Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How I Lost Face on

In an attempt to stay relevant in this shifting digital age, a growing number of large media concerns are pushing employees--especially their reporters and commentators--to open accounts and post individual profiles.
Since I'll occasionally run with the pack, I also became a Facebook member--posting my name, photo and tidbits about my background. However, my time on the social network site was short-lived, lasting a few hours.
Why the fast exit? Well, when our teenager found out that dear old dad was on Facebook, he said it was "kind of creepy"--sort of like the 40-something man who thinks its cool to wear a turned-around baseball cap. And you know what? I agree with him.
Apparently, we're not the only family that thinks it's uncomfortable for Ma or Pa to share space on Facebook. This week, an industry colleague mentioned that her daughter would not sign up as a "friend" on Mom's Facebook site, because it would be embarrassing.
I grant you that this feedback is not sophisticated market research, but it sure has the ring of truth.
Mainstream media executives--and other corporate honchos--may not realize it yet but there's a significant Internet generation gap -- especially when it comes to those youth-oriented social networks such as Facebook.
Young people use these sites to connect with friends, or make new friends, and resent it when their outlets are used for ham-handed marketing efforts. They see past these missives and don't want the elders hanging out with them.
Now let me be clear: I'm not talking about giving teenagers complete and total free range on Facebook or anywhere else. I'm a big believer in parental oversight. Nor am I suggesting that any adult who uses a social network site is up to no good or is a weirdo.
In addition, I realize Facebook's emerging role in times of crisis, such as in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Northern Illinois University, when parents tapped into the network to quickly connect with NIU students and loved ones.
My comments are strictly about business strategy.
Mainstream media types, such as me, risk looking like posers by being on Facebook. Remember, this site was started by college students for college students. It's done pretty well without us and I'm not certain we middle-agers should be crashing the party.
Moreover, I'd wonder if Facebook isn't concerned about the flood of professional types and established companies entering its space. While the prevailing wisdom of the Internet is the "more the merrier", having too many establishment players could easily drain the cool factor and remake Facebook into a watered-down, non-descript Web utility such as AOL.
To me, social networks are among the most dynamic concepts the Internet era has to offer. There's a bunch of them. Some have more users and clicks than others, but the good ones have a core mission. They aren't one size-fits-all. Not yet, at least.
From now on, I'll pick my networking spots more carefully.
I don't need Facebook. And it certainly doesn't need me.


ron.culp said...

I had the same experience when my sons found out that I was on Facebook. One eventually "accepted" me as a "friend," but the other refused--although his girlfriend is on my friends list. Question: Now that I finally have some friends, what do I do with it? I have found LinkedIn to be a far better way to stay in touch with my personal, middle-aged network.

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