On business and Facebook – Facebook F8

I made it to the Facebook Developer Conference (F8) on the way back from London

As I boarded the massive Airbus 380 (the largest commercial passenger jet) en route from WordCamp London to the Facebook Developer Conference, I was giddy with excitement. This was an event of opportunity and recreation. An event that I was attending as a fanboy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Of course, there was plenty to learn from the conference, but it’s probably not something I would have gone out of my way to attend.

F8 was a big ol’ party

Like many of the other big developer conferences (Microsoft, Apple, etc), Facebook’s annual conference was all glitz, glamour, and polish. As I reached the registration area during an ordinary cloudy spring day in San Francisco, I was met with smiles, bright branding, and folks (attendees, Facebook staff, and news media alike) milling around, grabbing breakfast and waiting with anticipation for the keynote.

As the doors to the keynote hall opened, geeks from all over the world flooded the room. It was a bit like a stampede of geeks. It was entertaining. And a little weird. The days were filled with conversations with Facebook product owners, informational sessions, and of course, a big ol’ party featuring Chvrches on the first night. Everything was rehearsed (even the small sessions) and unfortunately some sessions were ‘oversold’.

If you’re expecting a deep analysis of the new features and big announcements that were launched at F8, there are many that have analyzed and aggregated that information.

From a business-person’s perspective, here are some high-level takeaways.

Facebook is still an experiment

It’s fascinating to watch a company with a great deal of talent, money, and good ideas throw things against the wall. Facebook’s innovation in the social space is notable and significant. The mass management of online social relationships is moving from the infant to toddler stage. Businesses and individuals should keep that in mind as any company (Snapchat, Twitter, etc) asks for trust, money, and influence. That’s not to say social enterprises shouldn’t be trusted, just be aware of who they are, what they stand for, and their political agenda. They’ll likely have one.

Separate business from pleasure

There are two large categories of Facebook presences. Business (institutional, clubs, businesses, etc) and personal. Remember that the two types of presences rarely have the same objective and often don’t have the same intended audience. Take care to match audience and objective with your social strategy.

[Tweet “Take care to match audience and objective with your social strategy.”]

A business Facebook Group, Page, or Profile is a tool not a presence

Facebook continues to attempt to influence and host more of the business conversation (with Messenger, ads, Live video, etc). There’s a difference between conversation and conversion. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, Snapchat, Instagram are all conversation or content discovery engines. Your web property is the conversion engine. You control the funnel, messaging, layout, and experience. Rely on conversation and content discovery engines for referral traffic, and remember that hosted web has existed almost as long as the web itself, and discovery engines have come and gone, changed, and innovated. Be prepared to change course with inputs, and optimize your sales funnel to accommodate the new kinds of traffic that evolving social platforms will refer. In most cases, Facebook and other platforms augment, they don’t replace the hosted web.

[Tweet “There’s a difference between conversation and conversion.”]

There ya have it… My take on Facebook F8 and evolving discovery and communication platforms.

Will I go back to Facebook Developer Conference next year? Maybe if I’m in the area. I’d like to see behind the curtains, have some quality time with engineers, have mini industry or interest meetups (birds of a feather sessions) at the event, and not be standing outside an oversold session. After all, all the session videos have been posted, anyway.

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