Facebook celebrates half-a-billion with half-arsed campaign

Facebook has just announced the mind-boggling achievement of 500-million active monthly users, placing it way out in front of all its rivals. It’s not really a race, given that its next closest rival is China’s Qzone (owned by Tencent, in which South Africa’s Naspers has a 46% stake) with an estimated 200-million users. Social media darling Twitter has yet to sniff the 100-million mark with new memberships peaking last year July at 7.8-million per month.

According to web monitoring site HitWise, Facebook leapfrogged into pole position for the first time in March this year when more Americans visited Facebook than Google for the week ending 13 March. Facebook garnered 7.07% of all internet traffic for that week, while Google achieved 7.03%. That number indicates an increase of a whopping 185% for Facebook compared to the same week last year, but just a 9%  jump for our interweb overlords at Google.

After India (1.18 billion) and China (1.33 billion), Facebook would be the third largest country in the world, and guesstimates being slung around the web reckon that Facebook could be hitting the billion mark and rivaling India’s population by 2012.

To celebrate this incredible 500-million user milestone, you’d expect the social monolith to dip into its massive war chest and throw out a marketing campaign worthy of the occasion. Instead we’re left with “Facebook Stories”.  I realise Facebook started out as a university and school-oriented social site, but do we have to maintain that level of competency and creativity? So, it’s “Story Time” over at FB headquarters and they want you to tell them a happy bedtime story. Click here to submit your “widdle stowy”.

Has the social media behemoth – or rather Mark Zuckerberg – taken recent negative press (privacy issues and the soon-to-be-released movie The Social Network) so personally that he now needs an injection of feel-good yarns about how Facebook saved some poor street urchin’s life in a natural disaster-ravaged country? Or the quaint tale of how Helga and Jørgen, two lonely and obese cheese fanatics from Scandinavia, found each other on the “I could really do with some Stilton right about now” fanpage and fell instantly in love. Now living together on a farm in Jokkmokk, Sweden, they spend their days milking goats and making Crottin de Chavignol.

These sickeningly sweet “Facebook Stories” will be hosted within Facebook and users can share and “Like” them if they so choose. FB has already seeded the campaign with 200 feel-good stories it has collected over the years, but they now ask you to submit your stories too in 420 characters or less (the length of a status update). The stories will be filed by geographical location and theme, such as “finding love” or “natural disasters” for example.

This tepid campaign is nothing more than feeble spin-doctoring, hoping to flood the market with warm-fuzzy tales of how Facebook has positively impacted people’s lives. I urge you to submit the nasty stories too. Like that time you caught your girlfriend having cybersex on FB Chat… with your father.

Admittedly, Facebook has had an indelible and powerful impact on global society and the internet. It has achieved mind-boggling success in user numbers and revenue. It is an iconic social media leader, but I fear it still has some growing up to do.

This celebratory campaign is juvenile, but then again, judging by the popularity of Facebook apps like Farmville and “What Twilight Character Are you?”, perhaps it’s spot on target.



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