook accounts provide a way for celebrities to interact with fans in a safe and engaging environment. Celebrity Facebook groups are usually created by fans, who follow the celebrity, or PR groups on behalf of the celebrity. They tend to be large.

The third type of group is the personal group. These groups usually center around interests, ideas, or humor. They range in size from small to large, and sometimes provide a lot of value. Often they are created spontaneously to support certain ideas and values of one or more persons.

4. What is Facebook's ability to influence its members? And to influence out of Facebook or even offline? Maybe you have some examples, for instance, about Obama's NHS campaign...

One of the reasons why Facebook is so powerful is that it allows people to organize around ideas and actions without having to live in the same place, or be in the same country or city. When people can organize ideas without having to.

There are some problems with organizing actions on Facebook. For instance, political protests can be quickly monitored and shut down by local governments, because much of the information of Facebook is open. Also, Facebook's recent privacy violations made some private groups public. This can be dangerous for individuals who post private information on Facebook.

I think that Facebook users, and users of the Internet in general, need to always think about the information they share online. Instead of having an analog, or real-life self, Facebook adds on another layer of identity. This could be called the "second-self". Just as one needs to groom themselves in real life, and take care of how one acts in public, one must also take care of how one acts on Facebook. Facebook is a new public for virtual selves, and people need to be careful that their virtual self does not reflect poorly on their analog self.

A lot of Facebook groups have affected people's offline lives. Some Facebook groups have the power to affect change in community, in politics, and in funding. Facebook groups are very good political tools for empowering individuals to take matters into their own hands and create a difference.

5. What's the secret for the Farmville enormous success and incredibly fast spreading?

Part of the pull of Farmville is immediate feedback. When a player makes a simple action, there is a small reward. These small rewards feel good, and they happen more quickly than rewards happen in real life. In real life, building up to rewards is slow. Getting a reward in real life often comes from setting a goal and achieving it. This often involves long-term planning. Today, it is difficult for many to set and achieve long-term goals. The insanity of information has made us impatient. Additionally, starting a farm in real life involves timelines, space, and planning. A lot of Farmville users live in small urban settings with no land, and even less time. The real draw of Farmville is the ability to accomplish things that would not be possible in real life.

Digital space is powerful it is can be automatically produced. Not everyone can have a farm in real-life. In the digital world, everyone can create something, have a large plot of land, and feel sense of ownership, worth, and accomplishment. Even though the crops are not real, they still need to be maintained. The Farmville player is often forced into cybernetic feedback looks with their crops. Crops need to be harvested, maintained, and land needs to be plowed. These digital plants are more talkative; they are capable of sending more feedback to the player, than plants in real life. It becomes a symbiotic system, where the Farmville player is looped further and further into a universe of virtual reality.