I read that Facebook was one of three Internet marvels that have redefined the way we live. I thought it was an odd nomination; while it’s fun and frisky, it certainly hasn’t changed my life -- not like Google has. Facebook is greatly entertaining, and, overall, a refreshing 20 minutes breather from life. That’s it.
My normal FB routine: Log in, skim over updates, cast a dubious eye on friend requests, ignore notifications, and log off to proceed to live life in real time. But I’m increasingly coming to the realization that this is dilettante behavior, the pros operate on another level.
The pros are FB natives – they’ve done everything short of make a loo online. They’re constantly at it - changing profile pictures, stressing over status, posting every holiday photo, high five-ing a few pals, starting clubs, posting links, commenting on posts, sending cows…all of it with such dizzying speed that you get exhausted just reading their updates. They live on Facebook with such zeal that it sometimes makes you wonder if they think while clicking a holiday photograph – ‘My god, this is going to look amazing on my Facebook!’ What’s really interesting is that through this ceaseless online activity they’ve succeeded in creating a power packed virtual persona with a very ‘buzzing’ life. This persona is more intelligent, popular, better looking, better read, wittier, cooler and with a heightened social consciousness than it’s real life avatar.
Make no mistake, this is not Second Life. This is very much real life, only a shade better. Real life with its pedestrianness simply does not throw up an opportunity to share and project a more interesting, fuller and rounded existence. But a virtual life does- through posting of your kaykaying trip in the Andamans, supporting Obama, agreeing to Go Green, reading Orhan Pamuk, stating a point of view or simply gifting a single malt- and voila! you end up looking like the person you want to be- the person you want others to see. And that is the magic of Facebook – the ability to allow one to project a distinct self identity- almost a self brand.
For us, however, our canvas for projection is our home page. It’s almost a personal ad that we hope will build our own brand and like any good ad – it follows the tenets of advertising.
An Attention Grabbing Headline: The FB equivalent of a headline is the Status Update. This is crafted daily with diligence, designed to impress, stun and astonish. The pressure to update between native Facebookers, I’m told, is unbearable- with each day bringing new pressure. The new Facebook has even been revamped to make these central to the experience – it’s right there on top of the page mocking you the minute you log in!
Status updates will thus never be of the variety- Preeti is…. Leaving for home. But they may be of the variety. Preeti is …pondering on Proust.
Some others that succeed in their objective are:
Tina has………tamed the tsunami.
Kartik is………perched at tipping point.
A Stunning Visual: The visual in an ad celebrates the product in its best possible light. And that’s exactly what profile pictures do – interestingly shot profiles, in exceedingly unusual locations, flattering light settings and in poses that would make you think Madonna is playing in their heads, encouraging them to ‘ Strike a Pose’!
Flattering Body Copy: This usually does the job of highlighting product features in a flyer. The FB equivalent is the bottom half of the home page which is a wealth of information, starting from the books read, movies watched, gifts sent, or received, groups joined, causes espoused.
And last, of course is The Call to Action of which there is no dearth on your home-page. Call, message, post, comment, review, throw a pig – if your ad is good enough the consumer has been given multiple touch points to buy. So we have the perfect recipe for the mind blowing ad, which of course comes with * conditions apply – the product on display may look, feel and be different than the real thing – Caveat Emptor! Now I know what they mean when they say FB has changed the way we live – hell! It’s probably even changed who we are!
(Sharan Saikumar was, till recently, planner at TBWA India. She currently consults on advertising and marketing and can be contacted at email@example.com.)