Jessica Moss and Robert Scoble probably don't know each other, but they have much common, and for different reasons.
Both border on compulsive, obsessive Facebook users. And after listening to them, I'm not sure there's anything wrong with that!
Moss's been a user since the site's inception. Scoble joined a couple months ago. They represent different worlds, different mindsets, and different career stages, and they embrace radically different social networks. But again, they sit on the common ground of site passion. And passion is always the secret DNA of consumer loyalty.
Scoble, a conversationalist on steroids, is the godfather of bloggers. He's both the ripple and the wave, consistently marrying his two required ingredients of successful conversation, passion and authority, in his incessant blogging, vlogging (define), Twittering, and who knows what else. If you haven't read his "Naked Conversations" (coauthored with Shel Israel), you are out of the loop.
Moss, who talked my ear off on a plane last week (prompted by my own flurry of questions), is a classic millennial, social-media-reared online conversationalist. She's the embodiment of the CGM (define) generation. In fact, I'm not sure she would have made it through college without AIM and Facebook by her side. And she makes no excuses for that.
In a weird harmonic convergence, I happened upon these individuals right as I was pondering a few deep, prolonged questions about Facebook's unmistakably sticky appeal. Why is this site so darn sticky? More important, what does its appeal tell us about consumer behavior, or unmet or fulfilled needs?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a late Facebook entrant -- active for only a few months -- so you can take my Johnny-come-lately musings with a grain of salt. Then again, I'm hardly alone. The marketing community of late has been racing to Facebook as if it were a Harry Potter sneak preview. What gives? Is closed the new open, as my friend Seth Goldstein insisted in a recent post, or is it something else?
"Facebook is the first thing I do when I wake up I the morning," noted 25-year-old Moss. The platform keeps her in touch, socially connected, organized, and empowered.
This has some obvious benefits. A recent graduate of the University of Dayton, Moss works for the university as assistant director of annual giving, a job that sees her supervising upwards of 70 students (all of whom use tools like Facebook and MySpace) who in turn solicit donations from Dayton alumni.
While a student, Moss was among the first Facebook users. That her platform activity has sharpened her organizing skills is beyond question -- an insight that mirrors what I'm seeing with my summer intern. She's organized parties, fundraisers, small group discussions, sports events, and more things than I can describe on the platform.
Facebook is Moss's center of gravity, but the Web is her universe. "I use the Web for everything," she insisted, conceding at one point, "I'm not even sure I know how to use a phone book." Interestingly, this even extends to TV. At the moment, she doesn't have a TV, but she watches lots of it on her computer. ABC is her network of choice, not only because it hosts her favorites, "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," but because the Web site makes it really easy to watch shows online. She also touts the TiVo-like elements because it gives everyone a "fair shake to start the TV series from the start."
Not surprisingly, she finds many of Facebook's video element quite promising. She also noted Facebook's ability to translate already accepted benefits like AIM to the new platform. "Getting a feel for everyone's real-time mood is a big deal," she noted. "Being 'in the know' is critical."
Then there's über-blogger (and über-humble, a quality I love) Scoble. He's only been on Facebook a couple months, he conceded, but in an eight-minute video response, delivered via Facebook, to a question I tossed his way, he talked extensively and enthusiastically about the platform's benefits.
What prompted him to finally jump onto the platform was Facebook's decision last year to open the platform beyond college kids and make it really simple for third parties to develop sticky applications, most of which Scoble appears be testing -- with relish, I might add.
Why would a guy who appears to have everything on his personal blog need Facebook?
"It's a powerful replacement for my business card collection. That's powerful because I can now video you, reach out to you, chat with you, review your profile, all at once and in real time. This has become an extended identity system for me."
He also loves the usage model. The site keeps him in the know. "I'm a professional networker. I want to know what's happening in the world faster than anyone else. I want to be part of the conversation. If someone says something, I want to see it first."
While Scoble takes that to the extreme, this "know it first, tell it first" principle is what powers today's consumer content revolution. Moss is feeding that reality as well.
Intrusion and Spam
Neither Moss nor Scoble appear to have much of an appetite for intrusive advertising, and this attitude may be worth reflecting on by advertisers seeking the social media ad sweet spot. Both are influencers, so we don't want to push them into a corner, do we? While both obviously have a certain tolerance for personal clutter, ad clutter is a different story. Scoble, in particular, surprised me by the extent to which he insisted "Facebook has decided to protect me from spam."
At the same time, Moss has little interest in Facebook's controversial attempt to "feed her life...every detail" into the ad-oriented RSS feeds of others. She's turned off that feature and won't turn it back on -- ever, she insists.
Not to suggest ad models can't work. Facebook is certainly making a ton of money on ads in different ways, but users are bringing new expectations to the mix that must be heeded.
Put another way, I certainly wouldn't want Scoble or Moss badmouthing me.
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Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses public policy, interactive marketing, and brand management, is executive vice president of strategic services for Nielsen Online, a combination of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped cofound, and Nielsen//NetRatings. One of Pete's key focuses is helping brands interpret, manage, and act on consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal PlanetFeedback.com, Pete cofounded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He authors several blogs, including ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com, and is the author of an upcoming book from Random House, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."
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