That momentous assessment comes from Michael Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media, who gave a keynote address at Web 2.0 Expo, a UBM TechWeb/O'Reilly Media event in New York. You can see the video yourself, but here are the highlights.
Buddy Media is one of New York's most successful tech startups, having grown to more than 200 employees over the past four years. The company earns its keep helping brands big and small figure out the rules of social media and execute campaigns. Buddy Media also works with Twitter and LinkedIn, but it started with Facebook, and Lazerow drove home some of the reasons Facebook is such a big deal:
-- Facebook now has 850 million users.
-- Half of those users log on every day, giving the service a bigger audience than the Super Bowl.
-- The photo sharing service Flickr just recently passed 1 million images uploaded, but Facebook users post that number of photos every four days.
-- The audience on Facebook is now bigger than the total population of the Internet in 2004, the year the company was founded.
The size of that audience and the nature of the medium are rewriting the rules of marketing to focus on engagement of consumers, rather than just serving ad impressions to them, Lazerow said. "Profits are now tied to how you connect," and the greatest success will go to the organizations that not only build their networks but share with them and create content the people in those networks want to share, he said. "Companies that let their connections die will also die--that's how important this is."
[ Businesses also can benefit from Twitter. Check out 10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter. ]
Among the success stories he cited was PretzelCrisps, the snack food brand that launched an experimental program to market on Facebook with a buy one, get one free offer. Within four months, the PretzelCrisps page was up to 100,000 fans. More importantly, 95% of the people who downloaded the coupon redeemed it, and the company saw sales grow 131%, Lazerow said.
While the first wave of Facebook marketing focused on building the fan base for business pages, the next phase will be about empowering those connections, Lazerow said. "We can't just focus on building connections. We have to build for connections and build around connections--that's what this next year and beyond is about."
Facebook experiences are also becoming more pervasive. For example, clothing brand Diesel has experimented with using Facebook-connected cameras in dressing rooms to allow customers to share a snapshot of the new outfit they're trying on and ask their friends for feedback on whether they should buy. The "stories" generated by these activities show up in the news feed of the customers' friends and might be seen by their friends' friends as well.
"Every store should be pumping out these new stories," Lazerow enthused. Even if ideas like that don't apply to your business, he said, "every one of your businesses ought to have five of these things that you can think about."