Facebook yesterday announced that it has launched Facebook Mobile. Facebook Mobile will allow users to surf Facebook, upload notes and photos, send and receive Facebook messages, wall posts and pokes using text messages, update their status, and search profiles.
Last summer when Facebook launched its News Feed service, it faced a user rebellion . Through the use of a constantly updated listing, the News Feed instantaneously alerted users to changes “friends” made on their pages. Suddenly it was clear just what information was private and just what was public. Gone were the days when you could quietly note a breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend knowing that most of your friends won’t look at your status for some time, but that particular new friend who looks will see you’re available. Now, the moment you change your status, “Sally is no longer in a relationship with Tommy” hits your friends’ screens. Facebook allowed users to opt out by item, the rebels calmed down, and now I would guess that while still finding it a bit creepy, most users like the News Feed feature. Now you can get the News Feed on your cell phone.
The announcement doesn’t specifically mention the News Feed by phone, but if you can see your page you can see the feed. How about a feature with which you can choose what kind of status updates you have texted to your phone? You could conceivably break up with your boyfriend at his dorm and text the change in status to your Facebook account as you walk out the door. Meanwhile, “that guy” from your philosophy class receives a text message with your status change as he leaves the dining hall and diverts to your dorm. You meet along the way and before you even make it home your love life has been re-charged!
Facebook has some big competitors in this space, starting with MySpace. In the offline world, however, Facebook is at least partly competing in a market known as social expression. Hallmark and American Greetings are the most well known players in that market and I wonder if they see Facebook and MySpace as competitors. Why send a birthday card when you can post “Happy Birthday!” on your friend’s wall? And now it gets sent to his phone so you know he’ll get it right away. A “Congratulations!” card? A post is much more immediate plus it has the side effect of notifying everyone else that your friend did something special. That’s social expression! American Greetings has at least some understanding of the nature of the battle as evidenced by its AG Interactive division.
Card companies generally watch consumers mature into their prime demographic and become card buyers. It’s not clear, however, that today’s crop of young adults will ever become card buyers. The market is social expression, not cards, and there are just too many other ways to express yourself.