Social networking behemoth Facebook is making an effort to become the epicenter of social media interconnectivity. The New York Times reports that popular news aggregator Digg and video streaming hub Hulu, among others, will add the Connect feature to their Web sites.
Kyung Han, a managing partner of New York-based EmPower Research, said Connect could have beneficial implications for small and midsize business owners. "It allows people to not only opt in, but control what data they do want to have published," Han said. "That's a huge issue, because with all the issues today over privacy, SMB owners have to be very careful with the level of data they want published."
Han said Connect certainly sounds better than Beacon, Facebook's much-maligned advertisement system that sent data from external Web sites to Facebook. "It's all about the partner network and what level of data details participants are going to allow people to choose," Han said.
Facebook first announced Connect on the company blog in May. Facebook Connect allows users to, well, "connect" their Facebook identity and friends to other Web sites. Sites currently employing the Facebook Connect application include CBS.com and CollegeHumor.com. The Times report stated that other high-profile participants will include the Discovery Channel and the San Francisco Chronicle.
For SMB owners, Han said there are a few key developments to keep abreast of. "It comes down to levels of control and what companies have signed up," he said. "How will data privacy laws sink in apart from the privacy laws in Facebook Connect?" Another question is how SMBs can harvest and utilize data about potential clients.
"If one of our clients is a financial services company and I knew they were doing a lot of investigation in targeting college students, to speak to CollegeHumor.com, for example, then that level of information helps me to target a better research offering," he said.
Hun said Connect has the potential to help SMBs get a better sense of what offerings to target. Then, SMBs can go beyond positioning the best offering for the client. "What's going to be really important for an SMB owner is what partners Connect has already hooked up and if that is relevant for an SMB," he said. "What Facebook needs to do is publish and present what they've signed up already-that is important to SMB owners."
In the long run, Facebook's potential to transform itself from a popular, consumer-driven social networking powerhouse into the standard for the business community is still an unknown, according to Han. "Is Facebook the new social media platform for business owners?" he asked. "That's going to be quite a challenge for them."
An event like an acquisition or partnership with a company oriented toward corporate communications could put an already well-entrenched social networking platform further in the lead, Han said. "If Facebook wants to be the preeminent name in B2B [business-to-business], it doesn't have to acquire something like LinkedIn, it just has to be along the lines of a much more integrated partnership, like a partnership with IBM to build the next great social networking platform for business-to-business," he said. "Something along those lines would be a game-changer."