Facebook has recently launched an integrated instant messaging platform that allows its members to chat online with their friends. When you log in to your account a neat little status bar pops up at the base of your Facebook profile page showing you who’s online. Could this mean the end of MSN? Not likely, but it will certainly change the dynamic of how Facebook users interact.
If the community embraces the new feature, which I’m sure it will, there is no doubt it will greatly increase the stickiness of Facebook. God knows it wasn’t sticky enough to begin with! So now all the hard core “Facebookites” are going to be lurking, connecting and chatting. They’ll have to spend more time engaging in real-time conversations. People who you recklessly added to your network will be knocking on your digital door for little chat. It could get a bit scary, especially if these people are not on the top of your favorites list.
I recently polled my 15 year old son on the size of his Facebook network. He has over 400 friends from which he claims over 200 are close enough to have a conversation. His MSN account only has 60-70. Facebook has expanded his real-time social circle by over 500%. Until now his Facebook social circle was more a series of ripples that faded as you move further out from the epicenter. 50% of his friends were added simply for the purpose of lurking or learning. Now these fringe friends are a key stroke away from live interaction. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Whether the change expands the social fabric or initiate a contraction as fringe friends are removed or blocked.
At this point Zuckerburg (the Facebook brain child) has the chat tool tied directly to a personal profile in order to ensure user privacy. I wonder what Facebook has planned for the Fan pages. Imagine if a Fan was able to initiate a real-time conversation with an advertiser. It could be a tough one to manage, but it would be incredibly powerful if the advertiser was available to all their Fans in real-time.
The blog post launching the Facebook chat tool suggests there will be a number of other features add to the component. I’m sure they will increase social lubrication enabling the community to communicate faster and more frequently.