This week’s news that Facebook is re-launching itself as a platform is important, for a number of reasons. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, Facebook has become part of my routine: it’s a way to connect and keep in touch with friends, and it’s proving to be a fun tool to use. It’s designed well (unlike some other networking apps which make my eyes bleed), they seem to keep the user’s interests front and center, and they’re consistently innovating. But this week’s announcement radically reshapes Facebook – for the better.I saw Alan Rosenblatt’s post at TechPresident last night about the Obama Facebook app, so I gave it a look. Wow.
When you add the application to your Facebook, it adds a navigation item to your Facebook navigation menu (see image on the left), and adds a widget to your profile that shows recent videos from the campaign, recent news, and calls to action. It’s a great way to let supporters show their support for the campaign, and further builds community (by exposing which of my friends are supporting Barack.)
When you click the video (“Meet Barack” in this screen cap), it plays inline, which means visitors don’t leave the page they’re on, and can get the benefit of the info right away. I assume that this widget is dynamic, meaning that the campaign can update the content in it as they wish – I’d expect to see petition signings, specific calls to action, and other time-sensitive references in the widget as time allows. And in addition to showing how many of my friends have added the app, I think showing how many people in total have added the app would go a long way to showing the vibrance of the community.
Beyond this, the app itself has a home page, which contains further campaign-centric applications. Aside from advertising upcoming events (like Saturday’s Walk for Change), two things on this page stand out: first, the focus on the early states, which helps you identify which of your friends are in the early primary/caucus states, which can make it easier for you to reach out to them and encourage them to support your candidate. While building community and engaging others is a noble goal, it doesn’t hurt to reinforce to everyone in contact with the campaign that the goal here is to win:
The second impressive item on this page are the one-click ‘share’ buttons next to all media. This is true for videos (like the video of Barack’s wife, Michelle), as well as news items. If you’re interested in exposing your network of friends to info about Barack, the campaign is making it a one-click affair that greatly simplifies the redistribution of campaign info.
This is an early first effort, and there will no doubt be other innovative uses of this platform. (I’d like to see this become a two-way mechanism for information to filter back to the campaign, and round-trip back to the community, and I’d like to see streamlined voter registration options.)
It’s smart for Facebook, because it reinforces their role as facilitator of the community… no doubt many people already go to My Barack Obama, but there’s a non-trivial number of people who want to hang out on Facebook and show their friends what matters to them. (Keep in mind, these people are not all college students, not by a long shot.) By embracing this, the campaign ensures that they’re where their supporters want to be, and aren’t forcing them to come to the campaign’s website in order to engage with the campaign.