Facebook Spawns New Industry, Digg Killer

    July 16, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

This is the season for Facebook. It used to be that you couldn’t scan Web news without seeing a new Google report. Then it was MySpace, then Digg. Since Facebook opened up to the general public and to developers, it’s all anybody wants to talk about.

Besides the usual buzz about whether Facebook will supplant MySpace, or even email – only the old folks use email anymore, apparently – the past coming back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg from Harvard, and the obligatory acquisition rumors (the latest say Facebook is worth more than Dow Jones), the most interesting Facebook development is that marketers are beginning to optimize for the social network via news feeds.

And thus we really start to see the true genius of opening up Facebook.

Justin Smith at InsideFacebook.com posted a lengthy exploration of what he’s calling News Feed Optimization (NFO) and News Feed Marketing (NFM). Like search engine marketing (SEM), Smith notes that NFM is pretty straight forward, as Facebook places a feed where it’s relevant.

But NFO depends on a number of factors, but mostly it involves creating compelling news feed content that a Facebook user will want to subscribe to.

"Ultimately," writes Smith, "gaming the News Feed is going to be harder than gaming Google’s PageRank algorithm because of the personalized nature of Feed item selection. Because so many components of FeedRank depend on individual user behavior, there is only so much you can do as an application developer to boost your Feed item’s score across the board aside from designing rich, engaging Feed items that convert well."

Coincidentally, Robert Scoble raved yesterday about an application developed by Mario Romero. Romero’s application plugs Google Reader into Facebook, an idea so well-applied that Scoble uses the standard (and dreaded) Web-hype lingo "killer," as in "Digg killer."

The application allows users to view "shared items" from people only on Facebook. Shared items can be viewed on a timeline – past 12 or 24 hours or longer – and shows how many times each item was shared.

"This is the beginning of something really killer," said Scoble. "It’s something I wanted Google to do — Google could put out a Digg-style killer that’d be a lot harder to game. Admittedly this isn’t to the level of a Digg killer yet, but it is gathering steam at a very rapid pace. There’s a lot of smart people using Google Reader — Eric Auchard at Reuters is on the list, for instance. That’ll lead to a lot better news than Digg picks on an average day."