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Saturday, June 13, 2009

4 Reasons Facebook Won Big Last Night

In case you were under a rock last night or away from the computer (which is unfortunately the same thing for many people) - what you missed what an online event that is now being called the "Facebook Landgrab." On Friday evening (or sometimes Saturday depending on where you were) - Facebook invited every user of the site to claim their own "vanity URL." These custom URLs could be your name, any part of your name or some other term - and would replace the long string of numbers that used to be your profile URL on Facebook.

Today, the day after, the praise for Facebook is almost universal for how they conducted this. Why was it such a successful rollout? Here are a few reasons:

  1. The process seemed fair and logical. From the beginning, Facebook let every user know about the timetable at the same time. They limited the offering to people who had their accounts for some time, and they took the right measures to prevent cybersquatting by requiring Pages to have more than 1000 fans.
  2. The site didn't crash. This was the subject of significant speculation among the "Twitterati" as they wondered whether the crushing load of so many people logging on at the same time to choose a username would crash the site. It began to feel like an impending web crisis of Y2K levels ... and just like back in 2000, the hour arrived and passed without incident. When compared to the notoriously unreliable Twitter and even the unfallible Google that went down for a few hours for "some users" back in May - Facebook's tech team passed the test last night with flying colors.
  3. Getting a profile is talkable. Satisfying the biggest criteria for a successful word of mouth marketing effort, Facebook realized that anyone getting a new profile name on Facebook was inherently talkable ... you just couldn't help telling everyone else that you know about your brand new shiny username.
  4. Inspiring people to reappraise Facebook. There were more than a dozen people I saw in my Twitter stream who commented on how getting a new profile name offered a reason for them to return to Facebook and use it again. In the process, they rediscovered new friends, new applications and other parts of the Facebook experience that caused them to return to the site and potentially use it more frequently.

Do you agree that this was a big win for Facebook or do you have a different point of view?

PS - My brand new Facebook URL is - connect with me!


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Great post:
Yes, big win for Facebook. Twitter didn't lose exactly. Just helped the momentum for making the SocMed communication medium legitimate and an essential channel.
And I'll use Facebook a lot more actively.
@BertDecker and

Yes - definitely a sound move on Facebook's part.

I'm an avid Twitter & Facebook user - Twitter offers the chance to get to meet with **loads** of people really quickly - a kind of huge part - and then we can go back to Facebook to have a more in-depth conversation & get to know each other better. they both have their part to play.

Just wait 'til Google Wave hits us over the summer:

:) :)

I agree that the transition was a success, I'm just at a loss to explain why they wanted to make it. I'd assumed Facebook's theory was that no one should be able to say "I'm the main person with my name," so they treated everyone the same way with numbered profiles. And I can't imagine the "you can never change your username" policy will stick (though perhaps we'll all move on to the next shiny object before it becomes a big enough headache for them to change it).

Interesting that you say this inspired people to take another look at Facebook - that's at least a concrete business reason for changing things. I'll be curious to see if their stats go up after this.

...and 1 reason why they lost:

They chose the Jewish Sabbath, a day when I and other observant Jews do not use computers or any electricity for that matter, to launch usernames. :(

Unfortunately, that meant that a bunch of people were excluded.

One interesting thing to note though, about the seemingly impeccable flawlessness and fair perception.

I was registering for my girlfriend at the same time as she was on holiday without Internet access in Taiwan.

My account was about 6 seconds behind in the countdown, on a Safari browser, as opposed to her account on my Firefox browser. Even after multiple refreshes. I wonder if it was actually staggered timings to ease the server load or, If it was a browser issue, then Safari users might be unknowingly seconds behind the non-Safari users.

@jennifer - The other business reason I'd add to the mix is that now that people, organizations and companies can have their custom URL, Facebook can better compete with MySpace for groups of users like rock bands and essentially any organization that may want to use their Facebook page as their homepage or at least a main page to drive people to. Using profile ID numbers instead of vanity URLs made that pretty unlikely until now.

@tamar - Interesting point, I didn't think about this, but you're right, that would have excluded a large group of users.

@daniel - You may be right about them staggering release to handle the server load. I had another contact on FB who mentioned that an event invite he had sent out yesterday only arrived today, so FB may have parked some "non-essential" activities under after the rush too.

With all the Tweeting and Facebooking going on, one has to wonder, is there really anyone using these sites to promote their business effectively and translating that into sales.

My 2 cents...
Possibly a great thing for people promoting themselves or their business, but not remotely interesting to me as an individual 'for fun' Facebook user.

Great win for Facebook. As fair as they could be, no matter what day or time they planned it, someone would complain.

For the past few months, many bloggers have been talking solely about twitter and facebook has fallen on the back burner in their conversations. However, this has brought facebook back in the light and back into conversations. I think this was a great success for Facebook.

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I actually think the Facebook Personal URL campaign was also a success for Twitter as well as Facebook. Twitter conversations and tweets helped build the excitement during the days before the FB-midnight-on-the-13th-launch... especially in the minutes before and after the midnight madness.

Facebook's use of the second-by-second countdown on their site also helped create the perception that 'Facebook is important' and that having your own Facebook URL is key to being 'complete' in your social media portfolio.

Thanks for your post.
Joanne Maly, Lincoln Maly Marketing, Cincinnati, Ohio

I personally don't think that #4 was a very good reason. I don't know why having a profile name would all of a sudden make past Facebook-ers come back. Whereas I did go and make myself one, just for the hell of it, it didn't matter to me either way. I've noticed that most of my friends chose interesting names for themselves and not a form of their real name which would defeat the purpose of trying to put yourself out there for rediscovery. I guess Facebook gets a stamp of approval this time for not messing up but I don't consider it very news worthy.

It was something that needed to be done, Facebook knew those stupid urls were going to be hard to use!
People are giving them a lot of credit like it's some huge thing. It just made sense.

It does not raise or lower the esteem of Facebook in my eyes. I am not sure this makes it more able to generate review either.

Dr. Wright
Wright Place TV Show

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