How Transparency Helped Facebook Win

December 9, 2009Sparxoo


By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

In June 2008, China was still grappling with transparency in reporting from the earthquake in May, the SEC was deciding how to demystify credit default swaps, Barack Obama was on the campaign trail and more than willing to divulge details about campaign contributions, and there was public outcry for government to support, then regulate the sinking real estate market.  We were exiting an era of shady back-door dealings that led to the global recession. On a social, economic and political scale, transparency was in a high public demand.

Social media was also a part of this transparency trend. In June 2008, Facebook surpassed MySpace in total number of unique monthly users — 59.7 to 59.5 million users. How did Facebook ride this transparency trend to surpass its social networking rival, MySpace? Let’s take a look at each social networking site and the key elements that speak to transparency:

Users — Facebook’s framework is based on real people. When Facebook first launched in February 2004, only users with a .edu account could join. This meant only students with a verified college e-mail account could be apart of the Facebook community whereas MySpace allowed anybody and everybody to join, use a pseudonym and maintain multiple accounts.

User Profiles — Facebook was not the place to be overly creative. User profiles were not customizable, whereas MySpace allowed for HTML and CSS so users could let their creative spirit soar. Flashy pink, neon green layouts were juxtaposed with dim, gray profiles. There was absolutely no consistency on MySpace while Facebook had a coherent flow from one page to the next.

Advertising — In June 2008, MySpace had enormous, flashy banner ads that spoke to traditional digital advertising — yell as loud as you can to compete for users’ attention. Meanwhile, Facebook had subtle advertising in the right sidebar. Nothing flashy or in-your-face about it, just a picture and a couple lines of text. It was a blend of Google Ad Words simplicity and visual appeal of banner ads.

Design — When users landed on, there might be a dozen links build into a simple design (with a blue and white color palette). Compared to, was Las Vegas — flashy banner ads, a dizzying array of links and videos and several feature sections. The design spoke to the intentions of each social network. While Facebook wanted to you sign-up and be a part of the community, MySpace wanted to sell you something.

As we continue to seek transparency in our lives, more and more consumers will seek simplicity, truth and community-focus in their social media. The competition between MySpace and Facebook illustrates this growing need. As we move towards the future, those web services that help us uncover the truth and focus on the real deal will have an advantage over their competition. If we can take key lessons from Facebook, they are keeping a consistent voice, demonstrating humanity, keeping it simple and focusing on the human network.

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