Let’s talk about developer platforms for just a moment. They seem to be all the rage these days.
To put it in simple terms, a developer platform is an environment in which software can be developed and deployed. Platform examples include:
- Microsoft Windows
- Microsoft Web Platform
- Google Android
- Mac OS X
While the above list is not exactly comprehensive, it contains some of the big ones developers around the globe are building applications for right now. And if you’re reading this blog post, you’re almost certainly viewing it on an application that lives on one of these platforms.
Here’s the same list of platforms, but with examples of applications that were developed for it.
- Microsoft Windows (Outlook, Microsoft Word, or any Windows program)
- Microsoft Web Platform (web applications like our very own webcontrolcenter.com, or popular dynamic websites like stackoverflow.com)
- Google Android (any Android phone app)
- iOS (any iPhone app)
- Mac OS X (Safari, GarageBand, or any Mac app)
- LAMP (popular web applications like WordPress and Joomla!)
- Facebook (apps, website integration)
What’s Facebook doing on there?
Unless you’re a developer or perhaps a follower of the tech world, you may not have realized that Facebook is anything other than a social-media website. While it is still that, it’s actually much more, and it’s something all business owners should start paying attention to. You could even stop thinking of Facebook as a website altogether and start thinking of it as a platform, with facebook.com simply being the marquee application that lives on it.
A Brief History
Five years ago, as the boom days of the mid-2000s began to wind down, Facebook reached a modest achievement. The budding social-media website attracted more than 12 million users as of December 2006. In contrast, the undisputed champion of new media at the time, MySpace, acquired 100 million users earlier that year.
Boy, how things have changed. Fast forward to today and we all know how that story played out. MySpace is now effectively dead, and Facebook has more than 750 million active users worldwide.
So what happened?
Well, a lot did, but let’s focus on one of the factors specifically—the one glaring difference that did more to separate the two brands than any other: the Facebook platform.
In 2007, Facebook did something significant. The company opened up its platform to third-party software developers and supplied them with a set of tools that would allow anyone to build applications for the platform. In the years to follow, the platform expanded to support integration across the web and personal computing devices. MySpace, on the other hand, was late to the platform party, and lacked the vision, technology chops, and talent to compete with Facebook.
How the Facebook Platform Is Changing the Social Web and the Fundamental Way Business Owners Engage With Their Customers
To understate it, the Facebook footprint is immense. Been on the CNN website lately? Now you can see which of your Facebook friends shared any articles. Listen to music on Spotify? The only way to sign up for an account is with your Facebook credentials. More and more services are leveraging the Facebook platform every day. With a user base nearing a billion people, it’s no wonder why business owners want to leverage it.
Here’s what your business can do to leverage it, too:
Can people “like” any of your products, services, or pieces of content on your site? Can people log into your blog with their Facebook credentials and leave comments? Facebook provides the tools that enable developers to easily integrate these experiences into existing websites.
Facebook can be more than just catching up with your friends, and business owners are starting to realize this. Bigger brands like JetBlue Airways and Starbucks already have custom applications on Facebook so they can engage more deeply with their customers.
But you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 company to get your own app. Small-business owners can find free or low-cost apps to incorporate into their pages. If a you run a blog for your business, why not use a Facebook app to stream your RSS feed? If you sell merchandise, how about using an app that lets you manage a viral deal (like Groupon)?
Privacy issues aside, Facebook has become the king of collecting personal data from its users. Every time you “like” something or update your profile, you’re giving Facebook extremely valuable data that it can use to better advertise to you. In a sense, the entire Facebook platform exists so that Facebook can become a better advertiser. The more Facebook knows about its users, the better it can target ads. Such precision marketing could bring you more bang for your buck, which is especially good if you don’t have a monster ad budget.
If you’re a small-business owner, step No. 1 is to think out of the box, and think about how you can use the Facebook platform to help your business grow. Step No. 2 is to call your developer and discuss the ways you can leverage the platform.
So, how are you using Facebook to help your business grow? Let us know in your comments below.