Facebook is to social networking what Google is to search

According to the Wall Street Journal, “On Thursday, the Palo Alto, Calif., company will announce a new strategy to let other companies provide their services on special pages within its popular Web site. These companies will be able to link into Facebook users’ networks of online friends, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Last year, I joked Facebook’s worst decision ever was to allow me to join. My point, in addition to being a stab at humor, related to the resentment it would cause among their core audience when parents started showing up. However, I was wrong. I don’t think many parents (other than those who strive to understand social media, or who are weird) showed up. However, lots of marketing types did, and they want to do more than purchase banner ads.

I’ve noticed that many savvy marketers haven’t waited for Facebook’s announcement this week. For example, the “Southwest Airlines” group has almost 28,000 members. I assume that the linked-to Southwest page will be one of those “special pages” that Facebook demonstrates on Thursday.

It doesn’t take much leaping of logic to realize that Facebook is a “marketing platform” for brands marketing to high school and college students. While today, that network is silo’d in Facebook, today’s announcement indicates that, for example, the Facebook group of Southwest Airlines customers could also have such relationships follow them over to Southwest.com.

As Facebook users already collect themselves into groups according to schools attended, cities lived in, and causes supported, bands followed, shows watched, why should they not be tribe-ing up around products purchased or any of those other tribal groups we form. Markets are conversations, you know. Markets are also tribes.

While there is a dash by many developers to offer “white label” social networking platforms that groups can use to create their own, in some cases, silo’d “Facebook for one-armed wall-paper hangers,” what a lot of Facebook users will want to do is travel around with their Facebook identity, rather than replicate it.

Later: I just noticed that the WSJ story lit up Techmeme. However, reading a few of the posts convinces me that nobody knows what this announcement is about — especially me. The speculations range from it becoming more “portal-like” to it becoming an anti-portal; from it being a “Facebook API,” to it being a “Facebook Reverse API.” I think, however, there is a growing group of people in the cheap-seats who believe Facebook will remain more interesting if it stays independent of the Google/Microsoft/Yahoo/global media company empires.

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