I Finally Realized the Value of Facebook

A platform where you can tell people what you’re doing at any second of the day? You can share pictures of cool things you did? You can like some people’s stuff and choose not to like other people’s stuff? Sounds like a real life digital version of the “High School Never Ends” Bowling for Soup track.

I, like many people, have often thought of Facebook as more or less a popularity contest and serious personal time killer (that I have been guilty of using since 2007). Sure it can be a way to keep in touch with old friends, but then I have that thought “uhh there is a reason I lost touch with people in the first place”.

Now it’s not hard to observe that Facebook is really a marketing tool disguised as a social network, and it does a great job of that.

This marketing tool allows companies to reach a global yet targeted audience at an affordable price. Previously, I have thought, “wow, great, now Buzzfeed can spoon-feed me more time wasting lists like “18 Pugs Who Mean Business”” (this was the top article I just found on Buzzfeed).

Randomly a thought popped into my head, a thought on how Facebook actually adds value to the world.

One of the ways Facebook produces value is in its ability to spur product innovation. Given that innovation spurs continued innovation (example: if we never had cars that run on fossil fuel, we would never have electric cars that came later) this is a great way for us to progress as a society.

Second, Facebook acts as one of the top launch platforms for social good. Given Facebook’s huge audience initiatives like ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge”, which raised awareness for ALS would never have been possible without Facebook’s ability to spread some ideas like wildfire.

A little more detail on those two points:

Launch platform for social good: Before if you had an idea; take for example a movement that aims to upstart political reform in a 3rd world country, or a charity that provides clean drinking water to the citizens of Burundi it would more than likely just be an idea. It would be difficult to find the mediums that would get the idea off the ground. Now all you need is a strong message, a landing page, and a few dollars to spend on targeted ads that would reach your ideal audience. Without Facebook fewer people would be able to contribute to those organizations and thus the extent to which these organizations effect change would be limited.

Innovation that spurs innovation: If you have an idea for a startup. An idea that can revolutionize an industry, say the next Uber or Airbnb, you could test that idea (see ‘validate’) and determine if it is really a problem worth solving using the same concepts listed previously, a message, a landing page, and a few advertising dollars. This allows ideas to come to market faster, people waste less time working on ideas that will amount to nothing, and it breeds more innovation. When a new idea comes out that is revolutionary, sooner or later it will be overtaken by a new idea that can replace it or be a complement to it. Without Facebook this innovation cycle would occur at a much slower pace.

For this I say thank you Facebook for letting “The Jetsons” become a reality sooner than we otherwise could have hoped. Oh and thanks for the pug photos :).