by Nathan S
Facebook recently launched a new functionality to their social network as part of a recent string of updates. This new feature, a means of following users’ public profiles without needing to befriend them, has some raising their eyebrows. Has Facebook traded innovation for scraping ideas off other networks? Is this a direct response to Google+? Or is it all just a coincidence? These questions aside, what are the new changes and what do they mean for your business?
The reason for this speculation is that this “new” feature seems to be very similar to Twitter’s “Follow” feature. In Twitter, following an account is the primary way in which a user keeps up-to-date with the content that they want. There is no friending necessary to follow someone: anybody can follow anybody. The closest thing to this on Facebook, until recently, was “liking” a page. Likes and friends were thought of as complementary ideas: No account could be both “liked” and “friended.” This new feature, however, allows anyone to receive updates from anyone else’s public profile. This feature thus allows you to effectively “like” a person’s public posts without needing the mutual approval of a friendship. This sounds a lot like Twitter to me.
One useful business application I can conceive for this new feature is actually pretty simple. “Liking” a page typically causes it to show up in a user’s page. It is possible that this new “follow” feature might be used by some who may want to keep up-to-date on a company without necessarily giving their endorsement. This means reaching a wider base of potential consumers with your company’s Facebook page. The new follower feature, therefore, could allow you to reach just a little bit further than you have in the past.
Is the similarity between this new feature and Twitter necessarily an indication that Facebook is no longer innovating in its industry? I doubt it. Development of new ideas, after all, is primarily a conversation. That Facebook adopted this feature speaks positively of Twitter, for sure, but I don’t think it’s an indication of any “slipping” on the part of Facebook. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!