Facebook, Twitter and their spawn are about to change how the world does business. Don't believe it? Get a load of how far things have already gone.
In the beginning was the Web. And the Web was information--all the world’s knowledge, linked together in html code. That was disruptive, and it was good. Well, more than good. Pretty awesome, actually.
But the Web continues to evolve, with crucial help from people like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. The Information Web--the one that shut down newspapers, wiped out travel agencies and electronics resellers, and overthrew Arab dictators--is turning into the Social Web. The former was about knowledge, the latter is about...well, actually, you! It's all about you, and everything about you that the Web and Big Data analytics can gather and process. The end result is a scarily true-to-life online portrait that businesses can use to target messages to you, and--equally important--that you can trade on to get what you want. It's going to be powerful stuff, and the foundation is even now being laid.
That was the message of a particularly mind-expanding session at the Inc. 500 conference earlier this month, led by Inc.com columnist, entrepreneur and Flashpoint Academy CEO Howard Tullman. Tullman’s thesis is that the era of what he calls “hyper-personalization” online will transform advertising (yet again), retail (ditto), corporate power (it’s a Facebook world), notions of privacy and even the use of data. “Personal data is the oil of the digital age,” to quote Tullman.
Tullman will cover the implication of the social Web in his own Inc.com columns to come, but let’s start now with a key point that every business owner should know: There's not a ton of time to get ready. The process is already much further along than you probably realize. Indeed, the most common reaction to Tullman’s session at the Inc. 500 was “Holy ….! I had no idea.”
Take a look at these eight numbers, which are symptomatic of the impact that social media--facebook in particular--are already having on your world:
The number of searches on Google every single day. For a little perspective, there are about 7 billion people in the world. And remember: Each of these searches generates data that can be used to flesh out the growing picture of who you are, what you like, what you are about to do, whether you know it or not.
That’s how many new users began coming per week to two video sharing sites, Viddy and Social Cam, after April 24, when Facebook began highlighting them in its news feed. The point is that Facebook is the kingmaker of the social Web, a role that seems all but inevitable when you realize that people spend more time on Facebook than on YouTube, Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo combined.
12 to 18
The number of months it takes for the amount of online sharing to double, according to Mark Zuckerberg. Remember Moore's Law? Sharing content is on the same exponential growth curve as processing power when Moore made his famous prediction.
The number of new retailers per week that join Payvment, a social commerce site that allows users to set up stores on Facebook. This week Facebook launched Facebook Gifts, which allows Facebook users to send their friends real gifts over Facebook (publicly or privately). “F-commerce” is the term Tullman prefers. You may want to get used to it.
Share of all ads now served online that appear on Facebook.
Facebook is not the only king- (or queen-) maker on the social web. 3.3 million is the number of Tyra Banks’ twitter followers--and a key reason that her forgettable book Modelland was number one on Barnes & Noble and number two on Amazon its first week on the market.
The amount of video uploaded every minute to YouTube. That's one reason video is the new medium of communication on the social web.
The number of virtual farmers on Farmville. Just for reference: There are 1.3 million real farmers in the U.S.
On the social web, marketers no longer need content to approximate who a given audience is, because everyone who wants to reach you will know exactly who you are, exactly where you are and what you're likely to do at any given moment. Who you are will determine not just what marketing messages you see, but also what price you pay for things, compared to others with a different profile or reputation. Maintaining your social status and reputation on the social web will be as important as maintaining your personal appearance--and that's just the beginning of changes already under way.
ERIC SCHURENBERG is the editor-in-chief of Inc. Before joining Inc, Eric was the editor of CBS MoneyWatch.com and BNET.com and managing editor of Money Magazine. As a writer, he is a winner of a Loeb and a National Magazine Award. @EricSchurenberg