When it comes to web action, getting people to your site is the vital first step. But, as we’ve asked before, what’s next? Sites like Facebook have already gotten past that first part, with people arriving in droves to be a part of this successful new social network. Yesterday, Facebook passed 100 million people on its membership rolls, and it is coming to represent the ideal captive audience online: everyone visits it to check in with friends and then stays for a look around.
As our readers have pointed out in this space, feeling involved is vital when it comes to setting yourself apart from other online tools. The medium of the web still needs to work to get past the feelings of isolation that can spring from a lack of real human interaction. Facebook’s success, then, is easy to interpret. It harnesses the simple concept of using real friends and real relations to grow networks and connect people. But it also uses those same connections as the vehicles for a message.
There are times when these friendly contacts can be overwhelming (As I check my Facebook page now, I find 4 invitations from other people named Alan Smith to join a group based solely on our shared names), but there are other times when they are parlayed into a connection that email blasts or issue based sign ups can not reach. Take a look at this post from TreeHugger.com about six Facebook applications that are being used for tangible results in the environmental field. By using the strong connections already established on Facebook, these programs seem like a more palatable (if much smaller) version of the “My Barack Obama” site, which allows you to be the person contacting your like-minded peers on the candidate’s behalf.
Clearly, Facebook has an advantage in that it is designed purely as a site to maximize these connections. But it also begins to answer the question of what to do with the audience that you have managed to create online. As the six applications listed in that article show, a large audience can be harnessed to pitch a message for you, and can even look within its self to raise awareness (and cash). And peer to peer negotiations can make the crowd both the actors and the acted upon.