Saturday, May 22, 2010

Could an Oprah-like effect influence Facebook?

My post from last Saturday, Should Facebook Go Freemium?, is an obviously play on words on Jake Kuramoto's preceding post, Facebook Should Go Freemium. In the conversation that ensued regarding my post, I ended up repeating something that Jake said in his original post. This is what he said. This is what Jake Kuramoto said.

Facebook is too mainstream now for it to matter that Leo Laporte deleted his account, and Jason Calacanis threatened to do so. If Lady Gaga quit, that might make a ripple.

So why do so many people care what Lady Gaga does or does not do with Facebook, or what Oprah or Ashton do or do not do with Twitter?

The secret is in how we refer to them.

Even when writing to a tech audience, Jake and I understand that there may be some confusion if we were to simply refer to "Leo" or "Jason." Now perhaps Jake could refer to "Larry" in his blog and the majority of his readers would know who he was talking about. But in most cases, you can't refer to a tech superhero, even someone as big as the chairman of Apple, by his or her first name.

But Oprah, Ashton, Gaga - that's a different story. We have emotional connections with these people. Their acting or singing or talking has entertained us. Now I'll admit that the three examples that I gave have unusually distinctive names, but there are celebrities with much more common names - Arnold comes to mind - and we still know who is being discussed.

Now I happen to find Leo entertaining, and if I'm driving around on the weekend I'll tune him in if there isn't a game going on. But Leo, for all his entertainment value, is only entertaining to a very small segment of the audience. Don't believe me? Take a look at this YouTube video, which has had over 600,000 views.

Now take a look at this video, by some woman named Britney, that has been viewed by 100 times as many people - over 60 million views.

Or use Facebook itself to compare the two. Leo Laporte is liked by almost 200 people. Britney Spears is liked by almost 3 million.

So who is the average Facebook user going to listen to?

And if Leo Laporte were a better dancer, would more people listen to him? Nah....

(insert brief pause here)

Of course, this all begs the question of how a true celebrity would use Facebook, so I checked the official Facebook page for the Oprah Winfrey show.

Now Winfrey has been known to address specific topics, and to mobilize her mass audience in support of certain causes. In fact, at the time that I visited the show page, there was a special tab devoted to National No Phone Zone Day on April 30 - an attempt to end distracted driving by people using cellphones in cars.

But what does Oprah say about Facebook and privacy?

Not a peep.

(The privacy policy is here, by the way.)
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