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How Facebook is the New AOL – or, how little has changed in the past 15 years


Back when most households got computers for the first time and signed online, they used one of those discs that came free in the mail – from AOL. “500 hours free!” the discs proclaimed. And so the $19.95/month credit card charge started.

Too Difficult AOL Home Screen

Too Difficult AOL CD









What was the draw of AOL? It was a connection to the internet, but there was enough to keep you occupied within the AOL walls so that you never wanted (or needed) to go out to the real Internet. It had messaging, the ability to check the status of your friends, profiles, games, and searching for people.  The real attraction, though, was the personalization. Little touches like signing in to hear “You’ve Got Mail!” gave you the excited feeling that someone was interested in you or had something to tell you.

Too Difficult Facebook Personalization

Today, Facebook offers a similar experience in many ways. Messaging, statuses, profiles, games, and searching for people. The real attraction of Facebook, though, is the personalization. Signing in to see friend’s responses to your posts gives you the excited feeling that someone is interested in you or had something to tell you.

Interestingly, there is enough within Facebook to keep you occupied so that you venture much less out into the rest of the Internet.  Don’t believe me? Open up your history, and sort your recent sites by name.  Take a look at the Facebook pages you’ve visited, and I’m willing to bet they outweigh any other site you visit, including Google.  Facebook offers pictures, events, instant messaging, and more.

Some features of AOL haven’t quite been incorporated into Facebook – well, not yet. But how it’s used is similar.  Back in the 90’s, you might go out to a party, meet new people, and trade tiny pieces of paper with screen names. You’d get home and have new buddies to add to your “buddy list”.  Today, you get home and respond to “friend requests”.  Is it really that different?

There have been some lessons learned from AOL.   $19.99/month per user was great in the age of dial-up, until users discovered broadband, which AOL never offered. But rather than a monthly fee, the creators of Facebook can give the service away for free – because they are much more interested in data on you.

When you’re on Facebook, did you ever notice that ads appear on the right hand side of the screen, under the bar “Sponsored”?  You might think that you’re seeing ads, and since you’re being marketed to, you’re the potential customer.  But you aren’t – you’re the product. You, and your personal information, are being marketed to someone else.  Your “likes”, your age, your location, your friend’s interests – all are put together to create a picture of what you would potentially be interested in. Too Difficult Facebook Ads

Currently, you use the “Like” button to indicate your interests.  The “Like” button appears on millions of other websites besides Facebook.  But clicking on it does a lot more than you think.

Too Difficult Dunkin Donuts Facebook Promotion

First, clicking the “Like” button places a notice on your wall – “Daniel Hill Likes Dunkin Donuts”.  When others see that, they have the option of “Liking” the same product or service.  When a user “likes” brand or a product, studies show they spend an average of $71.84 more per year on that brand. If a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee costs $1.50 – that’s another 48 cups of coffee per year! To a person who gets one cup every day on their way to work Monday to Friday, that now adds every Saturday. Just like that, revenue increased!

Don’t that that Facebook isn’t tracking your every move, on and off their site.  Using Facebook’s “Open Graph” service, marketers no longer need to rely you clicking  the “Like”  button on other sites.  The Open Graph now provides advertisers with information based on your online purchases. music you’re currently listening to, or what video you’re watching.  The new Timeline features “Sponsored Stories”,  placing a friend’s endorsement on a product or service at the top of your Timeline. The Mocha Latte your friend just purchased sounds pretty good, right? Maybe it’s time to get one too.


By |2011-11-02T19:51:37-04:00October 30th, 2011|Categories: Articles|1 Comment

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