Have you been thinking about how the dramatic rise of Facebook — and most recently, Facebook’s move to open the platform to other developers — affects your organization or your work? Then mosey on over to the discussion that’s currently unfolding on the Facebook Developers Group (sorry, folks, that’s a Facebook internal page — yet another reason to join Facebook now).
There’s a lively debate about whether Facebook is a developer’s worst nightmare (because Facebook or Facebook developers will scoop whatever you come up with elsewhere) or dream scenario (because Facebook can extend your community and provide a route to viral growth). The same possibilities should concern anyone undertaking a social networking or social media project; after all, why invest in an online community if Facebook is going to knock you out of the game?
That’s the half-empty way of looking at Facebook. For people seeking to build online communities — particularly in the non-profit sector, where resources are limited — the half-full perspective sees it as a low-cost-to-free way of rapidly connecting with a far larger audience than you could readily bring to an external site. That’s why we’ve been encouraging clients, colleagues and friends to consider how Facebook can complement or enhance their own social networks or online communities.
And — as the developer debate suggests — there is a potential risk to ignoring the Facebook phenomenon. Facebook is here, and as a relatively low-barrier development environment, is going to offer an ever-expanding range of features to your supporters, friends or customers. Offer those features yourself, and it can strengthen rather than compete with your community efforts.